x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

For safety's sake, don't text while driving

Arabic newspapers say a Facebook campaign against texting while driving is likely to an effective one; despite ambassadors in Syria being critical of the regime, Damascus cannot expel them; Israel's decision this week to approve 1,100 housing units is yet another proof that UN bid was a correct move; and Saudi kings' women ruling is a mere National Day gift.

The Facebook campaign against the use of BlackBerry Messenger while driving has grown rapidly in popularity, editor-in-chief Sami Al Reyami wrote in a leader article for the UAE newspaper Emarat Al Youm.

Given the large number of young people active on social networks, this awareness campaign promises to be one of the most successful because it is close to their minds and is launched in the virtual environment they like.

The campaign came after the death of football star Theyab Awana in a car crash on Sunday.

"His demise is a loss to the UAE and has touched the heart of all Emiratis ... That is why I decided to take part in this campaign, especially as I am one of those who promptly answer any message that comes to my mobile at any time and under any circumstances, even while driving, on the grounds that interaction with people and work requirements are priorities.

"The present campaign has convinced me to ignore my BlackBerry while driving. And since I began doing that, nothing has gone wrong. Business has been as usual, and the newspaper has been published in time. Nothing has changed and priorities were not compromised because I failed to answer an incoming message."

"I don't think anyone would be bothered if I were late to respond to him … especially if it was for the sake of my safety and the safety of others."

Further proof that UN bid was the way to go

The Israeli government decision this week to approve 1,100 housing units in the Jewish settlement of Gilo, in occupied Jerusalem, comes as further proof that the Palestinian bid for full membership in the United Nations was the right thing to do, the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi said in an editorial.

The US administration coyly expressed its disappointment, calling the Israeli measure "counterproductive". Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign affairs commissioner, expressed "deep regret", noting that building more settlements undermines the two-state solution.

"The timidity of these responses to the Israeli decision must be considered a serious matter of concern," the newspaper said. This comes just after the Quartet - US, UN, EU and Russia - put forward an initiative to restart Palestinian-Israeli negotiations and pave the way for establishment of an independent Palestinian state by the end of next year.

"The building of new housing units in the Gilo settlement - which is illegal, like all other Jewish settlements - proves that the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, was right in refusing to return to the negotiating table," the newspaper added.

If Israel ignores the feelings of its closest western allies, that give it money and support, how would anyone be justified in hoping it may ever care about what Palestinians want?

Syria in no position to expel ambassadors

Reservation and diplomacy are typically key attributes of ambassadors. Talking to the media, they usually don't say much, but when it comes to the Syrian case, the situation is different, observed Tariq al Homayed, the editor of the London-based Asharq Al Awsat daily.

The ambassadors of the US, France and Britain to Syria have, for some time now, been publicly expressing their opinions of Bashar Al Assad's regime and declaring their support for the protestors. The American ambassador Robert Ford expressly defied the Damascus regime when he denied its allegations of armed gangs in Hama upon a visit to the city with his French counterpart. For his part, the British ambassador created a personal blog from Damascus in which he comments on the events there and proclaims his support for the Syrian rebels.

"The defiant language used with the regime is quite harsh, but it does reveal that the Assad regime has become too weak to deserve reverence, even from foreign ambassadors," the writer opined.

Despite the shows of power and the apparent disregard for international resolutions, the regime seems incapable of expelling any of these foreign who defy government restrictions on their movements and publicly challenge its allegations.

"The Al Assad regime needs these officials, for they are proof that the world still recognises it as the official authority in Syria."

Saudi king's decision is his gift to his people

The Arab Spring had no hand in the historic decision by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz to allow women into the Shura Council and to participate in municipal elections as candidates and electors, said Rajeh el Khouri in the Lebanese Annahar daily.

"The decision was the king's present to the kingdom and to Saudi women on the occasion of National Day," he added. "It comes as a reflection of reformative regulations and legislation aiming at rectifying women's standing in Saudi society."

Amid radical voices that refuse any role for women outside the household, the decision is yet another proof that the monarch does not shy away from daring initiatives that serve the cause of reforms.

According to Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz, the decision was in no way a reflection of any other country's affairs. Allowing women into the political arena was the outcome of internal efforts to benefit the kingdom and its people.

"It is no secret that all of King Abdullah's decisions pertaining to development and reform required courage on his part and the trust of citizens in a country with special sensitivities."






* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk