x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Land swaps may mean surrendering Jerusalem

An Arabic language editorial says Palestinians have much to lose under a US-sponsored peace deal with Israel. Other topics: Arab revolutions and Syria.

Accepting land swaps with the Israelis might be a prelude to giving up Jerusalem claims

While the Middle East is being shaken by the crises in Syria and Iraq, US secretary of state John Kerry is working on an Arab-Israeli peace plan that is, on its face, a mere reflection of Israeli views and demands, the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi said in an editorial yesterday.

Mr Kerry has borrowed from Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu the concept of "economic peace" with the Palestinians. The idea is that the Israeli government would inject billions worth of investments into the Palestinian economy to revive it, create jobs and coax big US corporations to come on board.

"The Americans are talking about political initiatives to go with that, but without giving any details. They are capitalising on the excessive 'moderation' of their Arab friends to see these business projects through and graft legitimacy on them," the paper said.

But that is not the worse part.

Arab foreign ministers who have flown to Washington over the past few days to help jump-start the Arab peace initiative, which since 2002 has been met only by Israeli disdain, have made "a huge concession that was not even asked of them - and even before the resumption of negotiations", the paper said.

Arab League diplomats have, indeed, expressed their openness to land swaps between Israelis and Palestinians should a settlement be reached through negotiations that are expected to resume soon under US sponsorship.

"Some members of the Arab League delegation might argue that there is no concession in that since the Palestinian Authority itself, during talks with [former prime minister] Ehud Olmert's government, has accepted the principle of land swaps based on a 4 per cent cap," the paper said.

In the 2002 Arab peace initiative, which was tabled by Saudi Arabia, Arab states offered a full normalisation of relations with Israel in exchange for the latter's withdrawal from the occupied territories to pre-1967 lines.

In reality, the paper argued, accepting this land-swap framework would be a prelude to giving up on occupied territories in Jerusalem and approving of Israeli settlement projects meant to clamp down on the holy city, cut it off from the West Bank and efface its Arab-Islamic character.

Tzipi Livni, the Israeli minister of justice who handles the government's negotiations portfolio, was so happy about this development. She said: "This is very good news … Israel has been looking for anything that would break the stalemate which has persisted since direct talks broke down in September 2010."

The Israeli side has never made a single concession to the Arabs before, the paper said in conclusion. Yet Arabs are pushing for a compromise that might "turn the Palestinian cause from a people's cause to a matter of business, jobs and roads".

Change must not be rejected outright

Some intellectuals see the Arab revolutions as suspicious activities concocted abroad, billing the spring as "autumn", transformation as "mayhem" and the revolution as a "counter-revolution", noted Iraqi pundit Abdul Hussein Shaaban in the UAE-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

To support their arguments, detractors cite the fact that these uprisings have been punctuated by disorder, pillage and vandalism. Some have cast doubt on the principles of the revolution as a whole, the writer noted.

Such intellectuals might have just surrendered to the belief they held before the uprisings that a change in the status quo would take ages. Or perhaps, under the pretext of being neutral, technocrat, rational or concerned about external involvement, they have remained undecided or cowardly.

Some, particularly those whose views and goals were dissimilar to the revolution's, were probably upset that it took them by surprise.

For them, there is bad change and good change; peaceful and violent; top-down and radical; revolutionary and reformative. And they want their own version of change, one that does not exist in the real world.

History shows that a revolution gives rise to noble and good things as well as ignoble and bad ones. Change is an action against oppression and an endeavour for justice and freedom. While criticising its warts is necessary, attacking the whole process of change is imprudent.

Impunity encourages Assad to new atrocities

In the summer of 2012, US president Barack Obama threatened that any sign of Syria moving or using chemical weapons would prompt him to change his decision not to interfere militarily in the country's crisis, said the columnist Abdulrahman Al Rashid in the London-based paper Asharq Al Awsat.

A month later, the Syrian regime moved chemical weapons for military use, but the White House did nothing. And leaked reports in the past year proved that Bashar Al Assad's forces have resorted to using chemical weapons. Still, nothing was done.

"When Mr Al Assad realised that no one in the world cares if he suffocates civilians with chlorine gas, he moved on to use mustard gas. And when that went quietly, he decided to use the more fatal chemical weapon sarin," the writer noted.

"What reason is there for such appalling indifference? Is it because Syria isn't an oil-producing country or because Mr Al Assad is fighting Al Qaeda?"

As long as all of his horrifying massacres against his people continue to go unpunished, the world mustn't be shocked if Mr Al Assad decides tomorrow to asphyxiate 100,000 people with his chemical weapons as a way of terminating the uprising. He is certain that not one plane would take off to deter him, the writer concluded.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk