x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Israel at 64: stable, strong, but not at ease

Israel is a more effective state than many of its neighbours, a Palestinian columnist says, but has many contradictions and dilemmas. Other topics: Syria after Al Assad and Saudi-Egypt row.

Israel, at age 64, has both strength and stability, but not the peace of mind these should bring

Israel celebrated its 64th anniversary last Wednesday. But while the country today is strong and stable, it still suffers from a chronic anxiety that sours those achievements, Palestinian writer Majed Kayyali said in yesterday's edition of the London-based newspaper Al Hayat.

Israel's creation was not the result of natural historical evolution, the writer said. The Zionist movement which gave birth to Israel existed before the society it wanted to represent and outside the geographical sphere where it wanted to implant that society, he added.

"Whereas the number of Jews in Palestine was no more than several thousand at the end of the 19th century, by the time of the establishment of Israel in 1948 their numbers had jumped to about 700,000." Now there are about 6 million citizens living in Israel.

It was all due to the mass migration organised and sponsored by the Zionist movement, an international lobby that managed to "invent" Israel exactly half a century after its own creation in 1897, the writer went on.

But look at Israel now. "This is a country that started from scratch … but has achieved significant and rather exceptional successes compared to the countries of the region, despite its small area, sparse population and limited natural resources," the writer conceded. "And also despite the wars it had fought and the hostile environment around it."

This poses a paradox for Arabs. "The country that we don't even deign to recognise as a state … appears to be more powerful, more cohesive and more stable that many other states in the region," the writer noted.

Israel did not achieve all that by military means alone, or just owing to its solid ties with European powers and the United States. Israel has helped itself get to where it is today by adopting a liberal, democratic system of government that guarantees rights and opportunity for its Jewish - not Arab, though - citizens.

But even before the Arab Spring happened - an event that will inevitably have an effect on the standing of Israel - the general picture in the country has not been all that rosy.

"Israel sweeps many of its contradictions and dilemmas under the rug to avoid waking more devastating demons," the writer said.

"We're talking here about a country that still lacks delineated borders, lacks a constitution and is undecided on its demographic borders (deciding on whether to become a state for Israeli Jews only, or for all Jews around the world)."

So as Israel turns 64, individual and state-level uncertainty about the future is still very much part of the country's life.

And no matter how successful Israel becomes, ensuring the sustainability of its accomplishments will always be something to fret about.

Transitional justice in Syria after Assad

Today Syria is going through what many countries in Eastern Europe and Latin America went through in the last century: the anticipated collapse of repressive one-man rule, columnist Ridwan Ziyada wrote in yesterday's edition of the Saudi paper Okaz.

"The disintegration of the regime through a popular uprising will be followed by a collapse of all its associated establishments, to varying degrees, depending on how reliant on the president these establishment are," the writer said.

The security apparatus will surely be the first to fall apart; at the same time, this may have a pernicious effect on stability in the transitional phase, especially as this apparatus is a symbol of the regime and thus will be the most targeted by the Syrian revolutionaries.

The toppling of a regime does not necessarily produce a democracy. "There is always fear that the former regime's members might unite to recreate the same old regime with new figures."

Democracy-building must go hand in hand with "transitional justice". This allows the state to rebuild its legitimacy on new grounds based on justice, rule of law, and equality for all citizens.

The leaders of the revolution have a crucial part to play in this regard; they should be aware of all this, and "devise a strategic vision of mechanisms to build and safeguard democratic institutions," the writer concluded.


Saudi-Egyptian row part of a conspiracy

Arab League chief Nabil Al Arabi has mediated in the diplomatic row between Saudi Arabia and Egypt over the detention of an Egyptian human-rights lawyer, Ahmed Al Gizawi, on charges of possession of illegal drugs.

In comment, columnist Rajeh Al Khouri wrote in the Lebanese newspaper Annahar that "it is not enough for Nabil Al Arabi to call Prince Saud Al Faisal to say the crisis is just a 'passing phase'."

Those who triggered this crisis and prompted Saudi Arabia to recall its ambassador to Egypt following angry protests outside the Saudi embassy in Cairo can drive a bigger wedge between the two major Arab countries.

The incident is quite simple and can happen with any other person: this is a case of a regular Egyptian citizen who was arrested with banned drugs. There was no need to make it an issue of "national dignity", nor was it correct to carry placards with such slogans as "He [Ahmed Al Gizawi] went on pilgrimage but he was whipped instead."

This is a "premeditated plan" concocted by "regional powers to weaken Arab resistance to the exposed regional expansionist policies."

"Saudi Arabia is well aware of this scheme, but it sought to create a shock to warn Egyptians of the frames being woven to sour the Saudi-Egyptian relations."

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk