A challenging year ahead

The Arab world faces a more challenging year ahead if political reforms are not implemented

In four months time, only $5 billion will remain in the Egyptian Central Bank's safes and the government, whether Islamic or military, will not be allowed to tap into that amount because it is a reserve deposit, columnist Abdulrahman Al Rashid observed in the London-based daily Asharq Alawsat.

"Egyptians will wake up one morning to find that a loaf of bread, like other subsidised goods, has become 70 per cent more expensive. And some sectors won't be able to pay their employees' salaries," he said.

To make matters worse, there is no foreign aid, since most Western countries are semi-broke and most Gulf states have committed to huge internal expenditure promises to guard themselves against uprisings, he added.

The problem will also hit Tunisia, which is suffering from a decline in resources as tourism, aid and investments stalled after the revolution. As for Yemen, its chances will probably be better, since the role of the state is already limited.

"What is certain is that this is the year of Syria. Although the Syrian regime seems to be holding its own, its luck is quickly running out. Many believe that Bashar Al Assad's regime has neared its end, but no one has any idea about the future of Syria without Assad,"

The Syrians are facing greater dangers with possible internal conflicts, unless the opposition can succeed in generating a leadership capable of bringing the country together before the regime collapses.

It was said that 2012 would be the year of monarchies - Morocco, Jordan and the GCC states.

"But, no country is immune against revolutions," opined the writer. "It all depends on the regime's ability to manage its internal crises.

"The Arab monarchies have been successful so far in circumventing the first year of revolutions, but the coming year may prove to be more difficult."

Morocco opted for political reform because it is easier and less expensive. The king ceded the government to the elected Islamist opposition. But this will not silence the opposition for good.

Jordan's ordeal with its public isn't new, and has intensified with the rise of revolutions around that country.

In addition to that, there's Israel that can compound the difficulties of the kingdom's situation with its quest to control the West Bank.

The Gulf states, as advanced as they are on various levels, remain some of the least advanced countries when it comes to political institutionalisation.

But for their economic affluence, their situation would have been difficult, the writer said. "The Gulf States will have to opt for political reforms if they are to avoid any future internal confrontations."

Palestinian Authority lacks credibility

In sending a delegation to Amman and participating in direct talks with an Israeli delegation there, even though no breakthrough had been made in halting settlement of the occupied territories, the Palestinian Authority once again proves its non-credibility and inconsistency, said the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi in its editorial.

"We don't understand why President Mahmoud Abbas would accept an invitation to return to negotiations despite the considerable increase in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem. What could justify such an insulting change that damages whatever credibility he has left with the Palestinian people?"

This unconditional return to negotiations undermines the Palestinian reconciliation agreement and creates future divisions and differences with Mr Abbas' partners within the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, who unanimously condemned his decision.

"The PA has proven that it is too weak to hold on to any position and that the Israeli approach that always wagers on its backing down is correct. Palestinian conditions melt and faded away quickly under US pressure, especially when it comes to aid money."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave Mr Abbas a choice between peace with Israel and reconciliation with Hamas. It seems that the Palestinian president has chosen Israel.

Observer mission in Syria is in danger

More than 300 Syrian citizens have been killed since the Arab League observers began their mission. The prime purpose of the mission is to ensure the end of the killings, but that hasn't happened, despite the Arab League secretary general's statements to the contrary on Monday, opined the columnist Ali Hamadeh in the Lebanese daily Annahar.

Nabil Al Arabi said that tanks have been withdrawn from Syrian cities and that the observers were able to get food items into the besieged areas and to ensure the release of more than 3,000 prisoners.

"But the facts on the ground do not corroborate Mr Al Arabi's statements, especially as he ignored the most important article in the Arab initiative and the observers' protocol, which is to stop the killings," said the writer.

The Syrian regime continues to slay its citizens in the streets and the Arab observers are themselves closely observed and monitored by Syrian intelligence, which makes it impossible for people to communicate freely with them.

The observer mission is laden with mines. It isn't easy to deal with the Syrian regime, so the Arab League is required to be more decisive at this crucial point between Arabisation and internationalisation of the crisis.

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem


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