x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Assad disapproves of Palestinian decision

President Assad's discourse is a lesson on how Arabs, with their conflicts, are giving Israel the opportunity to foil any serious attempt to reach peace.

The Syrian president Bashar Assad criticised the Palestinian decision to tie peace talks directly to freezing settlement activities, claiming the main issue is the territory itself, which must be regained with or without settlements, wrote Tareq Homayed, the editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

What if the Palestinians had negotiated with the Israelis without setting the freeze on settlement as a precondition? Surely, the Syrians would have criticised the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, for selling out the cause.

"President Assad's discourse is a lesson on how Arabs, with their conflicts, are giving Israel the opportunity to foil any serious attempt to reach peace."

Granted, linking negotiations to the settlement issue is an Israeli ploy. It is indisputable that settlements would be removed once a peace agreement has been reached. Therefore, the Palestinian Authority committed a grave mistake when it fell for the Israeli trap and lost a genuine opportunity for an advancement in the peace process.

It seems absurd that the Syrian president would criticise the Palestinian decision, knowing that the Syrians themselves refused time and again to grant the Palestinians Arab support to continue negotiating with the Israelis.

The truth is the entire region is paying the price and Israel is the sole beneficiary.


Obama was the last hope for Arabs

The most dangerous aspect about the recent US decision to back away from the Middle East peace process, after its admitted failure to pressure Israel on the settlement issue, is that it definitively ends any Arab and Palestinian wagers on the current US administration, wrote the columnist Elias Harfoush in an article for the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

Changing this image was at the heart of the US president Barack Obama's mission. It was the basis of his politics of anti-extremism in the region, especially since extremist organisations have always banked on the unbreakable US-Israeli alliance as a pretext to promote terrorism against US targets.

Mr Obama, with his Cairo speech towards Arabs and Muslims, represented the last hope for the trustworthiness of US presidents and their ability to detach themselves from a blind alliance with Israel in favour of an equitable peace in the Middle East.

Had Mr Obama's defeat by the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, been a duel between two individuals, no one would have given the matter any weight. But this is a defeat for all future US presidents. The point here is not to lament the credibility of US presidents. It is important that such facts are reflected in our region in more realistic policies that can withstand the waves of extremism surrounding us.


The US is the now the main target of e-war

There is no great power in the electronic warfare that has been raging recently on the internet, wrote the columnist Satea Noureddin in an article for the Lebanese daily Assafir.

An anonymous teenager can create wars all over the world. He breaks through defence lines and into top-secret operation rooms. This isn't a confrontation between nations, but it is an actual world war, or at least a precursor of future wars that will be conducted on computer screens without the need for armies.

The US is the main target and cause for this war, although it is not its battlefield, which extends to various countries around the world. The scene is surreal and unprecedented; battles and mutual confrontations are everywhere as well as negotiations.

This is a true test of US world leadership, or it could be an opportunity for some internet wizards to prove to the Americans that they are no longer worthy of leadership.

However, Washington is retaliating fearlessly on this open electronic front against enemies who enjoy hacking into US sites, just as the world public enjoys watching these battles that strip the US of its powerful status.


Palestinians need to reshuffle priorities

In the words of the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, the peace process is going through difficult times and the US failure to provide balance in this matter has become clear. Therefore, the matter begins and ends with the Palestinians, said the Emirati daily Al Bayan in its editorial.

The Palestinians are required to reshuffle their priorities and put their affairs in order to stop the steep decline on their front. Once again, it is evident that Israel isn't prepared to offer any concessions in favour of peace and, in the absence of viable alternatives or initiatives, the Palestinian Authority finds itself forced to resume an ineffective dialogue with the US administration.

Palestinians need alternatives and a new set of priorities. Their internal divisions must end and reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas must be reached. It is a necessity for the confrontation with Israel.

Palestinians are required to develop a comprehensive national consensus about options other than negotiations that can keep the initiative in the hand of the Palestinian side without sacrificing the series of recent national achievements.

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem