x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

A handshake is minor, a position is major

"The news of the handshake between Saudi Arabia's Prince Turki Al Faisal and the Israeli deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon is still overwhelming some of the Arab media.

"The news of the handshake between Saudi Arabia's Prince Turki Al Faisal and the Israeli deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon at the Munich conference on international security is still overwhelming some of the Arab media. It has turned into a political card in the hands of opportunists," observed Tariq Alhomayed in a comment article in the London-based daily Al Sharq al Awsat.

"I would like first to stress that the handshake is being blown out of proportion. Instead of undertaking a practical boycott on the ground and embarrassing Israel internationally, we started boycotting ourselves by hesitating to take part in international venues in fear of encountering Israelis or of being captured in an idle snapshot. And because we are in a crisis of self-confidence, we have become obsessed to the point where handshaking became a scary thing." The Iranian news machine, for example, has extensively reported on it.

The Arab row over the handshaking indicates the shaky confidence of Arabs. Should Arabs stay always confined and boycott every single conference whenever Israelis are present? If so, why not boycott the UN General Assembly? What is crucial after all is the kind of position you are firmly advocating and defending. Sudan and Egypt need new investments The Sudanese-Egyptian joint committee is holding a meeting this week in Cairo to examine obstacles to trade between the two countries and to explore ways to undertake projects in the fields of industry and agriculture, reported the Sudanese newspaper Al Ayam in its editorial.

The committee's meeting comes amid reports that many new Arab investors are willing to undertake  projects spanning various areas of economic activity in Sudan. Yet one of the main obstacles that hinders trade between the two neighbours is that many of the commodities Egypt would like to market in Sudan under the framework of the Comesa customs tariff agreement are also produced locally.  This will overwhelm the Sudanese market with Egyptian goods and could badly affect the growth of Sudanese industry.

The Sudanese government should not allow such a thing to happen because of the potential economic cost. It is worth noting that Sudanese industry is frail and has suffered in the past from similar practices that led to the collapse of many production lines. "Therefore this newspaper urges the committee to lay more emphasis on new production initiatives in untapped fields in agriculture and agro-industry. This will definitely  fill an important gap and  give a strong boost to the economy in a mutually beneficial way."

Iraq: a question of exclusion or inclusion "Today the appeals panel will decide about more complaints of Iraqi parliamentary candidates disqualified by the Accountability and Justice Commission on grounds of affiliation with the Baath party," wrote Ali al Sharifi in an opinion piece for the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat. Intense party rallying and pressure from the government this week demonstrated that there were serious actions to prevent six candidates in particular, who were excluded by the commission from taking part in the upcoming election. The government and its allies emerged stubborn, prompting  an American intervention through the vice president Joe Biden, who visited Iraq to convince the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al Maliki to permit all candidates the right to participate in the election.

"In that context, will the legislative elections, being less representative of all Iraqis, satisfy the demands of all the people?" There is a fear that such a situation would again trigger unrest and a security crisis. Those who were disqualified do not have "blood on their hands", nor are they Baathist, as claimed by the commission. So by excluding them, a large portion of Iraqis will be excluded too, hence perpetuating an unstable and unbalanced political situation in Iraq.

Israel is at fault for bad opinion poll With reference to the latest Pew research centre's opinion poll, Mazen Hammed asked in the Qatari newspaper Al Watan: "Why has animosity towards Jews risen among Arabs and Muslims?" The survey covered a survey population of 1,000 for each of the following countries: Jordan, the Palestinian Territories, Egypt, Lebanon, Pakistan, Indonesia and Turkey. It was found that 97 per cent of Jordanians and Palestinians expressed an unfavourable opinion towards Jews, while 95 per cent of Egyptians held similar views. Turkey produced a striking figure: 73 per cent of those surveyed expressed an unfavourable attitude this year compared to 32 per cent in 2004. In Pakistan and Indonesia, 78 and 74 per cent, respectively, had a negative attitude.

"This leads us to ask why this rising animosity? Perhaps the main reason is that Israel has not made any real effort to settle for a just peace in the region, plus it has acted brutally towards the Palestinians." Another reason is that Israel presents itself as representative of all Jews across the world. This has prompted Arabs and Muslims to associate the Jewish people with the Israelis and with a visual image of the violence during the assault on Gaza. In sum, the fault for negative opinions lies in the state of Israel and not the Jewish people.

* Digest compiled by Mostapha Elmouloudi melmouloudi@thenational.ae