x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Tunisian constitution endorsement is historic

Taoufik Bouachrine from Akhbar Al Youm explains the success of the Tunisian version of the Arab Spring. Other topics: Elias Harfoush (Al Hayat) on Syria, and Octavia Nasr i (Annahar) on Israel.

The formal endorsement in Tunisia on Friday of the first democratic constitution in the Arab Spring marked a historic moment in the country and the Arab region, wrote Taoufik Bouachrine in the Morocco-based daily Akhbar Al Youm.

It is a moment of compromise on new rules of the game between seculars and Islamists, and liberals and leftists – a rarity in the Arab world where political groups are used to exclusion, finger-pointing and conflicts, the writer noted.

With this achievement, the quarters that would shout that the Arab Spring had turned into a “cold autumn” must be very disappointed.

The autocratic regimes bet that Tunisia, the birthplace of the nascent Arab democratic uprisings, would fail to reach a compromise on the constitution and the transition; they hoped that the assassinations, the salafists, the hired press and the remnants would dominate the country’s transition. They were disappointed.

Interestingly, Tunisia’s security forces arrested the suspects in the assassination of opposition politicians Mohammed Brahmi and Chokri Belaid the same week the constitution was approved.

A second republic has been created in Tunisia, completely different from the one-party system before it. For the first time, Tunisians have promulgated an exemplary modern constitution. And now, they are waiting for the Tunisian train to start rolling to reach the club of democracies.

So what was the recipe that produced this political feat that the world applauded on Friday?

The key factor is compromise. Political players were able to overcome egotism and the residues of despotism and sit down at the table to rescue the country.

The second keyword is the maturity of Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda Party, which stepped down despite having a majority in the parliament, thus reassuring rivals at home and foiling many overseas attempts at aborting Tunisia’s experience.

Ennahda’s leader Rachid Ghannouchi has learnt from the mistake of Egypt’s Mohammed Morsi, who thought that critical transitions could be managed by the rules of the majority and the polls alone. Egypt’s Islamists benefited from Tunisia’s successful revolution, and Tunisia’s Islamists benefited from Egypt’s failed revolution.

The third important factor is the role of the civil society, namely the Tunisian Labour Union which narrowed the gap between politicians and opened channels for dialogue and consensus. This shows the role of civil society and the middle class in entrenching moderation and compromise.

The fourth element is the army’s refusal to interfere in politics although many quarters urged it to end the political experience. Also, there was no direct foreign interference by major powers, as was the case in Egypt and Syria due to their proximity to Israel.

Boycotting Israel may support peace efforts

John Kerry is getting ready to announce the “framework agreement” to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Yes, it is only an action framework, a starting point on a long road. Nonetheless, it will be the best US contribution to date in a conflict that has been causing havoc in the region for a long time,” wrote Octavia Nasr in the Lebanese daily Annahar.

A few details from the agreement denote a change of positions in a number of issues and obvious detachment from the all-powerful Israeli lobby.

Most of Mr Kerry’s diplomatic moves happen behind closed doors, but in the last few weeks he publicly demonstrated Washington’s decision to deal decisively with Israel by warning that global sanctions against it are gaining momentum and may not be containable for much longer.

Campaigns calling for boycott of Israel have been active throughout the world in recent years. They compelled the EU to impose or threaten to impose sizeable economic sanctions on Israel.

“Political and economic boycott calls against Israel are gaining in influence in view of the variety of instigators and their non-violent approaches,” she said.

Will Washington’s messages to Israel bear fruits? Unless some big diversion was created to buy Israeli extremists time and derail US peace efforts, the Kerry- Obama plan may very well get somewhere, she surmised.

Evacuate civilians from quagmire in Homs city

The fate of the Syrian people requires immediate attention, writes Al Hayat columnist Elias Harfoush, rather than the international talks that will supposedly safeguard all of Syria’s future.

Homs, the city that the Syrian opposition claims to be its heartland, can be the access point for humanitarian aid delivered to Syrian civilians.

“The ‘New Syria’ mentioned at the Geneva Conference will not be achievable unless the atrocious state of the Syrian civilians is primarily addressed,” argued Harfoush.

There can be no “New Syria” without remedying an entire generation who have been robbed of any semblance of a normal upbringing.

Both the Syrian government and the opposition need to have a moment of mercy to allow food, water and provisions into Homs and evacuate those civilians who are daily victims of the ongoing violence.

Regardless of the stand taken by either side for what they believe Syria’s future should be, their reluctance to ceasefire and the ongoing violence is depriving the entire Syrian people of any future.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk