x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Rulings by Egypt's high court reveal the old guard's plan for a comeback

Eleventh-hour rulings by Egypt¿s high court reveal the old guard¿s plan for a comeback, an Arabic language columnist writes. Other topids in today's roundup: Syria's crisis and honesty in Israel.

The lead-up to the presidential election run-off in Egypt was been tense enough before the last-minute decisions of the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC), Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, said in a column yesterday.

He was referring to rulings that effectively dissolved parliament and reversed a law eliminating presidential candidates who had held senior positions under the old regime.

"That is one backstabbed parliament," the editor wrote.

The presidential run-off is been scheduled for yesterday and today. The results of the first round pitted Mohammed Morsi against Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.

Mr Shafiq, a former air force commander, is seen by many as the favourite of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf), the acting rulers of post-revolution Egypt.

"The ruling Scaf has dealt the Muslim Brotherhood a pre-emptive blow, using the convenient gloves of the constitutional court … just two days before the start of the second and decisive round of the presidential election," the editor wrote.

The Brotherhood has learnt from its "disastrous mistakes" in the past, and did not go in for the army council's "carefully laid trap" this time, he noted. The Brotherhood has not, in other words, rejected the SCC's rulings.

The army generals wanted the Brotherhood, which stands to lose almost 50 per cent control of parliament, to react emotionally, withdraw from the presidential election and call for street protests - which would have reset the clocks in Egypt back to January 25, 2011, when the revolution started.

But it remains to be seen whether the Brotherhood's belated prudence will save the day, the editor noted. They have failed all along in garnering the trust of important segments of the Egyptian electorate, namely minorities and secularists.

This alone gave the army a big margin for manoeuvre, according to the editor, and increased the chances of a candidate like Mr Shafiq, whose candidacy was inconceivable last year.

Scaf has also capitalised on the revolutionary youth's inexperience and fascination with the glitter of TV cameras.

"While they were hopping from one talk show to another, inside studios owned by businessmen with known ties to the old regime, Scaf's advisers were laying down meticulous plans to abort the revolution."

The old guard are making their slow comeback, and if they succeed, they will "release all the vipers of corruption from their traps" and "mummify Mubarak like a Pharaoh".

It wasn't a slip of the tongue, the editor concluded, when Mr Sharif told supporters before the end of the campaign period "we are coming back, whether they like it or not".

Delays of Annan plan are costly for Syrians

The "big guys" need time to negotiate the power balance in the Middle East before the Syrian crisis is resolved, Syrian columnist Hussein Odat wrote in the Dubai-based newspaper Al Bayan yesterday.

And those "big guys" are not too concerned that the Syrian people will be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire for as long as that process takes, the writer went on.

He was referring, he explained, mostly to the members of the UN Security Council, countries still supporting the Kofi Annan peace plan in Syria, although it has already turned out to be a failure.

Just recently, Mr Annan, the envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League to Syria, announced in a joint press conference with Hillary Clinton the US secretary of state that his plan has not been successful. But neither he nor Mrs Clinton declared it, as they should have, a "failure".

For his part, Sergey Lavrov the Russian foreign minister keeps saying that his country is not insisting that the Syrian president Bashar Al Assad stay in power. But Russia will not allow his forced departure unless the Syrian people unanimously agree that he must go, he said.

Mr Lavrov forgets that his own boss, President Vladimir Putin, was elected by barely half the Russian vote.

Unanimity on virtually anything is a fantasy. In the real world, Syrians suffer.

When an Israeli official calls a spade a spade

It is rare to come across an Israeli politician who speaks without equivocations about Israel's real plans in Palestine, but Moshe Ya'alon, Israel's deputy prime minister, may just be the one, the West Bank-based newspaper Al Quds said in an editorial on Friday.

"The man apparently can't stand sugar-coated or misleading talk, or perhaps he is eyeing a special position within far-right circles. Or, why not, he may be entertaining plans to start his own party, like all Israeli chiefs of staff before him," the newspaper said.

Mr Ya'alon, who is also the minister of strategic affairs in Benjamin Netanyahu's government, said on a recent occasion that the current status of occupation in Palestine is "very comfortable" for Israel, Al Quds reported, and that Israel "will have no complaints" about the status quo if it lasts for another 100 years.

Mr Ya'alon also added that Israel will not give up as much as one millimetre of occupied Palestinian land.

"By saying that, he has issued a death sentence for the peace talks … which have been on life support for the past several years anyway," the paper said.

All Israel wants is land without peace; that seems to be its sole strategic option. And now a top Israeli official is here to vouch for that.

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi