x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Palestinians must get ready for negotiations

The first impression about the price Israel extracted in exchange for agreeing to new US suggestions on a 90-day settlement freeze reveals quite an expensive invoice, observed the columnist Ali Ibrahim in an article for London-based daily Asharq al Awsat.

The first impression about the price Israel extracted in exchange for agreeing to new US suggestions on a 90-day settlement freeze reveals quite an expensive invoice: free aircraft, security and political pledges and, most importantly, a promise that this will be the last settlement freeze, observed the columnist Ali Ibrahim in an article for London-based daily Asharq al Awsat.

The 90-day period is short and likely to end with no breakthrough whatsoever as issues on the table are highly complex and sensitive.

However, as generous as the US offer is, the Israeli right still views it as a losing deal since settlement for them is more important than peace, whereas the Palestinians, busy preparing an official response, find themselves in a difficult position in the absence of a clear and practical alternative.

The Palestinians must have a clear vision of what they want out of negotiations. They must have a plan to get to their goals and deal skilfully with any obstacles that may arise, as well as be ready with responsible alternatives in the eventuality of a deadlock.

There must be a way to manoeuvre around the settlement issue, which Israeli politicians so conveniently use to hamper negotiations.

"In crucial crises and at historic crossroads, there are many examples to show that the best solutions usually come when out-of-the-box thinking is applied."


Planning a US exit from Afghanistan

The US cannot mask its desire to withdraw not only from Iraq but also from Afghanistan, wrote the columnist Mazen Hammad in an article for the Qatari daily Al Watan. The Obama administration has developed a plan to start handing security responsibilities in chosen Afghan areas to the president Hamid Karzai's government within a period of 18 to 24 months with the aim of ending its combat mission in the country.

The withdrawal plan, which reflects the clearest US vision for the transfer of powers to Kabul's government, spans four years and is to be implemented in phases. It will be reviewed this week during a Nato summit in Lisbon.

As described in the American press, the new plan is a repetition of the Iraqi precedent whereby Iraqi regions were handed over one after the other to Baghdad, enabling the withdrawal of most US troops.

By 2014, the majority of military forces in Afghanistan should be withdrawn.

This plan comes at a time when Mr Karzai is insisting on downsizing the US presence in his country. And while the exit plan satisfies Mr Obama's liberal base, it also leads to the conclusion that Washington is eager to find a way out for its troops from Afghanistan. Successful implementation of the plan depends on building a strong Afghan army capable of defending the country.


Syria shows a sign of acceptance of tribunal

In a recent statement, the Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem said the Special Tribunal for Lebanon is strictly a Lebanese affair that doesn't involve Syria. Then he went on to distinguish between an indictment and an accusation, explaining that the latter is based on suspicions while the former, issued by an attorney general, is based on evidence.

In a comment in the Lebanese daily Annahar, the columnist Ghassan Hajjar wrote that for the first time, he has heard a speech that distinguishes between the two.

If the difference is indeed clear for Damascus, this clarity should transfer to its allies in Lebanon. The indictment suggests suspicions that are necessary in all phases of investigation, since suspicion leads to certainty. Suspicion is the preamble to all sorts of procedures to either refute them or to prove their validity.

Mr Muallem's statements reveal an acceptance of the indictment, which implicitly means an acceptance of international justice and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. His readiness to accept an indictment built on solid evidence dismisses accusations by his allies of the tribunal's politicisation.

Mr Muallem accused Israel of using the indictment to tamper with Lebanese affairs. If so, why get into the maze of sedition, violence and turning against the regime? Isn't that Israel's objective? And would Hizbollah fall for such a scheme?


Israel issues demands that are unreasonable

We don't know by what right and by which criteria Israel demands that Arab states preserve its security and protect its citizens, declared the pan-Arab daily Al Quds al Arabi in its editorial.

Earlier this week, an Israeli intelligence official accused the Egyptian government of failing to exert every possible effort to stop weapons smuggling into Gaza.

Such accusations go beyond the limits of tactfulness and reason. They reveal arrogance and deal with Egypt as if it were a watchdog for Israel's security.

"The signing of a peace agreement such as Camp David shouldn't transform Egypt into a loyal servant for Israeli security."

The Camp David treaty may have ended the state of war between Egypt and Israel, but it cannot end the state of animosity, especially in view of the numerous Israeli provocations and wars against Arabs and Muslims since the signing of the treaty more than 30 years ago.

The Egyptian government has done everything possible to secure Israeli borders.

"Egyptian authorities are required to respond to these provocations in a method that puts a stop to them and in a way commensurate with Egypt's standing and the sacrifices of its people."



* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem