x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Morsi needs help to steady ship of state

The Egyptian president should seek assistance from his opponents, an Arabic language commentator says. Other topics: Palestinian holy sites and UAE newspapers.

Egyptian rulers will not be able to stabilise the nation without involving other political players

Egypt's president, Mohammed Morsi, is having trouble pleasing vast segments of society, from small bakers to prominent opposition figures, columnist Abdul Rahman Al Rashed observed in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

"President Morsi wanted to control the price of bread, so he got the bakers angry," the writer said. And he previously tried to change Egypt's general prosecutor, but the judges lined up against him, reversing his decision.

"Indeed, his opponents are increasing by the day, and they include everyone from politicians, activists, journalists, security and military officials, judges, revolutionary youth, academics, liberals and Christian Copts, to - yes - Islamists, sports fans and bakers, all the way from Cairo to Suez," Al Rashed said.

Despite the gushing optimism that followed the toppling of former president Hosni Mubarak more than two years ago, Mr Morsi is unlikely to have a pleasant time during the rest of his tenure, the columnist wrote.

"The boat that Mr Morsi has boarded proved less stable than he or others expected."

The way President Morsi - and, more generally, the Muslim Brotherhood - are doing politics is clearly not working for Egyptians, the editor said. "But what is he doing so wrong?"

Perhaps Mr Morsi should take a cue from Barack Obama, the US president, who took office at a time of almost-unprecedented economic trouble and yet managed to navigate through the subsequent social turmoil and clinched a second term in office.

What Mr Obama did at the peak of the economic downturn in his country was involve his opponents - the Republicans, who lost the 2008 presidential election - in the process of devising a road map out of the crisis.

Regrettably, the Muslim Brotherhood seems still to be unaware of the potentially salutary effect of inclusiveness in politics.

"Sure, some of the challenges that President Morsi is facing were thrown at him by his opponents, but the bulk of those challenges are actually of his own making," Al Rashed said.

Egypt is going through "a serious and constitutive phase" that inevitably requires collaboration among all political players.

If Mr Morsi does not reach out to Egypt's liberals, leftists and youth, he will not be able to "handle the terrible pressures and all the problems that he either inherited from the previous regime or saw emerge under his own rule", Al Rashed observed.

"In fact, his opponents may be his life raft in a tumultuous sea of issues and demands that he will never be able to handle on his own, however legitimate his election may have been."

It is unfortunate that the Muslim Brotherhood's excessive sense of entitlement will probably keep that "inclusiveness" from ever happening, the author concluded.

Palestine and Jordan sign 'historic' deal

The agreement that was signed on Sunday between the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and King Abdullah II of Jordan, to defend holy sites in occupied Jerusalem, is certainly "historic", the Dubai-based newspaper Al Bayan said in an editorial yesterday.

Palestine is officially delegating Jordanian authorities to protect Jerusalem's holy sites - including Al Aqsa Mosque - from Israel's settlement and Judaisation policies, the paper said.

Without undermining Palestine's sovereignty over its own territories, Jordan is, therefore, mandated to make motions in the UN General Assembly or Security Council, should Israel attempt to undermine Palestinian holy sites.

"A verbal form of this mandate has been granted to Jordan since its disengagement from the West Bank in 1987. But, after Palestine obtained its new UN status as a 'non-member observer state', Palestinians decided that … the agreement should be formalised," Al Bayan said.

The timing of the deal is of crucial importance. It comes when Jerusalem and Al Aqsa Mosque are being subjected to systematic Israeli assaults, while the international community is distracted by the political and economic repercussions of the Arab Spring and the European crisis.

Also, the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel will stand in the way of the latter's plans to expand into holy Palestinian sites, the paper said.

Arabic papers are comparatively timid

Why do the UAE-based English-language newspapers outperform Arabic local newspapers? This question was asked by Nasser Al Dhaheri, an Emirati writer and journalist, in the Abu Dhabi newspaper Al Ittihad.

"We are not talking about the amount of ads or the size of the dailies' supplements. It is about the level of local news, particularly economic and social, and the margin of freedom they [English papers] enjoy and practise in reality," remarked the writer.

Arabic publications, on the other hand, seem to muzzle themselves, apprehensive of any uncalculated audacity, and reluctant in a media age where there is no place for reluctant people.

It is extremely annoying to see that an incident that occurred in a UAE city, made the rounds on social media and was a front-page story in local English newspapers, has been completely absent from local Arabic papers, the writer continued.

Deep investigative reporting is present in English papers, but lacking in Arabic ones, he said. He added that he asked a number of local businessmen whether they got their economic news from Arabic or English newspapers, and they all said the English papers, local and non-local.

No wonder, as economic news does not make the headlines in Arabic papers, he concluded.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk