x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Meshaal-Medvedev meeting is historic

'This meeting is an acknowledgement of Hamas as a political authority representative of a considerable section of the Palestinian people.'

Syria has been the site of intensive diplomatic activity these days, said the London-based newspaper Al Quds al Arabi in its editorial. After the successful visit by the Syrian president Bashar Assad to Turkey, where he met Ankara's leaders, and after the more recent tripartite summit among the Turkish premier, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, and Mr Assad in Ankara, the Russian president Dmitry Mevedev has now come to Damascus, after which he will fly to the Turkish capital on a high-profile visit.

"That Mr Medvedev is meeting with Khaled Meshaal, Hamas's political bureau chief, in the presence of Mr Assad, carries very significant political implications." This meeting is indeed an acknowledgement of Hamas as a political authority representative of a considerable section of the Palestinian people. True, Mr Meshaal had previously been invited to Moscow, where he met senior government officials, but he was not received by either Mr Medvedev or the Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin. Now, Hamas officials are describing Mr Medvedev's meeting with Mr Meshaal as "a historic turning point" in the movement's political history. It embarrasses Arab leaders, the president of the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

The Algerian government is preparing an "exceptional developmental plan" for the Bedouin regions in the south of the country in order to pull the rug from under armed groups there, especially the so-called al Qa'eda in the Islamic Maghreb network, reported the Palestinian newspaper Al Quds.

The al Qa'eda affiliate has moved its operations from the perimeter of the capital, Algiers, to the Sahara areas further south to circumvent the Algerian army's crackdown. Earlier this week, the Algerian president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, asked his prime minister to convene a mini-cabinet meeting to discuss the needs of the southern regions, especially Adrar and Tamenrast provinces. The government's move was prompted by security reports and complaints from local leaders deploring high rates of unemployment and a "tragic" deterioration in living standards, which has spawned organised crime and extremist groups.

The Algerian government is now mulling a budget of up to $1 billion to implement these development projects. With the new government plan, observers agree that the isolated areas will also benefit from the expansion further south of the military efforts against al Qa'eda in the Islamic Maghreb.

One of the main tasks of the opposition in any political system is to expand or, at the very least, defend existing civil liberties. Oddly enough, that is not the case in Turkey, wrote Ahmed Amorabi, a columnist with the Emirati newspaper Al Bayan. In the name of preserving secularism as established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, the opposition in Ankara is taking the liberty to object to any move aimed at reducing the "authoritative and despotic" influence of the Turkish military institution. Last week, the Turkish parliament approved constitutional amendments tabled by the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP), led by the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. By virtue of these new amendments the Turkish generals will see their powers restrained. The amendments came about after legal and political battles between the AKP and the opposition Republican People's party (CHP), which defends the army generals' interests. 

The parliament has not yet passed - though the majority voiced its approval - the constitutional amendments because two thirds of the MPs are required to vote for the changes, and the ruling party does not enjoy a two-third majority. The opposition's support for a military presence in politics goes against Turkey's strategy to turn away from Europe, face up to Israel and embrace the Arabs.

The strangest thing about the local debate in Beirut concerning Israel's intention to wage war against Lebanon is that many Lebanese commentators delve into the Israeli press analyses of the situation and agree with their conclusion that the government, military and society in Israel are neither ready nor willing to go to war because it would serve none of Israel's strategic interests, wrote Satei Noureddine in the Lebanese newspaper Assafir.

"Suddenly, most politicians and analysts in Lebanon seem to be better versed in Israeli interests than the Israelis themselves." In fact, Israel is getting ready for yet another attack on Lebanon and is mobilising its political and military clout and disseminating all sorts of pretexts to prepare the Israelis and international communities for it. Yet, the most common opinion on the streets of Lebanon is that "Israelis are afraid of war", notwithstanding the fact that, since its establishment, Israel has made war a natural way of life and a big part of its collective consciousness.

"This is the pitfall every Lebanese should beware of slipping into." The resumption of talks on the Palestinian front is no guarantee that the Israelis won't resort to "a tax-collection" on the Lebanese front to make up for their precious concession. * Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi @Email:aelbahi@thenational.ae