x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Kerry promotes Israel’s plans as a salve for US deal with Iran

The US is backing Israel's plans in the Palestinian peace talks as a salve to its ally over the deal with Iran. Other views: GCC summit shows gulf nations' political maturity and Iran has to under diplomatic reforms

US Secretary of State John Kerry begins a visit to the Palestinian territories and Israel this week, in a bid to sell the new US peace plan to the Palestinian authorities, reported the London-based Arabic daily Al QudsAl Arabi in Thursday’s editorial.

Middle East peace talks have been at a standstill as Israel has been stalling for time and refusing to make any concessions on core issues, namely Jerusalem, settlements, refugees and borders. While pursuing its expansionist policy, Israel has been attempting to prioritise the Judaisation of Israel, which jeopardises the status and right of return of the 1948 Christian and Muslim Palestinian refugees.

“Kerry arrives to discuss a package of proposals put forward during his visit last Wednesday, which echo the standpoint of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” the editorial states.

The US has backed away from plans for a comprehensive peace deal in nine months, proposing a security-based framework to be rolled out in phases over 15 years.

Israeli military presence at the Palestinian-Jordanian border areas of Al Aghwar and Al Ashraf tops the list. Palestinians reject any Israeli military presence in the Palestinian territories but are willing to accept the presence of a third party, as was brokered in a previous agreement.

The Kerry Plan also includes building a Palestinian airport in Jordan. Its entry point, like all check points into the Palestinian territories, would be under joint Palestinian-Israeli administration, camouflaging Israel’s presence, the editorial commented.

To pressure Palestinians into accepting the proposed deal, Kerry plans to postpone the release of the third batch of prisoners, which had been scheduled three weeks from now. Palestinian authorities had earlier clinched a deal to put off applying for membership of UN organisations in return for a release of prisoners.

“The US Administration, which has sought to please Israel after having sealed an Iranian nuclear deal, has put forward proposals that smack of utter surrender to Netanyahu’s demands” the paper opined.

General Nitzan Alon, commander of the central region in the Israeli army, was quoted in Israeli papers: “We were extraordinarily able to persuade our American counterparts to voice our positions and statements,” dismissing Palestinian sovereignty demands as “sheer nonsense and naivete”.

The editorial responded that they “didn’t need of Alon’s confessions to realise that Kerry’s plan is clearly an Israeli plan”.

“The plan drew borders as per Israel’s terms of preserving land and air sovereignty, producing a transitional deal that is stripped of any independence and freedom requisites. This peace plan promises much less a state with partial sovereignty than a state with no sovereignty at all,” the editorial concluded.

GCC summit proves political maturity

The outcomes of the GCC summit in Kuwait this week prove that the six member states are political novices no more, opined the columnist Zuhair Qusaibati in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

The GCC realises that the Gulf isn’t isolated from the rest of the world and the repercussions of the fires that have been eating through the Arab World.

Gulf leaders did not fall for Iran’s recent sweet talk and remain sceptical. They know their citizens possess sufficient awareness to see clearly that Iran’s redirected rhetoric serves its own purposes and interests.

The summit had to deal with two essential dilemmas: the continued humanitarian disaster in Syria and the need to coexist with a more relaxed Iran following the nuclear deal with the West which guarantees a partial lifting of economic sanctions that had been a deterrent to the Islamic Republic’s expansionist ambitions.

In Syria, the dwindling hope of western support to the opposition and aid to the Syrian regime from radical groups has quashed the cause driving the revolution and diminishes the Free Syrian Army’s ability to survive. The Gulf states worry that the convergence of Russian and Western interests at the upcoming Geneva conference will bolster the regime.

It would be difficult for the GCC at this stage to trust Iran, especially since it has been dedicating its policies in the past decade to fostering dissent within Arab entities.

Diplomatic reform is essential for Iran

The economic crisis in Iran has imposed its agenda on the accelerated political developments in the Gulf and the Middle East. After the economic embargo that was introduced in response to the former administration’s contentious policies and which almost caused the economy to collapse, new president Hassan Rouhani is experimenting with a new form of diplomacy, wrote the columnist Mohammed Al Assoumi in the Emirati daily Al Ittihad.

Economic sanctions were indeed efficient. The Iranian currency collapsed and unemployment and inflation rates both skyrocketed. Half of the population is living in poverty and Iran’s exports dwindled by 30 per cent.

Sanctions affected every aspect of the economy and cost Iran some Dh172 billion in a few years.

“When Rouhani looks back at the last decade, he will realise that his country is lagging behind economically and that his administration and the administration that will come after it would need many years to fix the damages done by his predecessor,” the writer said.

The reform process requires mending relationships with Iran’s economic partners, including the GCC countries, which previously strongly supported Iran’s economy.

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem