x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

EU still lax with Israeli violations

Arabic newspapers discuss a recent EU report about Israeli policy in Palestinian territories and say EU is once again too lax with Israeli violations. They also say by behaving like a Qaddafi or a clique leader, Bashar Assad must expect to lose his army; and Tunisia's Jasmine revolution turns one.

By behaving like a Qaddafi or a clique leader, Bashar Assad must expect to lose his army

President Bashar Assad's appearance last week in Damascus amid a small crowd of supporters called to mind the appearance of the late Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi in Bab Al Aziziya, when at the nadir of his rule he was desperately trying to prove that he was still in control, wrote Tariq Al Homayed, editor of the London-based newspaper Al Hayat in a column yesterday.

One day after he delivered a "long and tedious" speech at Damascus University, Mr Assad went out in public, this time with his family and children, to deliver a short speech about courage, resolve and imminent victory, the editor said.

"Yet in reality he came out because of fear. He actually proved that he wasn't the president of Syria, rather just a man with a following … a leader of a specific clique, not the president of the Syrian nation."

Since an Arab Spring-inspired uprising caught on in Syria 10 months ago, Mr Assad was never convincing in his speeches, but at least in his three previous ones he spoke like the president of all Syrians, the editor noted. That changed last week.

"What happened during his quick appearance in Al Umawiyyin Square is different. He was reassuring his supporters that victory was at hand, which implies a vow to fight a large section of the Syrian people."

Mr Assad also looked and sounded like Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbollah, the Shiite armed and political group based in southern Lebanon, the editor claimed. The furtiveness and makeshift feel of his appearance drew a parallel with the unpredictable moves of Mr Nasrallah, who is always under maximum security for fear of being targeted by Israel or an anti-Shiite faction.

Obviously, the very comparison would be diminishing to any nation's president, especially one who claims to be on the right side of history. Yet, if the Assad regime is so undermined and out of touch with reality, when and how is it going to fall? The editor asked.

The answer to this question was nicely summed up by a recent high-profile army defector, Brig Gen Mostafa Al Sheikh, who said: "Senior and large-scale defections start to happen when there's some prospect ahead, when the officer or the soldier starts to feel that there's an international decision to bring down the regime," the editor quoted him as saying.

"Until now there's no such decision," Brig Gen Al Sheikh added. "As soon as a buffer zone is set up [along the Syrian border], most of the army will defect and the regime will fall a lot faster."

After all other alternatives have been exhausted, that's what should probably happen, the editor concluded.

EU is yet again too lax with Israeli violations

A recent report presented by European delegates to the EU found that Israeli policy in Area C of the Palestinian territories involves the displacement of Palestinians in a bid to reduce their presence and undermine the establishment of the Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, according to an editorial carried yesterday in the West-Bank newspaper Al Quds.

Palestinian territories are divided into Areas A, B and C. Area A is fully controlled by the Palestinian Authority, while Areas B and C are not.

It is hard to see the value in reports like the one mentioned above since they hardly ever translate into concrete action, the newspaper said.

"This is not the first time official EU reports show that Israel is undertaking policies that destroy the future of Palestine, such as confiscating land and water resources, tearing down buildings and facilities and displacing the population," the paper said.

But are there any measures the EU plans to take regarding the matter? The newspaper asked.

Well, two recommendations were appended to the report: first, that the EU support Palestinian presence financially; and second, to try to convince Israel to re-categorise Area C, which it fully controls, as Area A.

A soft language. There is not talk about putting strong international pressure on Israel to stop illegal evictions, for instance. Which is a shame.


Tunisia's Jasmine revolution turns one

Tunisia celebrated on Saturday the first anniversary of its historic "Jasmine revolution" - an event that shook up the Arab world from the Atlantic to the Gulf and came later to be known as the harbinger of the Arab Spring, commented Mansour Al Jamri, editor of the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat.

"One year has gone by since a revolution for democracy was successful in a country that many thought would be the last to see any such shift," the editor said.

Like Mohamed Bouazizi, the emblem of the Tunisian revolution, too many men and women have ever since set themselves on fire in protest of lack of means and opportunity and as a cry for freedom and dignity. The point they have all hammered home is that a revolution is not a goal in itself, it is a means.

Since Tunisians toppled Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's repressive regime, major transformations happened in the Arab world. "Some of these transformations were successes, some were failures, and others were attempts to set back the drive for democracy," the editor said.

But Tunisia managed to cure itself and large parts of the Arab region from a once-entrenched "psychological impotence" to say "No". Arabs have changed from "servile subjects" to "citizens with non-negotiable rights".

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi