x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Palestinians play politics

The Palestine-Jordan confederation idea is merely a distraction and has little popular support, an Arabic language columnist writes in today's roundup of regional opinion. Other topics: Egypt's constitution and looking ahead for the Brotherhood.

Palestine-Jordan confederation idea is merely a distraction and has little popular support

The Palestinian Authority appears once again to be fiddling with the idea of entering into a confederation with neighbouring Jordan, columnist Mahmoud Al Rimawi wrote in yesterday's edition of the UAE-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

Even if the leak is true, he said, talk about a confederation would be just another unnecessary distraction from concrete political work that must be done to counter Israel's territorial domination plans in the West Bank. And the denial, from the office of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, was not convincing.

The leaks of a closed-doors conversation between him and executives from Fatah, the dominant Palestinian faction in the West Bank, came just a few days after a landmark visit by King Abdullah II of Jordan to the occupied territory earlier this month.

"There is, indeed, reason to believe that the [confederation] idea was discussed during that visit," the columnist said. "Amman did not comment on the leaks, the tenor of which is far from popular with Jordanians."

Similar leaks have fuelled similar speculation in the past, but authorities in Amman have always stressed that the relationship between Jordan and Palestine will not take any official new form until the Palestinian state is established.

The UN General Assembly's upgrade of Palestine's status from "non-member observer entity" to "non-member observer state" last month has certainly emboldened Mr Abbas, the writer said, but the president is not capitalising on this momentum to handle Israel aggressions.

"Acting on the belief that the State of Palestine has indeed been established, Mr Abbas apparently considers it a matter of national priority to sort out relations with Jordan," the writer noted. But Israel, not Jordan, should be the priority, he added.

"Instead of making ready for a forceful political battle against the occupiers over pressing issues - such as the settlements and the lingering presence of Israeli troops in recognised Palestinian territory - the Palestinian presidency is … chasing dreams of a confederation, a project that would change hardly anything on the ground and is supported neither by the Palestinians nor the Jordanians," the writer said.

Palestine's new UN status is not a magic shield. The world knows that Israel's first response to the UN upgrade was to approve new settlement plans in occupied Palestinian territories.

Condemnations from the international community did nothing to dissuade Israelis. Meanwhile, Israeli troops carry out their bully operations as usual, storming three offices of human rights groups and confiscating their equipment.

A confederation framework would bring small benefits, such as easier cross-border trade. But an organised diplomatic assault on Israel could do much more.

Not much consensus on Egypt's basic law

According to the unofficial tally, the first round of the controversial referendum on Egypt's draft constitution yielded a 57 per cent "yes" vote and a 43 per cent "no", columnist Ali Ibrahim noted in the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat.

"We are before a case of evident division in Egyptian society," he commented, "between the so-called Islamic factions on one hand, and the civil factions that fear a "Brotherisation" of the state system on the other hand."

The purpose of a state's constitution is to regulate the social contract in a way that guarantees consensus among all of the components of society.

So a referendum like this one is not an electoral exercise where a certain party or a certain political group wins with a slight majority and the minority has to accept it.

"The constitution is the basis of the state's relationship with society and the framework of the political process, agreed to by all," he added.

This status has not yet been reached by Egypt's draft constitution, as the transitional process continues. The divide was clear and alarmingly confrontational before and after the referendum was announced; this can be attributed to a number of familiar reasons.

The ideological conflict over visions of the state's future continues to escalate, compounded by lack of mutual trust which makes it nearly impossible to reach a settlement.

Brotherhood must learn from the results

The Muslim Brotherhood must feel concerned about, and take a lesson from, the results of the first round of the constitutional referendum, columnist Emad Eddine Hussein wrote in the Cairo-based newspaper Al Shorouk.

Some might argue that the Brotherhood does not have to worry, for at the end of the day it has won, though by a slim margin. But that was a vote on the constitution, not the parliament.

The main indicator that President Mohammed Morsi and Islamists as a whole should heed is the fact that almost half the population has an outlook different from theirs, he wrote.

Regardless of who is right or wrong, there is a major division in the Egyptian society. There are two opposing views and neither can eliminate the other, he said.

"The main lesson carried by Egypt's presidential election last June, and reinforced in the results of the first stage of the constitutional referendum a few day ago, is that no party has right to claim to represent the people on its own," the writer argued.

From now on, the Islamist trend "must cease talking big about the overwhelming majority and the ability to mobilise". At the same time, the non-Islamist trend must halt attempts at eliminating Islamists and acting as if they do not exist.


* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk