x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Netanyahu cannot be trusted in 'peace' talks

Arabic-language newspapers consider prospects for democracy in Arab states and the warnings about the collapse of the state in Egypt.

Talk of peace with Israel is treacherous; the peace process has been slaughtered

In her last interview as outgoing US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton confirmed that the outcome of the last Israeli parliamentary elections almost 10 days ago have opened new horizons for peace. Only a few days before she departs from her position to be succeeded by Senator John Kerry, she said: "Somehow we have to look for ways to give the Palestinian people the pathway to peace, prosperity and statehood that they deserve and give the Israeli people the security and stability that they seek."

In comment, the London-based newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, in its editorial on Wednesday, opined: "Mrs Clinton's optimism is due to Benjamin Netanyahu's failure to secure an overwhelming majority that would have allowed him to form an extreme right government, which in turn would devour whatever territories remain of Jerusalem and the West Bank."

Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu is a skilled liar, the paper said. His talk about working towards peace and security is void; it is only aimed at breaking his international isolation.

He used the same rhetoric immediately after he won the previous election, but went ahead and did the exact opposite of what he promised. He killed the peace process once and for all and set his expansionist settlement plans in motion. He even boasted in his re-election campaign about being the only prime minister who didn't send bulldozers out to demolish illegal settlements. Records show that under his leadership, the largest number of settlement projects have been constructed in occupied East Jerusalem.

"Mrs Clinton's statements and Mr Netanyahu's sudden change of heart about ensuring peace and security are misleading. They propagate false hopes about reviving the peace process. They sell the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah nothing but delusions," the paper said.

It is easy for Mr Netanyahu to talk peace to promote himself in an electoral campaign. The catastrophe, however, has been his ability to deceive the Europeans and the successive US administrations and ensure their blessing as well as their aid for his expansionist plans.

"The two-state project is over. The Arab Peace Initiative has rotted. The Palestinian Authority, which rose to power on the back of the Oslo Accords and absurd negotiations, is bankrupt. Meanwhile, settlers are wreaking havoc and snatching more Palestinian land. Is this a convenient atmosphere for peace and for a resumption of talks with an Israeli prime minister who hates to utter the word peace?" asked the paper.

Not even children in the occupied territories could be fooled into believing any promises of peace anymore. The Palestinian people's only option is to wager on themselves and their legitimate resistance if they are to regain any of their rights, the newspaper concluded.

Change must start despite the risks

While some Arab commentators see the ongoing unrest as a natural outcome of knotty transformations, others downplay these changes and say that regime change in the Arab Spring countries does not herald the end of the dictatorship era, remarked Kuwaiti diplomat Ali Al Tarrah in the Emirati newspaper Al Ittihad.

The second group opines that democracy requires a culture that runs counter to that deeply-rooted culture of dictatorship, and so the unfolding transformations are but a power struggle and a re-creation of tyranny with new perspectives, the writer noted.

Since the events of September 11, 2011, there have been indicators that the Arab patterns of dictatorship have gone global to become one of the biggest threats to the world since the Cold War. Hence, the necessity to kick-start democratic changes regardless of the risks involved.

Religion, as a primary factor of change, remains the main challenge facing the Arab region, because separating religion and politics is not an easy task in Arab culture, he said.

With the rise of political Islam, some quarters highlighted the need to modernise the state relationship in Arab countries - a difficult process, as there are social forces that do not believe in Islamism in politics.

But the acute conflicts among Islamist organisations may eventually lead to the crystallisation of new civil projects able to water down violent fundamentalism.

State collapse is a nightmare scenario

No one had yet gone so far as to suggest that the worsening conflict in Egypt could lead to the collapse of the state. But this statement was actually made by the head of Egypt's military Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, noted Abdulrahman Al Rashed in the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat.

The Egyptians cannot endure such a horrible scenario; neither can other Arabs and the international community, the writer said.

Despite their different political backgrounds, Egyptians must not let their state - which takes pride in being the oldest civil society in the world - fall apart.

What Mr El Sissi said is a wake-up call to politicians, and also a warning that the army will not just stand by while the state is crumbling. The army will not only impose a curfew, as President Mohammed Morsi has demanded, it might go further and impose an Algerian-style, years-long martial law, the writer warned.

The responsibility to prevent such a nightmare rests with Mr Morsi. Should he fail to bring together political players and convince them to make concessions, "we might see the collapse of Egypt's second republic".

Mr Morsi shoulders this responsibility because he is the only person who can right the wrongs of his government and his party. He has only two options: reconciliation or confrontation.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk