x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Latest clashes show that Egypt has a lot to learn

New strett brawls reveal that Egypt's politics are still incendiary, an Arabic editorial says. Other topics include Syria.

Renewed clashes in Egypt are a threat to the nation's stability and a burden on its economy

The conflict that erupted on Friday between hundreds of opponents and supporters of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was shocking by any standard, the London-based daily Al Quds Al Arabi said in an editorial entitled Return of the Protest War in Egypt.

The fighting presages a phase of instability in Egypt, especially with the parliamentary elections just around the corner, the paper said. The encounters left more than 80 people injured, mostly by thrown stones and Molotov grenades. Trouble erupted as a number of Mr Morsi's opponents, who had gathered in the iconic Tahrir Square in Cairo, proceeded towards nearby Ramsis Street. This is where thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters were rallied, demanding an overhaul of the judiciary, which they believe is hostile to Mr Morsi.

The two sides clashed, hurling stones and birdshot at each other.

Since his election in June, the Islamist president has indeed had a bad run with the judiciary. Last month, a court overturned a decree by Mr Morsi to replace state prosecutor Abdul Majid Mahmoud with Talaat Abdullah. The court deemed that the president had overstepped his powers.

In another instance, a court overturned the president's call for parliamentary elections this month, on the grounds that he had failed to consult the constitutional court over the new electoral law before ratifying it.

The crisis came to a head when the Shura Council, dominated by Islamists, began to debate legislation that would lower the retirement age for judges from 70 to 65, equating them with other public employees.

"The bill may seem fair in theory, but President Morsi's rivals see it as an underhanded plot to isolate nearly 2,000 magistrates and replace them with Brotherhood-affiliated judges, and a way to repeal the court decision to reinstate the former public prosecutor as he would have reached the legal retirement age," said the newspaper.

"These protests and counter-protests are the biggest threat to Egypt's stability and an added burden in its economic crisis," the paper added.

"They reassert the failure of all political players in Egyptian society to rise up to the required level of awareness, to abstain from narrow political and partisan manoeuvres, and to agree to a temporary truce that would allow them to turn their attention to the pressing needs of the people."

The Egyptian judiciary may have its shortcomings and it is true that most of its judges were appointed in the Mubarak era, but addressing its faults should be done with the utmost care and in due time.

Hasty cures would be ill-advised at this highly volatile phase, the newspaper concluded.

A confident Assad warns the neighbours

In an hour-long appearance on state-run Al Ikhbariya television last Wednesday, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad seemed to be more certain than ever of his victory. Commenting on this, columnist Emadeddine Adeeb wrote in the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat that "Bashar Al Assad's latest statements should be taken seriously".

The Syrian ruler addressed a clear threat to Middle Eastern and western countries alike, the writer said, as he confirmed that the trouble in Syria would eventually spill over into neighbouring countries. Mr Al Assad openly threatened Jordan, saying that it would be playing with fire to support the rebels, and adding that the small kingdom is just as vulnerable as his country to Al Qaeda's rise in Syria.

The embattled president also lashed out at Turkey and held its prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan responsible for weapons being smuggled into Syria as well as for security breaches on the Syrian-Turkish border. Meanwhile, he ignored the situation in Lebanon and the previous weeks' altercations on the Syrian-Lebanese border.

At the same time, Washington announced that it will send a contingent of 200 US troops to assist Jordan in securing its border with Syria.

"This signals the first US movement in Syria despite Washington's insistence on distancing itself from any direct intervention in the crisis," said the writer.

International pressure must mount on Israel

Israel's punishing policies against the Palestinian people are clear and need not be proven, said the Dubai daily Al Bayan in its editorial yesterday.

However, there must be more pressure on Israel from the international community. This sort of pressure was expressed in a letter from 19 prominent former European officials to the European Union's top foreign policy official, Lady Catherine Ashton.

The former policymakers called on her to make bold changes to the EU's policies towards Israel to try to stop its wrongful practices against the Palestinians.

"This step by the European leaders, albeit late, only reveals the depth of the hardships of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation," said the paper.

The letter went on to warn that "later generations will see it as unforgivable that we Europeans not only allowed the situation to develop to this point of acute tension, but took no action now to remedy the continuing destruction of the Palestinian people's right to self-determination".

The officials stressed that the EU should recognise Israel as an occupying nation and insist that any Israeli expansion beyond the 1967 lines must not be recognised. The letter compels the whole world to change the way it deals with the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem