x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Tourist sees a false Lebanon

Residents are not as enthusiastic as tourists about Lebanon, an Arabic commentator says. Other topics today: Mubarak's ethics, Palestinian statehood, and Yemen's hope.

Dear tourist: Lebanon is not what you think

"The French tourist said 'Your country is splendid. Your beach is delicious. Your mountains are docile. Your cuisine is tasty and diverse. Your services are quite advanced. Your welcome is warm. And Baalbek is fascinating.' I thanked him with a smile," wrote Ghassan Charbel, editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

"But the tourist went on: 'I was happy to see citizens from different faiths and creeds living in one nation, in a democracy under the rule of law'.

"He said he was sad to go back … and he deplored France's regression at a time when others are making progress in scientific research and taking the lead in the high-tech race.

"I was indignant," the editor said. "I was going to reproach him for professing such things before a Lebanese person. I wanted to tell him: 'you are going back to a country that actually has institutions, laws, a judiciary, an army, a police and ballot boxes that take retribution from incompetent officials.

"In your country, you don't have the problem of [public offices] being bequeathed to one's children and in-laws; you don't need national unanimity … to get a road paved. Your country is not a shooting range or an assassination hot spot. And French citizens don't simply disappear into thin air."

"[Your] worries are so velvety," the editor concluded.

The downfall of Egypt's Mubarak was ethical

The downfall of Hosni Mubarak, the ousted Egyptian president, was ethical before being political, columnist Maamoun Fandi, argued in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

What may have passed for a bunch of "small narratives" - as opposed to grand, world-level events - punched the fatal chinks into the Mubarak regime's armour, the writer said.

"The regime was ethically fallen long before young Egyptians hit the streets calling for the overthrow of the regime."

In February 2006, the ferry Al Salam Boccaccio 98 carrying close to 1,400 Egyptians sank in the Red Sea. About 1,000 of them perished. "And while Egyptians were scrambling to recover the bodies of their loved ones, President [Mubarak], his sons and members of his government went to watch the African Nations' Cup finals in Cairo Stadium," the writer said. "This was the embodiment of the emotional rift between the regime and the people."

Never mind that three years later, when Mr Mubarak's grandson died, the whole nation had to mourn for what was essentially a personal loss. Then, at a time when Egyptians started to become more conscious about how power and money control their country, Mr Mubarak's son Gamal married Khadija Al Jammal, the daughter of Egypt's most prominent businessman.

The 2010 rigged elections were just the last straw.

Palestinians have no option except the UN

"When will Washington stop being a stumbling block for the Palestinians seeking to make their dream a reality?", columnist Mazen Hammad asked in the Qatari newspaper Al Watan. "When will it give up the attempts to foil their bid for international recognition?"

It is a legitimate question now that the US has devised new schemes to launch yet another round of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, less for the purpose of reaching a peace agreement than to sabotage the Palestinian Authority's planned bid for statehood at the UN General Assembly this month.

Available information and analysis indicate that the US would veto the Palestinian request at the Security Council. However, the Americans wouldn't be able to obstruct a recommendation by the General Assembly and its 193 members to bestow upon the Palestinians the status of a non-voting observer state. This would enable the Palestinians to join many international groups and, most importantly, to sue Israel at the International Criminal Court.

A number of US officials are saying that the Obama administration wants to avoid using the veto.

The New York Times reported this week that the US has developed a contingency plan, in case it fails to foil the vote at the General Assembly, which involves cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis on security issues in the West Bank.

New Gulf initiative may save Yemen's future

"The political command in Sanaa is reconsidering the GCC initiative aimed at putting an end to the political crisis in Yemen," the Dubai-based daily Al Bayan said in its editorial.

This is a strong indication that dialogue is arriving on the political scene following months of intransigence, for it is in no party's favour to obstruct the implementation of that agreement.

The project outlined in the initiative isn't purely political. It is based on human values for the purpose of avoiding bloodshed in Yemen and ending the crisis that threatens the existence of the state.

The Gulf initiative takes into consideration the higher national interests of Yemen, by safeguarding the country's unity and replacing bullets with political dialogue. It is also a road map that carries a pragmatic and feasible solution.

However, if this project is to succeed it needs the serious participation of all parties. Otherwise, Yemen would be thrown into a civil war that could lead to its segmentation.

"Yemen is in dire need of wisdom to overpower personal and tribal vendettas. Only that could guarantee the participation of all parties to the conflict in protection of the security and sovereignty of Yemen."

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk