x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

The background to resumption of talks

In its editorial article, the London-based newspaper Al Quds al Arabi shed light on recent statements by the US state secretary Hillary Clinton announcing her expectations for a resumption of indirect Israeli-Palestinian negotiations next week.

In its editorial article, the London-based newspaper Al Quds al Arabi shed light on recent statements by the US state secretary Hillary Clinton announcing her expectations for a resumption of indirect Israeli-Palestinian negotiations next week. It is still unclear what would drive the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table again in the absence of a solid and public freeze on settlement plans in Jerusalem and the rest of Occupied Territories. However, what is clear is that Washington is in dire need for a return to dialogue in light of the escalating tension on the Lebanese and Syrian fronts following Israeli threats.

There is news of two major developments that prompted the Palestinians to resume talks. First, a secret promise from Israel to halt settlement projects as a way to avoid clashes with the Obama administration. Second, a US promise to condemn Israel should it build any residential units in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, the Palestinians deny receiving any such promises. On what grounds did Ms Clinton build her certainty? It is clear that the Palestinian Authority succumbed to US pressure to return to talks. It is a shame that the Palestinian issue is being used as a cover for an Israeli assault against Arab countries, "especially since the Palestinian experience with direct talks has been degrading and disappointing".

In an opinion piece for the Emirati daily Al Ittihad, Zaibab Hifni wrote about the negative effects of fanatic traditions in the Arab world. She recalled the pioneering work of the Egyptian writer Qassem Amin who called for the liberation of women, which caused a widespread uproar in the Egyptian community at the start of the 19th century.

At the time, Amin emphasised the necessity of procuring an opportunity for women to pursue their education and give them the right to take off the niqab. He asked women to come out of seclusion and become involved in public affairs alongside men. His ideas triggered a series of angry demonstrations. In today's world, "anyone who visits Egypt will notice that the phenomenon of niqab wearing has come back in force due to the rise of religious fanaticism in the last few decades."

The digression of social life in Egypt in comparison to what it was like during the age of enlightenment is quite palpable today. The same is applicable in many other Arab countries where radical ideas and fanatic practices are overpowering common sense and awareness. "I believe that fanatic concepts don't wither and disappear with the passing of their owners, but rather through the cultivation of a correct awareness and the uprooting of radicalism."

If the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) were now living in an Arab capital, his old wager on British soldiers would still have worked, wrote Khairi Mansour in the opinion section of the Dubai-based newspaper Al Khaleej. Schopenhauer was a regular diner at a restaurant frequented by British soldiers. Every time he would pull out a coin from his pocket, place it on the table for as long as it would take him to finish his meal, then collect it on his way out. Intrigued, the waiter asked him one day about the reason behind this practice. The philosopher explained that every time he entered the restaurant, he bet that he would leave that coin on the table if the British soldiers talked about anything other than horses and women.

Schopenhauer would have bet more than a coin to hear on Arabic news channels anything other than carnage in Iraq and bloodshed in Palestine. The problem is that the ceaseless media reports, with all their graphic details, find no adequate resonance in the minds of viewers and officials alike. As soon as the news presenter leaves the screen, their reports fade into oblivion. "If the door lets in the tempest, shut it and take a rest," is the maxim of the century par excellence. Indeed, Schopenhauer would have again returned the coin to his pocket and perhaps smashed the telly.

In the opinion section of the London-based Asharq al Awsat, Jaber Jaber reviewed the reasons underlying the failure of the so-called independent institutions in Iraq, mainly the election commission, the accountability and justice commission, and the electoral judicial panel. These three bodies were created for the purpose of managing the political processes, which required of them to stay independent and impartial. Yet all of them came under pressure from various political players. This situation downgraded their role and, as a result, they became less able to act freely to promote democracy in a new Iraq.

Nevertheless, they are also to blame for not acting enough to handle the political situation. The electoral commission was delicate in assessing the seriousness of problems brought by the election. The accountability and justice commission failed to transform itself into a truly independent judicial body with the mission of prosecuting those involved in crimes under the former regime. * Digest compiled by Racha Makarem

rmakarem@thenational.ae