x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Settlements debate is an Israeli ploy

Israel's strategy of generating minor hitches in the context of the larger issues is now being used to cushion US pressure to freeze settlements in all Palestinian Territories that have been colonised since 1967, commented the Palestinian daily Al Quds in its leader.

Benjamin Netanyahu's government has adopted a tunnelling scheme in dealing with the US administration. Israel has kept generating minor hitches in the context of the larger issues. This strategy is now being used to cushion US pressure to freeze settlements in all Palestinian Territories that have been colonised since 1967, commented the Palestinian daily Al Quds in its leader.

The most recent manifestation of this tactic is the announcement of a settlement project to build 20 housing units in Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem, which is an obvious Israeli challenge to the US administration's position and a cunning move to divert media attention away from the more important Netanyahu-Obama divergence on the Israeli settlers' "natural growth" argument. This is how the Israeli prime minister will gradually implement his larger electoral programme, which promised settlements expansion: focusing attention on this one controversial proposal to build settlements in Jerusalem, while other tasks on the political agenda are concurrently undertaken. "In this manner, the Israeli government proceeds to distract US and international attention on two or more issues to the benefit of the settlers' cause," the newspaper said.

"Rabiya Kadeer - remember this name well. In the next few days it will be come up frequently in the western media in relation to the recent events in China's Xinjiang province," wrote Ahmed Amorabi in the Emirati daily Al Bayan.

The Xinjiang events started in the form of demonstrations by the Muslim Uighur minority urging the local government to improve their living conditions, but suddenly changed into a mix of bloody ethnic conflicts with members of the Han majority and riot-police interventions. The unrest has been portrayed by the western media to portray Xinjiang province as a version of Sudan's Darfur, in a "virulent," "politically-interested" campaign to undermine the central government in China, "as if the Chinese authorities were conducting genocidal operations in the province", the writer said.

The Uighurs' revolt represents a civil rights action within a nationalist contest, but the western media wants to depict it as an Islamic religious movement hostile to Chinese atheism, and, by the same token, arouse antagonistic sentiments in the Muslim world against China, to halt its "epic economic ascension". Rabiya Kadeer is a Uighur who sought political asylum in the US, and she is now in the limelight of the western media, soon to become "the leader of the Xinjiang revolt", wrote Amorabi.

"I must admit that I have had enough of following in detail the episodes of the Fatah-Hamas dialogue," wrote Ghassan al Imam in an opinion article for the pan-Arab daily Asharq al Awsat. It seems that the closer the Palestinian cause is to resolution, the more torn apart the Palestinians are. Fatah suffers from internal organisational fatigue and Hamas prioritises its adherence to the "Brotherhood" ideology over national unity, which allows the Israeli government to publicly claim that these intra-Palestinian fissures confirm "ineligibility" for independence.

And now, Fatah seems to be in a phase of "awakening the dead". Even a seasoned, secular politician like Farouk al Qaddoumi, who is a Fatah founder and head of the political department of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, has resorted to "invoking the spirit" of the late president Yasser Arafat. Mr al Qaddoumi cannot justify accusations against the current president, Mahmoud Abbas, of conspiracy with Ariel Sharon to kill Mr Arafat without showing the supposed proof. "He has a sweeping desire to further widen the rift within Fatah, as the movement tries to bandage its wounds in its upcoming general conference," the columnist wrote.

Since 2003, the stated goal of all Iraqi governments has been to move towards a free-market economy, but that has not happened over the past six years, wrote Wissam al Shalji in the comment pages of the Iraqi daily Azzaman.

"Switching the economy from centralised to a freer model usually takes a transition period during which the citizens' financial woes continue and may even worsen at the earlier stages". It is necessary to devise a plan to move gradually and safely towards a free-market economy, according to the following basic principles: improve security conditions in the country; pass laws that guarantee labour rights for workers in the private sector; set up trade unions; develop the banking system; create recruitment offices; privatise state institutions in stages; ease red tape, surcharges and loan requirements for start-ups in all sectors; ban workers from drawing multiple salaries; create a fair tax system; blacklist companies granting "commissions" to government employees; form surveillance and anti-corruption bodies; overhaul public education and encourage private schooling.

"Given some time, the above measures will affect all aspects of life in Iraq," the writer concluded.

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