x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Israel is laying a trap for Abbas

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is using delaying tactics with his promises of freezing settlement building, an Arabic-language newspaper editorial says. Other topics: Turkey¿s faulty democracy and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Egypt.

Israel is laying a trap for Abbas to go back to a cycle of absurd talks - and he may well fall for it

"We used to think that shifting from hawkish to dovish was exclusive to western politicians, but we have clearly been wrong. Israeli officials do precisely that, and probably at a higher level," the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi stated in its editorial at the weekend.

Last week, Yaakov Amidror, Israel's national security adviser and close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, made a surprising declaration, the newspaper said. He expressed his concern about Israel's settlement policies, arguing that settlement building in the West Bank is costing Israel the support of even its closest friends.

Note that this show of self-criticism and moderation comes "after the completion of most settlement projects that Netanyahu's government had implemented in Occupied Jerusalem - projects that aim to Judaise the city and completely isolate it from its Palestinian surrounding in the occupied West Bank".

What Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), may not be aware of is that this ostensible change of heart at the higher echelons of Israeli decision-making is nothing but "a scam", the paper said.

Mr Netanyahu is definitely ready to make "bogus and misleading concessions" to lure the Palestinians into the negotiations trap, when his real motive is to break Israel's exacerbating international isolation.

An example of these fake Israeli concessions is Mr Netanyahu's offer to freeze construction in remote, isolated settlements that have no real economic or strategic value for the country.

"That would be his way of showing the world that he is responding to Palestinian conditions for the resumption of talks.

"It's a little shtick, or rather a trap, that is being carefully crafted to dupe the international public opinion and bring the PA, its leader and a handful of his aides back to the negotiating table, and back into the same cycle of absurd talks that will last for another several years."

Note also that this comes ahead of a planned visit this spring by the US President Barack Obama to Jerusalem, the West Bank and Jordan, during which he is expected to try to revive the peace process, the paper said.

Mr Abbas is looking forward to Mr Obama's visit, and his excitement seems to be clouding his judgment of Israel's subtle "courtship" of Palestinian negotiators.

Mr Abbas seems to be a little less excited about reconciliation with Hamas, the other major Palestinian faction, or about re-galvanising and reforming the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, which is the only body that all Palestinians accept as their due representative.

"Israel is isolated due to its terrorising settlement policies," Al Quds Al Arabi said in conclusion, "and the PA must work to further that isolation."

Turkey's democratic model has its failings

Turkey's ruling moderate Islamists have developed over a 10-year period a dynamic foreign policy and an economic model that has remarkably raised the country's standing among its peers in the region. But is it all that rosy in Turkey today?

In an opinion article for the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej yesterday, Mohammed Noureddine wrote that besides the great feats of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the country suffers from serious rights issues as epitomised by the lingering Kurdish question or the number of journalists in jail - estimated at 70.

"Turkey is still facing problems and challenges that 10 years of AKP rule did not solve in the slightest, including the Kurdish issue on which no progress whatsoever had been made," he said.

Also, a recent report on press freedoms around the world has put Turkey in 154th place, close to the bottom of the 179-nation list, according to the writer. The report also mentioned that Turkey is turning into a "big prison" for journalists.

In addition to this, many are now concerned about the country's political system which allows the outgoing prime minister to serve as president for two consecutive five-year terms.

With the next presidential election due in 2014, this means that, if elected, the incumbent prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, can potentially stay in power until 2024, the writer said.

Al Azhar is teaching Ahmadinejad a lesson

"It looks like the Iranian president did not immediately realise that his visit to Cairo was not going to be the same as his visit to the southern suburbs of Beirut back in October 2010," wrote Tariq Al Homayed, a contributing editor to the Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

Media reports said Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, flashed a victory sign during his press conference at Al Azhar, the top Sunni institution, after meeting with its Grand Imam, Sheikh Ahmed Al Tayeb.

In 2010, Mr Ahmadinejad was welcomed in Lebanon with great fanfare by Hizbollah, the country's armed and political Shiite faction. But that was not the case in Egypt with Al Azhar.

Sheikh Al Tayeb issued a no-nonsense statement regarding Mr Ahmadinejad and Iran's policies in general, while the Iranian president was in Cairo attending the summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Sheikh Al Tayeb told the Iranian president that he rejects Iran's attempts to "spread the Shiite doctrine in Sunni countries", urging him to "not interfere in the affairs of Arab Gulf countries".

It was a lesson for Iran's leadership: Al Azhar, with its known moderation, is not going to allow Tehran to use Egypt as a friend as long as it prefers to be the Sunni world's enemy, he said.

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi