x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Palestinian internal strife drags on

"The picture in Palestine today is worthy of a surreal masterpiece: dialogue between factions in Cairo has come to nil, though it may well have been their last chance; there is an old government in Gaza, usually referred to as dissolved; then there is a new government in the West Bank, ordered by Mahmoud Abbas, which predictably piqued Hamas and spurred, for the first time ever, opposition from within Fatah itself," wrote Mamdouh al Sheikh in an opinion piece for the Emirati daily Al Bayane.

"The picture in Palestine today is worthy of a surreal masterpiece: dialogue between factions in Cairo has come to nil, though it may well have been their last chance; there is an old government in Gaza, usually referred to as dissolved; then there is a new government in the West Bank, ordered by Mahmoud Abbas, which predictably piqued Hamas and spurred, for the first time ever, opposition from within Fatah itself," wrote Mamdouh al Sheikh in an opinion piece for the Emirati daily Al Bayane.

So, the formation of the new Salam Fayyad government in the West Bank comes like a euthanasia bullet in the temple of the faltering Palestinian dialogue. Palestinians are doomed to a conflict between two types of legitimacy: one of values, the other of procedure. Arguments over the legitimacy of Hamas or Fatah principles eventually morph into mutual treachery charges. "Each group accuses the other of serving foreign agendas and claims to be a better representative of the Palestinian people."

On the procedural level, even the regularity of representative councils' meetings has not been maintained, while voices are still calling for the reformation of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. The Palestinian snowball is rolling down, damaging internal, regional and international interests on its way.

The pan-Arab daily Al Hayat carried an opinion piece by Abdullah Iskandar who evaluated the geopolitical weight of Lebanon in the Middle East, in the light of the recent visit of the US vice president Joe Biden to the country. "The situation in Lebanon compresses quite well the power balance in the region. On the one hand, Lebanon is in confrontation with Israel, with a provincial armed resistance antagonistic to US policies. On the other, it seconds the Arab Peace Initiative as the solution to the conflict and enfolds western-bent political forces championing a peaceful diplomatic solution with Israel, not to mention the great number of Palestinian refugees in its territories."

This is why the coming elections, due in two weeks, are of such significance not only to the Lebanese and Palestinian people, but also to the Americans who are trying to market their plan for the region, which does not pass without staunch dissent. "Lebanon will not be able to bear the brunt of the US initiative if it stipulates the naturalisation of Palestinian refugees or fails to satisfy the Lebanese demands from Israel. Yet, Lebanon cannot, alone, reject the US plan, and however the elections may turn out, ensuing tension and violence are in the air."

The US president Barack Obama has already convened with King Abdullah of Jordan and with the Israeli premier, Benjamin Netanyahu, and will soon be meeting the Egyptian president, Husni Mubarak and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, before concluding the preparatory phase towards the formulation of US proposals for new Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, within the framework of the two-state solution, wrote Bilal al Hassan in the comment section of the pan-Arab daily Asharq al Awsat.

There are new factors that may be conducive to a certain willed rapprochement between the US and the Arab world.  First, the US has backed down from its imperialistic policies formulated by George Bush Senior in 1991 when he announced the new US-led world order, and it now consults with Russia, China and Europe in matters of military and economic strategies. Second, the US now needs the Arabs' weight in the Muslim world to assist in cooling the exploding situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Third, there is a shift in US-Israeli relations, with the former being more intent to protect domestic and foreign interests, even to the detriment of an ally of Israel's calibre.   If they have enough will and vision, the Arabs and the Palestinians may successfully capitalise on this new political configuration.

"Three days ago, the former Yemeni vice-president and socialist party leader, Ali Salem al Beed, started a huge and unexpected row when, in a televised speech from exile in Munich, Germany, he urged the Yemeni southerners to secede from the mainland and rebel against the union government of Yemen," the pan-Arab daily Al Quds al Arabi explained in its leader. This new move by al Beed, after 15 years of silence, has raised a number of questions as to his intentions and the effect of his call on Yemeni southerners and northerners alike. "This ex-vice-president, who asserts his disinterest in power or influential positions in the country, seems to have sensed that southern activism and northern deficiency provide a fitting opportunity for changing Sanaa, the capital of Yemen.

"The series of mistakes committed by the central government in Sanaa over the last 15 years has started yielding disasters in terms of popular tension and rebellious sentiment in the whole of Yemen, not just in the southern provinces." The recent clashes between angry protesters and security forces, leading to the death of three dissidents, only provide the separatists with stronger arguments and greater resolve.

* Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi aelbahi@thenational.ae