x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

The time draws near

The diplomatic showdown at the UN is now upon us, an Arabic-language commentator says. Other subjects in today's opinion digest: the Turkey Arabs don't know;

Palestinians' real test for UN draws closer

"We are just hours away from the test that the international community will sit through as it is called upon to recognise a little Palestinian state as a full member of the United Nations," wrote Amjad Arar in the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

Western diplomats have been putting every effort into dissuading the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, from filing a full-recognition application with the UN Security Council, just to spare the United States the embarrassment of striking it down using its veto.

"Some believe that Palestinian leaders are just playing a game to force Israel back to the negotiation table, on more convenient terms this time," the writer said.

But settling for a mere new round of talks would not have been worth all the trouble, he added.

"It's not that pressing ahead with the UN move will make some major difference on the ground … But on the political level, the rules of the game will change and new options for the Palestinian struggle will open up."

Officials from the Quartet Middle East diplomacy group - the US, the UN, the European Union and Russia - were trying at the eleventh hour to push for a reopening of negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis, the writer said, but they still couldn't get rid of a deeply entrenched bias towards the latter.


The Turkey that Arabs tend to forget about

"On the eve of the recent visit to Egypt by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the anchorwoman of a Cairo-based private television channel said in her presentation about Turkey, without flinching: 'There is no muezzin's call to prayer in Turkey, and you don't hear church bells toll'," columnist Mohammed Al Rumaihi wrote in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

Part of the Arabic media coverage of Turkey is this poor, he said, and the Arab public's general knowledge about that Muslim country appears to be just as deficient.

People forget that after the fall of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War, Turkey turned its back to the Arabs to pursue nationalistic and economic objectives of its own. And for the 80 years that followed, Arabs knew barely anything about Turkey.

"It's only in the past decade or two that Turkey started to turn to look at its backyard - the Arab region," the writer said. "And this new interest was prompted by Turkey's … need for Arab oil for its new economy, and the European condescension which followed Ankara's bid to join the EU."

There is no harm in developing new, constructive ties with Turkey, the writer noted.

It's the excessive zeal to portray it as "a model of Islamic rule" that's a bit of a shame.




Syrian opposition needs some unity

Syrian protesters are either engrossed in plans to confuse the regime's security apparatus or flocking to record-breaking conferences, Satea Noureddin wrote in the Lebanese daily Assafir.

Sudden intellectual conflicts within the protest movement reflect a perplexing political performance at this crucial time, he wrote.

"Some say it is a normal, healthy phenomenon in a society just emerging from decades of darkness into the light of relative freedom and a quasi-normal political life." But others suggest these meetings and conferences are nothing but gatherings of has-beens seeking revenge from a system that humiliated and oppressed them for so long.

"This is quite comprehensible, but the profusion of opposition conferences and meetings last weekend, in addition to previous meetings in Syria and abroad betrays considerable confusion among the opposition."

More perplexing still is that all these conferences humbly and unanimously declare that they don't intend to lead the uprising or claim its achievements, but only to help the youth topple the tyrant.

This is perpetuating the deadlock. As the violence against protesters increases, the best the opposition can do is a bunch of unrelated conferences.

Syria's salvation is still far away.


Forming new Libyan cabinet no easy task

The military situation is still tense in Libya, but the political scene is in no better shape, the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi stated in its editorial.

Hopes that a new Libyan government would be formed collapsed on Monday, following differences within the National Transitional Council about the premiership and ministerial portfolios.

The rebels from Misurata, having played a major role in capturing the capital Tripoli - they are also currently leading the siege and attack operations in Sirte and Bani Walid - want representation in the new government commensurate with their role in the revolution.

"It was no surprise, then, that the Misurata rebels demanded that Abdul Rahman Al Suwehli succeed Mahmoud Jibril as prime minister of the new government, a demand Mr Jibril rejected," the newspaper said.

"Running Libyan affairs after the fall of Col Qaddafi's regime is going to be far more complicated than capturing Tripoli. There are big challenges ahead and considerable differences now that the one enemy who united everyone is gone."

That said, it is still too early to be pessimistic. Perhaps all this is just labour pains before a new baby is born.


* Digest compiled by the Translation Desk