x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Shift of attention lifts pressure on Israel

A daily round-up of news, comment and opinion from publications in the region.

The remark by the Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, that peace will be difficult to achieve in the foreseeable future is worth considering, wrote Waleed Nouayhed in a comment piece for the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat. Liberman's statements came following new international developments, which are likely to force the US president, Barack Obama, to change the priorities of his foreign policy.

"The US president is increasingly devoting more attention to the Iranian issue at the expense of the Palestinian cause. Meanwhile, Mr Liberman is more aware than his American counterparts that George Mitchell's peace tours are less likely to yield any returns." The peace process is impossible now because of three changes that have recently taken place: the decision to withdraw from a "missile shield" project in Eastern Europe, the announcement of a new Iranian nuclear facility, and early signs of military failure in Afghanistan. "Taken together, these factors have forced both the US and Europe to change their priorities in the Middle East." The Iranian issue has become an escape since they failed to push the Israelis to freeze settlement expansion. For the Israelis, this shift of attention has given them a golden opportunity to once again placate international pressure to stop settlement growth and interfere with the Arab neighbourhoods in Jerusalem.

In an opinion piece for the Lebanese newspaper Al Safir, Satea Nourredine wrote that the Nobel Prize in peace and literature of this year went to persons who did not deserve it.

"The prize panel seemed to have been caught in a dilemma of choosing between the three most able candidates: the Syrian thinker, Adnonis, and the Algerian writer, Assia Djebar, on the one hand, and the Israeli writer, Amos Oz, on the other hand. The decision, most probably, had been affected more by politics than by literary considerations. The committee may finally have decided to be as politically neutral as possible and awarded the prize to someone less likely to stir  controversy." 

There is no other explanation for awarding the prize to the Romanian-born German writer Herta Müller, who cannot be ranked among the the most distinguished modern writers. By the same token, there is no logic behind nominating the US president Barack Obama for the Nobel Peace Prize only two weeks after his election and for him be chosen this week as the winner. He has, so far, achieved no outstanding peace that can be celebrated. It is not the first time the prize jury adopted double standards, but it is the first time that its decisions look very superficial.

"The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, differs from his predecessor Yasser Arafat in the way he handles political crises. Sometimes he retreats and vows to resign, as he is less able to bear external as well internal pressures," wrote Abdul Arrahman al Rashed in a comment piece for the London-based newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat.  Mr Abbas is less flexible, nor is he a skilful political player. Lately, he has been fiercely attacked by both his political supporters and opponents over the Goldstone report on the war on Gaza. Hamas criticised him for accepting postponement of discussion of the report, although the group itself had previously rejected it  as "a conspiracy by Judge Richard Goldstone".

Hamas knows very well that the Palestinian Authority's performance in the West Bank had been the best in the history of Palestinian leadership. Historically, smear campaigns have always been common among Palestinian  factions.  "Systematic smear campaigns against the Palestinian Authority are insane. We cannot say that the Authority is perfect and always correct, but in the case of the Goldstone report, the issue is  blown out  of proportion. After all, sooner or later, it will be stalled once it reaches the UN Security Council." It is better for all factions to settle their differences because that is worth more than a thousand such reports.

The visits exchanged by king Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia and the Syrian president, Bashar al Assad, cemented relations between the two Arab countries, and especially between the different Lebanese political factions ahead of forming a national unity government, wrote Assan Atwi in comment piece for the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.  "Improved relations between Riyadh and Damascus has left Americans less able to abuse the Lebanese card to control many issues in the region." This is can be seen in three aspects. First, the US president, Barack Obama, was disappointed after he could not make the peace summit held recently in the White House a starting point for resuming peace negotiations. This led Arab countries to reject any normalisation of their relations as the Israelis continued expanding settlements. Many now favour reviving Palestiain reconciliation based on the Egyptian plan instead. 

Second, Mr Obama failed in convincing both Russia and China to stand by his administration and other European countries to impose further sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme. Last, the US administration realised that it had to stop accusing Syria of destabilising security in Iraq when regional powers intervened to defuse the tense situation. * Digest compiled by Mostapha Elmouloudi @Email:melmouloudi@thenational.ae