x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Infighting within the Palestinian factions helps Israelis

Arabic newspapers say infighting within the Palestinian factions helps Israelis. Other topics include: Golan Heights, Bassem Youssef.

Decades of infighting and regional alterations took the steam out of the Palestinian cause

"We used to say that interest in the Palestinian cause, also known as the 'top Arab cause', has considerably waned. Now, we don't even bother saying that," wrote Ahmed Youssef Ahmed, the director of the Cairo-based Institute of Arab Research and Studies, in yesterday's edition of the UAE-based newspaper, Al Ittihad.

Interest in the Palestinian cause started dwindling in the early 1980s, with the Iraq-Iran war that took the Arab world by a storm and reshaped the power dynamics in the region, the writer said.

"The Iranian threat really came to the fore in 1986, and it went on to take the centre-stage in the Arab summit in Amman the following year. The Iraq-Iran war took precedence over the Palestinian question, a first in the history of Arab summits," he said.

Barely had this war ended when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990.

"The Palestinian position on this crisis, which seemed to be on the side of [the Iraqi president] Saddam Hussein, further dented the status of the Palestinian cause in the Arab world.

"In fact, the Palestinian cause would suffer from the repercussions of that pro-Iraq stance until the US invasion of Baghdad in 2003, which completely reshuffled the political equations in the region," Ahmed noted.

Besides unpredictable regional developments, Palestinian officials have played a key role in making their own cause to fade away.

At one point the Palestinian side started to give up all attempts to stand up against the Israelis, Ahmed argued. The two Palestinian intifadas in 1987 and 2000 eventually came to an end when they could have lasted longer and more gains could have been achieved. The same is true of the armed resistance, the author added. Since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, the Fatah Movement completely halted armed resistance and its militants were tamed into what is today "something like a domestic police force".

Hamas alone remained on the resistance front, which gave it an edge in the notorious 2006 legislative elections, Ahmed wrote. But since its victory in those elections, Hamas has been busier trying to build institutions and manage the affairs of the Gaza Strip than pushing the armed struggle forward.

Then there is the decades-old issue of infighting within the Palestinian factions, he wrote. "It is as old as the Palestinian struggle itself."

Palestinian blood was spilt by Palestinians themselves. That prompted many Arab players to try to bridge the rift between Hamas and Fatah.

But, with the Arab Spring, even the most concerted of these efforts hit a wall.

Meanwhile, the sum of these missed opportunities is doing Israel's settlement plans the best service, the author concluded.

Israel has reason to be nervous over Golan

The Israeli government was taken aback by Syria's decision in recent weeks to withdraw thousands of troops from Golan Heights to redeploy them on battlefronts closer to Damascus, said the columnist Mazen Hammad in the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

The move raised fears over the future of the UN peacekeeping force in the area that is mostly occupied by Israel. A number of countries that have their citizens in the force are reconsidering their position.

"The redeployment decision suggests that the Free Syrian Army has indeed made such substantial advancements in Damascus that the authorities needed to send reinforcements to the capital city's heated fronts," the author noted.

The withdrawal of the Assad regime's forces may be the most significant military movement in the occupied heights since 40 years.

For four decades, Israel enjoyed complete security on its borders with Syria, but this may change in the near future. The withdrawal of Syrian troops from the borders has evoked fears in Israel that jihadist militants may use the area to launch attacks on Israeli targets, inevitably implicating the Jewish state in the conflict.

The players in Syria are changing and there will be new actors and new game rules along Golan Heights. Israel has every reason to be nervous.


Bassem's triumph is a victory of Arab Spring

Egypt's Bassem Youssef is a phenomenal example of a political satirist post-Arab Spring, wrote Hazem Saghiya in yesterday's edition of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

The triumph of the Egyptian television performer over the public prosecution and the power behind it is one of the achievements of the Arab Spring, the writer said.

The Egyptian authorities, despite a legacy of brutality, is now being forced to accept ridicule, while the satirist who has no support from any party or organisation has won the battle against them.

This victory is no mean feat, considering the deep roots and tradition of the controlled media. Moreover, the nature of political humour has shifted - its targeting is no longer the US and Israel but the ruler and his entourage at home, Saghiya wrote.

The switch from the satire of the composer and singer Sheikh Imam Sheikh Imam and the poet Ahmed Fouad Negm to that of Bassem reveals a great deal about the prevalent mood.

Youssef is a US-trained heart surgeon who has emerged from YouTube and privately-owned channels.

His attire reflects an influence of a particular social classes in western nations.

* Digest compiled by the Translation Desk