x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Talk of revising the Taif Agreement

The much talked about obstacles facing the Lebanese prime minister-designate Saad al-Hariri in in forming a new cabinet have not only to do with such formalities as allocating various ministerial portfolios, wrote Bassam al Dhaw in a comment piece in the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

The much talked about obstacles facing the Lebanese prime minister-designate Saad al-Hariri in in forming a new cabinet have not only to do with such formalities  as allocating various ministerial portfolios, wrote Bassam al Dhaw in a comment piece in the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.. What is, rather, at issue is whether the current crisis is likely to do with allegations that serious discussions are underway among sectarian political circles on the necessity of amending the Taif Agreement of 1989.

Incidentally, the consultations to form a new government  coincided with the approach of the twentieth anniversary of the Taif Agreement. Since its conclusion in 1989, internal political life has experienced turmoil. Christians, for example, have felt they were marginalised and Muslims were "on the verge of sedition", especially in the aftermath of the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq al Hariri. 

"For this reason, it is time to decide about the Taif Agreement and see whether it has exceeded its expiry date. If any course of action is to be taken in this regard, the US, Saudi Arabia and Syria, which mediated the previous agreement, will  redesign it. If introduced, the revision  would probably further reduce the powers of the institution of the prime minister, a situation  that  annoys Mr al Hariri after MP Walid Jumblatt withdrew from March 14 alliance."

"Israel has not stopped harassing  Hizbollah for weeks. Not a day passes without  Israelis sending  warnings and threats against the party and its leaders," opined the lead article of the London-based daily al Quds. "This week, Danny Ayalon, the Israeli deputy foreign minister, strongly warned Hizbollah following the publication of press reports on an alleged plan to assassinate the Israeli ambassador to Cairo."

Moreover, last week Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, went so far as to say that his country would use all its force to destroy Lebanon's infrastructure if Hizbollah dares to attack Israel. The series of warnings by the Israelis were followed by mobilising  more troops along Lebanon's southern borders. It appears then that Israel, in may ways, is still visibly traumatised by its defeat in the 2006 war.  Now it feels the urge  to restore public confidence in the Israeli army.    "It is not a difficult task for Israel to contrive excuses to justify invading Lebanon, if it decided so." But Israel will make a big mistake if it ever tries to attack Lebanon again. The Israelis may damage Lebanon's facilities thanks to their superior arsenal, but for sure they will sustain, as a consequence, psychological havoc of no parallel.

In an opinion piece for the UAE newspaper Al Khaleej, Sa'ad Mehio argues that the imprisoned leader of  the Kurdistan worker's party  (PKK),  Abdullah Ocalan. must be concerned about the initiative recently proposed by Recep Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister. Mr Ocalan may have also  felt  a "major conspiracy" is being knitted  by Turkey, Great Britain and the US.

To some extent, he is right. Mr Erdogan's plan devised to solve the Kurdish issue does not seem to be the brainchild of his Justice and Development Party alone. It is believed that there is a scheme  involving many countries to dissolve the PKK based in Mount Qandil in northern Iraq.  The scheme reportedly draws on many points. First, Turkey, the US and the Kurdish provincial government in Iraq would develop   political and  military actions to cause rifts within the PKK. Second, Turkey would sever any ties existing between the party and the provincial government. Third, Turkey would examine granting amnesty to PKK fighters and providing guarantees for its members to renounce arms. Lastly, after undertaking  all these steps, and  demobilising the party, the US can use its air force to target any remnants of  resistance. "The PKK perhaps should rightly be worried, yet its leader can still express his conditions regarding any settlement plan."

"Once again the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Nethanyahu, has defied the international community, including his strong ally the US," opined the lead article of the UAE newspaper Al Bayan. Mr Nethanyahu reiterated in the weekly meeting of his cabinet his strong opposition to evicting Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank, explaining that the unilateral  withdrawal from Gaza Strip was a mistake and should not be repeated. He added that the agreement he would like to conclude with the Palestinians should explicitly recognise the Jewish status of Israel and determine the necessary measures that ensure its security.

"Of course, these measures are intended to maintain the settlements established on Palestinian lands and the separation wall that has swallowed large tracts of the West Bank. This wall serves the Israelis to continue taking over Palestinian lands while preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state with clearly defined borders." Mr Nethanyahu's bold attitude in ignoring US official calls to stop settlements is motivated by the assurance he has always received from influential US Senate members. "Capitol Hill, we can say, remains the bulwark that defends Israel from any American policy that runs against the Jewish state's interests."

* Digest compiled by Moustapha Elmouloudi melmouloudi@thenational.ae