x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Jail time is not the sole answer to petty crime

Editorials in Arab newspapers comment on penalties for petty theft in the UAE, the failure of the Quartet's mission, the improbability of an Egyptian-Iranian alliance and Yemen's endgame.

A UAE court sentenced a Filipino cook to three months in prison for attempted theft after he took a meal pack worth Dh10 from the cafeteria where he worked, wrote Sami al Reyami, a columnist with the Dubai-based Al Emarat al Youm newspaper.

The court's ruling was sound; there was theft, a stolen item, a thief and an admission of guilt - all elements of the crime are there.

"We're not challenging the verdict here, but there is a question to be asked. Given that one prisoner costs the state between Dh100 and Dh120 a day, in addition to unquantifiable costs, aren't all these state-borne costs disproportionate to the act of stealing committed by the accused? Is there any way to correlate the Dh10 stolen meal with the Dh10,800 it would cost to keep the prisoner in jail for three months?"

This is not to condone petty theft; it is definitely a punishable crime. "But there are other ways to punish petty thieves without hurting the state, for wouldn't you agree that by making the state pay tenfold the value of what is stolen, it is the state that is being punished more than the thief?

"Prison is not the only answer to petty theft. A salary deduction, a fine, suspension or dismissal from work and deportation would all be effective punishments."


The Quartet failed its peace process mission

Since its formation in 2002, the Quartet on the Middle East (the US, Russia, the EU and the UN) has not achieved any breakthrough in its stated mission to push forward the peace process in the region, the Sharjah-based Al Khaleej newspaper stated in its editorial.

"Put plainly, the Quartet has been a failure. It's been kept hostage by US-Israeli politicking, notwithstanding Israel's violations of legitimate international conventions and hostile practices."

In the latest episode in a string of letdowns, the Quartet called off the meeting that was supposed to bring its members together in Berlin next Friday. This was due to the US's opposition to a new European plan to kick-start the peace process and redefine its mechanisms, which would involve condemning Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories.

"It's the second time in two months that the US deliberately cancelled a Quartet meeting to scupper eventual resolutions that would be binding to Israel. It's as if the US has become Israel's representative in the Quartet."

Having recently vetoed a motion at the UN Security Council tabled to condemn Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, Washington simply confirms with this last move that its role as a key "mediator" in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is just counter-productive.

"It'll be far better for this Quartet to break itself up."


An Egyptian-Iranian alliance is improbable

The new Egyptian regime is disconnected with everything we have witnessed before in that country; it could be revolutionary in every sense of the word, observed the columnist Abdul Rahman al Rashid for the pan-Arab Asharq al Awsat daily.

The new regime could be Iran-like revolutionary government or it could choose to return to pre-1969 Egypt and re-open the confrontation fronts with Israel. It could be tempted to confront regional powers, which would put it in stark contrast with the Mubarak regime that avoided any type of confrontation.

Should the new Egyptian regime choose to build an alliance with Iran, which would cause a jolt to the regional balance of power, it would still be the choice of the Egyptian people.

"However, I doubt such a sharp gravitation towards Iran. Although it is still hard to judge how the final shape and direction of the Egyptian revolution will be, the social traits of Egypt have nothing in common with Iran. The generation that brought about the revolution in Egypt does not at all identify with the Iranian revolutionary ideology. Add to this that Iran itself is in an anti-revolutionary mood that will sooner or later make a change in the country's regime."

Concerns over a possible Egyptian-Iranian alliance is an exaggeration, especially since Egypt is still evaluating its internal and external options.


Yemen needs to grant Saleh a safe exit

The Yemeni opposition insisted on modifying the Gulf initiative in a way to explicitly state the importance of the president Ali Abdullah Saleh's resignation and determining a time limit for the transition of power. But it refused to give him guarantees of legal immunity for himself and his relatives.

"It has become clear that the opposition didn't leave the president many options to save himself. In this case, his only way out would be complete surrender, flight or suicide," commented the columnist Mazen Hammad in the Qatari daily Al Watan.

In light of this development, what will the Yemeni regime have to say when its representatives meet with the GCC foreign ministers? Would it reject an unconditional resignation of Mr Saleh? Most likely, the regime would acquiesce to a peaceful transition of power in exchange of a safe refuge for the president and his family.

In the meantime, Mr Saleh must immediately find a country willing to grant him asylum. He may find himself forced to leave Yemen to escape the millions of angry people that are closing in on his residence.

"Yemen needs a magical solution that gives Mr Saleh assurances concerning his safe exit. Otherwise, he might turn into a wounded tiger that wouldn't hesitate to tear the country apart just to save himself."

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk