x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Plight of Palestinians remains a central issue in Egypt

Arabic news digest: Egypt's new president will need to act over Palestine, writes an Arabic-language columnist; plus articles about Arab revolutionaries and the mooted Saudi-Bahrain union

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, Egypt based its priorities on external issues such as Arab nationalism and the battle against Israel. During the 30 years that followed, the country's internal woes grew to the point where livelihoods became the main point on the agenda of the president and the people alike, said the columnist Abdul Rahman Al Rashed in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

Khaled Ali, a presidential candidate in Egypt, was recently quoted as saying that he wouldn't be content with a solution in Palestine along 1967 lines. Another contender, Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh, vowed to modify the Camp David Agreement while his opponent, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi didn't make as many promises, although the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot anticipated that, should he win, he would make Palestine his central issue, probably to escape pressing internal problems.

But, these electoral pledges, regardless of how genuine they may be, fail to ask one pivotal question: are these the priorities of the all important Egyptian voters? And if so, and these voters do indeed hinge their political choices and future plans on their country's relationship with Israel and the future of Palestine, another question poses itself: what capabilities will the coming president have to pursue a conflict with Israel?

"In truth, this isn't a Palestinian issue; it is an Egyptian issue par excellence considering that Israel is situated right at its border and competes with it for power," opined the writer. "Both countries threaten each other's interests and, in addition to that, as sympathetic as Egyptian citizens are towards the Palestinian people's plight, they have yet to agree on the modality and the extent of intervention required on their part."

Egypt is on its way to a new era, which makes it priceless for the Palestinian cause. Should the president come from the Islamic camp and should he opt for a peace project, Israel would most probably offer him bigger concessions. Israel is aware of how radical the Brotherhood are. If they were to agree to a peace deal, they would have a bigger chance of persuading the people to accept it. Conversely, should the Islamic president decide to confront Israel, politically or militarily, it would cause a shift in the history of the entire region.

"But the option of war would be difficult for any president that the Egyptians elect. The costs of war are too great to afford for a state that must find ways to provide for its citizens' daily subsistence," he added.

"I doubt that the first president of the Second Republic would be able to flip the power equation, or even risk testing it in the battlefield. He could however adopt a solution that lays the foundation for a Palestinian state," Al Rashed concluded.

Arab revolutionaries must maintain stance

The Arab revolutionaries who were frustrated after having toppled the old regimes must return to the streets and public squares, for makers of history must possess two merits: awareness and patience, wrote Mohammed Khaled in an opinion piece for the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

"The passage from dictatorship to democracy may be long or short depending on whether citizens stay long enough on the streets or hopelessly go back home before they have reaped the fruits of their protests," noted the writer.

If the revolutionaries fail to take the helm, the outcome "will be one of two alternatives: military or religious … pick up your poison".

Protesters left the streets and went back home in despair when they ran out of steam, and now the Arab spring hangs in the balance. Instability is the common denominator between Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen.

Major breakthroughs are achieved by those who are patient and aware. So revolutionaries should take to the streets again and stand up for their rights to full dignity and freedom.

By doing so, they will shorten the staggering transitional period and eradicate the remnants of the former tyrannical regimes. Because however bad things get, the future remains better than the past.



Iran has no business in Bahrain-Saudi ties

The Iranian foreign affairs spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, swapped last week the "disappearance of Israel" - the pet phrase of some Iranian officials - for a new one: the "disappearance of Bahrain", in a clear show of Iran's disapproval of possible plans for a union between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, according to Mahmoud Al Reemawi, a contributor to the Palestinian newspaper Al Quds.

Mr Mehmanparast used the phrase in a statement to the press last Friday. "The provocation … is just too explicit," the writer noted. A statement like this might poison the relationship between the two neighbours and have a negative effect on relations between Tehran and the five other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council - and, by extension, the whole Arab world, the writer argued.

Bahrain's union with Saudi Arabia, or with any other state for that matter, is a matter of sovereign and independent decision-making that should be of concern to no one other than Bahrainis themselves.

Besides, ties between Manama and Riyadh are too strong and too old for anyone to be surprised at their possible plans for a union. "Iran's shocked reaction … amounts to a brazen interference in another country's internal affairs."

* Digest compiled by Translation Desk