x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

The war of the documents

Digest of commentaries in Arab newspapers

It is the war of the documents

Reactions to the Israeli-Palestinian documents that the Qatari news network Al Jazeera began airing on Sunday were different and contrasting, observed the columnist Daoud al Sharyan in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

Hamas saw them as "serious" and implying the Palestinian Authority's implication in the liquidation of the Palestinian cause. The US State Department announced that it is reviewing them without corroborating their content. In a more interesting step, Israel dismissed some of their content as imprecise.

Regardless of the dimensions of the battle between the PA and Al Jazeera, the publication of these documents beckons a review into the repercussions of the famous Wikileaks scandal recently. "The Wikileaks affair had an unexpected effect and it may be that we are before a war of documents in the region aimed at extorting governments."

The credibility of the Wikileaks documents has created a tendency within states and organisations to exploit the leaking of top secret documents for propaganda and political gain. This could mean that the shroud of secrecy in negotiations and international affairs would be lifted, which in turn would soon negate the efficiency of such a practice.

"The PA has no other choice but to inundate the media with negotiations documents. These documents could weaken the PA in an alarming way."

The first sharp division of Sunnis in Lebanon

The tempestuous protests that started in the mostly Sunni city of Tripoli in northern Lebanon only reflect the serious mobilisation that could await this country, not between different warring sects, but among people of the same sect, observed the London-based newspaper Al Quds al Arabi in its editorial.

The protesters took to the streets to express their opposition to the nomination of Najib Mikati as prime minister and in support for Saad Hariri.

"This phenomenon represents the first sharp division among Lebanese Sunnis in the aftermath of this recent premiership crisis, a division that could reach further depths in the upcoming days."

The conflict is between the 14 March 14and March 8 camps. It appears to be democratic, but in reality the matter is much more complicated for Lebanon is a weapons field and the Lebanese have a hard time civilly accepting defeat. The hope is that all parties accept the results of the presidential consultations as this is the safest way to prevent more crises and wars. The situation in Lebanon is prone to sudden explosion at the slightest spark.

Many observers in Lebanon argue for the unlikelihood of a civil war at the moment due to the major imbalance of powers on the ground, but it isn't at all unlikely that external powers could interfere to arm the weaker parties or create militias to work on their behalf.

The PA must resign to salvage peace process

In his daily opinion article for the Qatari daily Al Watan, the columnist Mazen Hammad commented on the Al Jazeera leaked documents saying: "The documents that describe in striking detail the performance of Palestinian negotiators reveal that these negotiators are weak, incapable and frustrated - all telltale signs of a broken will."

The concessions that the Palestinian negotiator offered to his Israeli counterpart were unprecedented and could create a rift within the Palestinian Authority and in the Arab world.

The Palestinian negotiator didn't demand the return of refugees or the dismantling of illegal settlements in East Jerusalem while Israel insisted on the return of some of the refugees to the Palestinian state in case it was established.

The documents also emphasise the level of covert cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli security authorities.

While the international community deems all Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as unlawful, the Palestinian negotiator, through free concessions, legalised the settlements.

"If these documents were to prove anything, it is that the Middle East peace process is clinically dead, which calls for the collective resignations of the PA and the formation of a Palestinian conference that could salvage what remaining hope there is for an equitable peace."


Hizbollah is the real power in Lebanon

Hizbollah rules Lebanon, observed Satea Noureddin in his article for the Lebanese daily Assafir. It dissolves and forms governments. Its accession to such a role is not temporary. It doesn't only emanate from a need to defend itself or its desire to empower the Lebanese identity. It is the start of a radical transformation in the composition of Lebanon and a historic development in the Shiite sect's relationship with the state as it is also a historic deterioration of the Sunnis' relationship.

Hizbollah has risen today to the position of sole ruler who would have, for the first time in its experience, to assume responsibilities fior the politics, economy, society, education, culture and, above all, foreign policies that have always been Lebanon's weakness and source of civil strife.

The party would most probably opt to remain outside the next cabinet, but this wouldn't save it from accountability, especially if the opposition were to form a domestic, regional and international front.

To have Hizbollah at the helm might have been the wish of its opponents who realize that power is laden with many pitfalls and that this new transformation wouldn't abolish the Special Tribunal for Lebanon but, on the contrary, would give it additional momentum.


* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem