x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Zero expectations from Obama visit

Arabic-language commentators say no fresh initiatives and no Palestinian peace deal will come from the US president's visit. Other topics: Islamists and revolutions.

Zero expectations among Arab commentators as President Obama begins visit to the region

An air of scepticism and zero expectations reigned in Arabic-language newspapers as the US president, Barack Obama, arrived in the region yesterday.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has had to wait until this trip to come back into the spotlight, following decreased attention due to the long-running Arab Spring, noted Ilyas Harfoush the London-based newspaper Al Hayat.

"Yet this visit is doomed to failure," he wrote. All expectations suggest this is nothing but a tourist visit to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ramallah and Bethlehem.

Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has prepared a chilly welcome for Mr Obama. He rushed to form a new government whose primary goal will be to obstruct any progress in the peace talks, in case the US president plucks up enough courage to remind Israelis of the need to achieve a negotiated two-state settlement, the writer observed.

Instead, the Iranian nuclear programme has taken top priority. Here again, Mr Obama and Mr Netanyahu are not on the same page, though both are more or less belligerent towards Tehran.

The Israeli leader backs a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, while the US president has reiterated that "all options are on the table", in an attempt to compromise Israel's desire and the American preference for a diplomatic solution.

Standstill seems to be the order of the day both on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and in US-Israeli relations, according to the writer.

Meanwhile, Israel presses ahead with settlements and the Judaisation of Jerusalem, he said.

In a similar vein, Dr Manar El Shorbagy wrote in the UAE-based Al Bayan that, given that Mr Obama is visiting Israel, the West Bank and Jordan, one might imagine that Palestine would be at the top of the agenda. Yet, Mr Obama's priorities are similar to those of Israel: Syria and US-Israeli cooperation.

This is evidenced by the US administration's efforts at lowering expectations for any breakthroughs in the Palestinian crisis.

US officials have clearly said there will be no peace initiative during the visit, and that Mr Obama is heading to the region to "listen" - as though he did not listen enough during his first four-year term.

Despite the favourable circumstances for Mr Obama to take a stand on the Palestinian issue, he elected not to, simply because there is no price to pay for taking that course.

In short, Israel's security is the major issue on Mr Obama's agenda. The Syrian conflict, therefore, is on the front burner, along with the Iranian crisis.

Mr Obama is under pressure to back a draft bill submitted to the US Senate calling for diplomatic and military assistance to Israel should the latter strike Iran, the writer said.

Islamist Arab parties can learn from Turkey

During the ''Arab World in Transition: Opportunities and Challenges'' forum held recently in Qatar, the most pressing issue was how to alleviate the polarisation between Islamists and their opponents in the Arab world, noted Mohammed Krishan in an article in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi.

The opinion of a Turkish MP stood out during the forum. The MP, who has served as an adviser to prime minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said that, with his Islamist Justice and Development Party, Mr Erdogan has succeeded during his 10-year rule because he steered away from slogans and focused on solving problems and enhancing the economy.

People in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen do not give a hoot about slogans and speeches that arouse emotions, nor about sterile debates on religious matters, the writer said.

Citizens judge rulers based only on their contributions to bettering people's lives and fighting corruption. This is the secret behind the success of Turkey's rulers. And this is what led many of their critics to find it hard not vote for them when they did well socially and economically, and did not threaten freedoms.

When Arab peoples become unable to get by due to escalating unemployment rates, higher living standards and declining public services, it is natural that they turn away from public debate and lose any hope for a better future, the writer noted.

Notion of a perfect revolution is a myth

A revolution either fails or achieves some of its objectives. A perfect revolution is nothing but a myth, wrote Ibrahim Arafat in yesterday's edition of the Qatar-based newspaper Al Watan.

Take any revolution and you will see how it started and ended. The French Revolution started with the motto "liberty, equality and fraternity" and ended up with the colonisation of many parts of Africa and Asia.

The American Revolution erupted to seek liberty from the British Crown and ended up enslaving millions of Africans; the Russian Revolution broke out to defend the working class but it was not long before it crushed the people and led to the Soviet Union, which finally collapsed as if there had been no revolution.

The Chinese revolution pledged to apply communism and now China is replete with billionaires along the lines of capitalist countries, the writer observed.

The 1919 revolution in Egypt, which claimed independence from Britain, was followed by the 1952 revolution. The latter was meant to establish democracy but soon after some of the officers who led the revolution established a dictatorial regime.

Perfect revolutions are a myth. This is because they are human endeavours that come with flaws and challenges.


* Digest compiled by Abelhafid Ezzouitini