x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

No peace possible under Netanyahu

Despite America's best efforts, the Israeli government will oppose any possilble chance of a Palestinian peace deal, an Arabic-language commentator says. Other topics: the US and Iran, and tweeting in Kuwait.

No Israeli-Palestinian peace plan is possible under Netanyahu's apartheid government

"There is a baffling question that nags me every now and then: how is it possible that US President Barack Obama wants to establish peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and how could it be that his deputy and his secretary of state are as good-willed as he is, and still, they seem unable to make any progress in a peace process that allows Palestinians merely 22 per cent of their territory?"

So wrote Jihad Al Khazen in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

"The only plausible explanation is that the Israeli lobby and the treacherous American Likudists, aided by corrupt congressmen and the media, have sufficient power to wield control over US foreign policy," he said.

"They make the decisions that serve Israel's interests, even at the expense of the US. The outcome is ever-expanding occupation and mayhem."

Last May prominent Palestinian businessman Munib Al Masri, along with 300 Palestinian and Israeli figures, proposed an initiative dubbed "Breaking the Impasse", where Israelis would pressure their government to move ahead with the peace plan.

The businessman's initiative fit in well with US Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Mr Kerry, who is expected back in Middle East region for a fifth visit since he took office, has been trying to promote a modified solution to the standstill.

Mr Kerry's proposal has two aspects, political and economic. The political aspect, much like the Arab Peace Initiative and the Oslo Accords, suggests a solution based on 1967 lines. What's new about it is that Mr Kerry is trying to bring Jordan into the equation.

The Jordan Valley forms the border between Israel and Jordan in the north and the eastern strip of the West Bank in the south. It is occupied by Israeli troops to protect against potential attacks and weapons smuggling. The US diplomat believes that the inclusion of Jordan would provide reassurance to both Israelis and Palestinians.

The economic project put forth in the new plan suggests that a number of countries offer investments in the West Bank to the tune of $4 billion (Dh14.7 billion), under the supervision of Tony Blair in his capacity as the representative of the Quartet on the Middle East.

Mr Kerry's reasoning is that an improved economic situation in the occupied territories would encourage Palestinians to go along with the peace process with the aim of reaping an estimated 50 per cent increase in economic performance.

"In response, Israel's supporters blatantly attacked Mr Kerry's plan and accused the Palestinian president of weakness," the writer noted.

"I have said it before and I say it again: no peace is possible with the Netanyahu government. It is a racist, neo-Nazi government and the last-standing apartheid regime in the world," Al Khazen concluded.

Should GCC worry about a US-Iran deal?

Will the next round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 over Tehran's nuclear programme result in a deal that could undermine the interests of the Gulf Cooperation Council states?

Ahmed Al Mansouri, a columnist with the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad, pondered the question yesterday, arguing that GCC states will have to worry about the day when the US, putting its strategic interests and those of Israel first, decides to mend fences with Iran.

"Increasingly, there is talk about the possibility of a US-Iran deal over the latter's nuclear programme, bringing to an end a drawn-out chess battle between the two nations," he wrote.

"Despite appearances, the US and Israel are quite convinced that an armed conflict to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions would be extremely costly, and both believe that it is better to deal with Tehran according to the principles of mutual interests and regional balances."

Any backroom US-Iran talks would also touch on the larger strategic issue of "running the Arab Gulf region and the Middle East, which Iran wants to control as part of its revolutionary goals", the writer said.

"GCC nations have every reason to worry about this, because it will not be in their best interests."

The question now is: do GCC states have a backup plan should the US, their strategic ally, turn its back on this region?

Penalty for tweeting doesn't fit the crime

The difference between Arab monarchies and republics was never just about systems of rule or the measure of public liberties. More often than not, what made the difference was the humanity of the rule, observed the Saudi columnist Abdulrahman Al Rashed in the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat.

When Bashar Al Assad, Saddam Hussein and Omar Al Bashir were chopping off their opponents' tongues, ears and necks, other countries such as Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia were going to great lengths to contain political dissent through more humane practices, from tribal alliances to limited sanctions.

In light of this, it seems quite unfathomable that a single tweet against the person of the Emir of Kuwait would earn its writer a sentence of 11 years in prison.

"Although I don't believe the ruling will stand on appeal, it remains nonetheless out of the ordinary and excessively harsh," the writer said.

Resorting to intolerant sanctions isn't going to deter thousands of Twitter users in Kuwait from circulating accusations.

"Legal action in Twitter-based disputes is a given right … as long as the punishment is commensurate with the crime. Eleven years for a tweet is no less harsh than hacking off ears in Saddam's Iraq," the writer added.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk