x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Netanyahu's diplomatic moves spur interest

Benjamin Netanyahu's inititiatives with regard to Libya and Turkey are topics for two of our excerpts from Arabic-language newspaper opinion articles today. Other topics: the Palestinian statehood question and economic policy in Beirut.

Italy, Libya and Israel: coalition reanimated

Following Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Italy, Silvio Berlusconi promptly demanded a halt to Nato's military operations against Col Muammar Qaddafi's forces, noted Dr Fayez Abu Shamala in the London-based newspaper Al Arab.

The Israeli lobby in Italy claimed that the Italian move was in line with the US decision to begin military withdrawal from Afghanistan. It also said that Britain and France cannot stand to engage much longer in the war in Libya and that Nato is unable to resolve the battle, no matter how long it takes.

Supporters of Israel also spoke of economic damage sustained by Italy as a result of interruption of its Libyan oil supply. They said that Rome would work with Col Qaddafi in order to reopen Libyan oil refineries and boost the old strategic alliance between Italy and Libya.

Israel wants Col Qaddafi to remain in power to help them compensate for the loss of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.

Mr Berlusconi spoke while many in the West were claiming that Libya's Transitional Council is dominated by Islamists.

Because the Arab Spring stands against Israeli interests, Tel Aviv strives to "neutralise" Italy and mobilise it against the popular revolution in Libya. It will also provide political and financial support to Col Qaddafi's regime.




Israel ready to befriend Turkey

"It is not strange that the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, sent a cable to his Turkish counterpart Recep Erdogan to congratulate him on his party's landslide victory in the recent elections," remarked Mazen Hammad in an opinion piece in the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

"By this, he sought to restore deteriorating relations between Ankara and Tel Aviv."

Mr Netanyahu took advantage of the situation in Syria, which has pushed thousands of Syrians to seek refuge in neighbouring Turkey. He may also feel comfortable with Ankara's harsh criticism of the security clampdown on peaceful demonstrations in Syria, and its decision not to take part in the new flotilla heading to Gaza.

Some Israeli voices have called for an apology to Ankara for the attack on last year's flotilla, but it is unlikely in any case that the Israeli government could succeed in winning over Turkey.

"It is worth mentioning that Mr Erdogan is firmly committed to the Palestinian cause, considering it a local issue."

Mr Erdogan has also vowed to contribute to the Palestinian efforts to form a government of national unity, after attempts to appoint the current prime minister Salam Fayyad as a head of a transitional government failed.

In this context, Mr Erdogan supports the Palestinian Authority's plan to go to the UN to propose recognition of statehood.

Beirut to win trust of business community?

The new government in Beirut is unlikely to take bold measures to fix economic issues, argued Nadin Hani in a commentary for the Lebanese newspaper Annahar.

This makes financial institutions anxious, and exacerbates the risks associated with Lebanon's sovereign debt, mainly the increasing cost of borrowing.

These concerns were expressed by JP Morgan Bank, the writer noted, when it advised its customers to buy insurance policies on Lebanese state debt.

Normally such insurance rates rise in proportion to financial risks. This will also badly affect the flow of direct foreign investment to Lebanon, especially from American institutions, which classify Hizbollah as a terrorist organisation.

The national debt, which stood at US$52.6 billion (Dh 193bn) last April, can be controlled only if the government continues to achieve a primary budget surplus before debt service. For this to happen, cash flow to Lebanese banks must continue and state revenues have to increase.

The current government can benefit from the nature of its composition, being politically homogenous enough to pass bills and make decisions quickly.

The prime minister, Najib Mikati, a businessman, enjoys the confidence of the business community, and has a chance to increase economic growth by implementing an expansionary monetary policy and privatisation.

Recourse to the UN is not enough

In the 1990s, the Palestinian Authority threatened to resort to the UN to end occupation or condemn the Israeli settlement policies, noted Mahmoud al Rimawi in a commentary for the UAE newspaper Al Khaleej.

The PA again insists on heading to the UN next September in efforts to seek international recognition of an independent Palestinian state.

The Palestinians are prompted this time by continued settlement activities and a lack of rigour by the Americans in exerting pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu's government. The US administration instead tries to dissuade the PA from declaring their state unilaterally.

Tel Aviv has been diplomatically active to convince major powers including the EU to avert any Palestinian request in this regard.

Israelis claimed it would be ready to enter negotiations on the basis of 1967 borders provided there were land swaps a recognition of the Jewish character of Israel. These demands are by no means advantageous to the Palestinians.

If much territory is exchanged, the geographical connections among different parts of the Occupied Territories will be severed, and acknowledging a Jewish state of Israel would affect deeply the future of the 1948 refugees.


* Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi