x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Regional conditions seem to point toward war

The peace process with Israel is about to turn into a cadaver with no one to try to resuscitate it. Arabic newspapers also say that Israel continues to act with impunity and comment on alternative options in case the Palestinian statehood bid fails. The Arab initiative in Syria is a way to keep the Assads in power, one columnist says.

All the ingredients for an imminent war in the region seem to be ready, as most pending issues seem to have degenerated into complex predicaments and each party lurks, waiting for the other to scream first, wrote Abdallah Iskandar, managing editor of the London-based paper Al Hayat.

The peace process with Israel is about to turn into a cadaver with no one to try to resuscitate it.

Syria is too preoccupied with its internal troubles to worry about peace with Israel. The Palestinians, for their part, are unable to make any breakthroughs on the way to peace and are still wallowing in national division.

As for the international community, represented by the Quartet, it failed so far to take even one step. And Israel, having impeded all possible peaceful solutions, continues to complicate matters by denying Arabs their rights.

On another level, the Iranian nuclear issue remains at a standstill, which keeps the Western-Iranian confrontation at a simmer with the possibility of fast escalation.

Meanwhile the drums of war are beating between Israel and Iran, with military manoeuvres and missile tests on both sides.

"These recent preparations could be necessities or mere deterrence measures, but no one can guarantee that matters won't degenerate … especially since Israel's and Iran's appetite for war offers both an exit from stalemate."



Israeli knows its piracy will not be punished

Despite repeated international calls upon Israel to lift its unlawful siege on the Gaza Strip, Israeli occupation forces continue their piracy, assaulting all that is humanly decent in their efforts to subdue the Palestinians, said the editorial of the Dubai-based newspaper Al Bayan.

"It is true that aggression in the absence of any Arab or international deterrence is an inherit Israeli characteristic. It is true as well that the Irish and Canadian vessels' challenge of Israeli aggression in an attempt to break the Gaza blockade was an act of heroism. But the explicit show of piracy by Israel was more meaningful that it seemed."

Those who crewed the aid ships to Gaza knew fully what awaited them. But Tel Aviv would not have dared to blatantly seize both ships had it not been certain that its crimes would go unpunished, and have negligible repercussions. The Israeli government is well aware of its power to manipulate the US veto, which makes it immune it to any international political pressure.

Israel tries at all costs to circumvent any attempts to transform the increasing international solidarity with Palestinians into a political achievement. Israeli politicians, realising that the Palestinian cause is international, will stop at nothing, not even crimes against humanity, to pre-empt any international pressure that could lead to political action against the continuation of its occupation.

The Arab initiative just keeps Assad in power

"As I have said before, the Arab League's initiative towards Syria is nothing but an attempt to save president Bashar Al Assad," wrote Tariq Homayed, editor of the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat.

"The evidence is that nothing has changed on the ground since the regime announced its approval of the initiative. Syrians are still getting killed, security forces are still deployed and prisoners are still captive."

Contrary to many articles of the Arab plan, it was the regime itself that called upon Syrian activists to surrender in exchange for pardons. This is a blatant exploitation attempt by the regime, not its first during the four decades of Baath party rule in Syria.

The initiative emphasises dialogue without setting a goal or a framework. Does it aim to drive Mr Al Assad out and guarantee a peaceful transition of power? Or is it just to subdue the opposition?

"It defies reason. How can the opposition be expected to go into talks without a predetermined subject or goal?" said the writer.

Even if the regime were to acquiesce to all of the Arab League's conditions, what of the 4,000 civilians killed so far? Would their deaths be in vain?

"It is unacceptable, even shameful that the same League that helped bring down Qaddafi in Libya would accept such a solution for Syria ... where the regime is no less criminal and brutal than the Qaddafi regime was."


One decision to really change the region

In a recent interview with the BBC, Palestinian spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said the Palestinian Authority is about to take a decision that would "change the face of the region", columnist Hussam Kanafani noted in the Emirati newspaper Al Khaleej.

"That was quite a big statement for the PA that finds itself currently struggling with a financial siege and in the throes of a US-led diplomatic war," he said.

The statement follows a series of allusions to "alternative options" in case the Palestinian UN statehood bid should fail.

The fate of the Palestinian bid is almost sealed. The PA would do well to start looking into alternative solutions, whether they change the face of the region or not. Still, it does have the ability to make a decision so important that it could influence the entire course of political development in the region.

"There is one decision the PA could make that could really change the state of frustration that has burdened the Palestinians for years now," said the writer. This "is the only step that could trigger the mine that everyone fears: The dismantling of the 1993 Oslo Accords-based entity would turn back the hand of time and take the Palestinian cause back to square one, where the Palestinians were still able to get the world's attention."

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem