x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Arab League must exploit US-Israel rift

The 22nd Arab League Summit currently held in Sirte, Libya, has on its agenda 30 serious issues. They are each so complicated that every one could take up a whole summit on its own, wrote Rajeh Khoury in the opinion pages of the Lebanese newspaper Annahar.

The 22nd Arab League Summit currently held in Sirte, Libya, has on its agenda 30 serious issues. They are each so complicated that every one could take up a whole summit on its own, wrote Rajeh Khoury in the opinion pages of the Lebanese newspaper Annahar. But among all the issues the Arab League has to examine - Sudan, Iraq, Yemen, the state of Arab higher education and scientific research, the establishment of an pan-Arab parliament and so forth - two pressing and intertwined dossiers stand out from the pile: the status of Jerusalem, with its colossal regional and international stakes, and the issue of inter-Arab relations and solidarity.

The Arab summit this year coincides with a sensitive phase in US-Israeli relations, which should allow Arab leaders to further push the international community to take a stance against Israel's settlement policy and its constant evasion of its obligations under the road map to peace. After the Quartet's recent declaration in Moscow, which was highly critical of Israel's settlement activities, it has become imperative that the Sirte summit establish measures against Israel, if not directly against Israel, then against the US and those Western countries that have investment interests in the Arab world but turn a blind eye to Israel's violations.

Iraq stands once again at a crossroads after the announcement of the parliamentary elections results. The secular Iraqiya coalition, led by Ayad Allawi, was the winner, but won only two seats more than its rival, the State of the Law, led by the incumbent prime minister Nouri al Maliki, the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds al Arabi stated in its editorial. Mr Allawi has celebrated his victory and started discussing the future government's agenda with his allies. Meanwhile, Mr al Maliki declared that he would not acknowledge the results and told the Iraqi people that he has the authority, as the premier, to form the new government.

It is interesting how the leader of an alliance that labels itself "the State of the Law " was the first to take a position that runs counter to the law, the newspaper said. "We are witnessing a political crisis that may become a security problem or even a civil war in a country that still must cope with violence, bomb attacks and assassinations on an almost-daily basis." Forming a new government won't be an easy task for Mr Allawi. He will be forced to share power with the State of the Law and/or the National Alliance, which have won 91 and 70 seats respectively, and representing more than 12 million Iraqis.

"Who are we to side with: China or Google? The call is pretty tough to make, especially for the Arab and third world who are, on the one hand, mesmerised by China's resurgence as a superpower that retained its national identity. But they also aspire to more intellectual freedom and access to information," noted Saad Mehio in a comment piece for the Emirati newspaper Al Khaleej.

But it is unnecessary to choose. China is neither the promised land it appears to be, nor is Google the lost paradise some may be inclined to miss. China must overcome major hurdles before its economic modernisation becomes a political modernisation. It lacks a multiparty system and the rule of law. Likewise, Google must work to prove that it is, indeed, the world's forum and represents the global conscience.

"The so-called 'Netizens' (citizens of the net) have reason to consider the current stand-off between China and Google as a conflict between two equally objectionable and despotic powers: a tyrannical state that seeks to censor the freedom of its citizens and limit their exposure to what is in cyberspace and the tyranny of giant capitalistic corporation which - unknown to us - controls everything that we read, see or hear on the internet."

The Bahraini public prosecutor's decision to ban press coverage of the money laundering case involving a former minister is rather puzzling, commented Mansour al Jamri, the editor-in-chief of the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat. The Bahraini minister of state, Mansoor bin Rajab, was detained two weeks ago on charges of orchestrating a multimillion money-laundering scheme, a charge that led to his dismissal from the cabinet.

The public prosecutor's office attributed the embargo to "the way some media outlets have been handling the case, resorting to speculative conclusions that, in some cases, were widely off the mark", the editor quoted the public prosecution as saying. But the details of the case have been leaked to the Kuwaiti press and some satellite channels. Now, the children who bear the family name of the ex-minister are afraid to go to school. In the meantime, leading families in Manama are starting to fret that they may be next.

* Digest compiled by Achraf ElBahi aelbahi@thenational.ae