New cabinet in Occupied Territories lays reconciliation deal to rest

Editorials in regional papers comment on Palestinian reconciliation, the failure of the Annan plan in Syria and the countdown to Egyptian elections.

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On Wednesday, the newly formed Palestinian government headed by Salam Fayyad was sworn in by President Mahmoud Abbas at his Ramallah headquarters. This signals that the Palestinian reconciliation agreement is practically dead and buried and that the current Palestinian geographical and political division will be further bolstered in the foreseeable future, editorialised the London-based newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi yesterday.

As recently as two months ago, President Mahmoud Abbas and the head of Hamas's political bureau Khalid Meshaal met in Doha where they signed a new deal to put an end to the conflict surrounding the formation of a Palestinian government that would be the culmination of a wider reconciliation agreement that was ratified in Cairo.

The Doha agreement stipulated that the president would form the new cabinet himself. It was a way of avoiding complications, as Hamas was strongly opposed to a renewed term at the premiership for Mr Fayyad. Ministerial portfolios were to be distributed subsequently with the consent of both sides.

That agreement only lasted a few days and the announcement of Mr Fayyad's new government this week implies that it is buried once and for all.

"A quick look at the new ministerial formation gives the impression that Mr Fayyad was unable to convince Mr Abbas of his point of view and exclude two former ministers whom he had objected to in the past; the minister of religious endowments and the foreign minister," argued the paper. "Both men were reappointed to the new cabinet, which means that Mr Abbas is still the main decision-maker in the matter."

The Palestinian people didn't give much weight to the newborn cabinet. They firmly believe that it is inconsequential.

"In fact, this government amounts to no more than a municipal council that oversees local issues while the occupation authorities hold all the strings. They can suffocate Mr Abbas and his team anytime they wish to. Israel has been seizing every chance to degrade these ministers at checkpoints and has no qualms about lingering to renew the Passover permit for the Palestinian president himself,"

Palestinian autonomy hasn't evolve into an independent state as prescribed in the Oslo Accords. What's more, the PA has gradually lost most of its powers and Mr Abbas's authority is void.

The PA is to be congratulated for this new ministerial modification, but what the Palestinians want in reality is a modification of policies and strategic positions that would eventually end the stalemate and lay the foundation for a comprehensive uprising against the settlements, the oppression, the Judaisation of Jerusalem, the humiliation of Palestinian citizens and the occupation.

Annan's failure in Syria could lead to civil war

The worst case has started to happen as the Syrian regime fails to seriously cooperate with UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's blueprint, wrote columnist Mazen Hammad in the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

"The Syrian regime has not even implemented point one of the six-point plan, let alone enforced a ceasefire and pulled back military concentrations around population centres, thus bringing the crisis to the edge of serious escalation," the writer noted.

Over the past weeks, the Syrian opposition has started to receive more advanced weapons, the cost of which is paid for by Arab countries in coordination with the US, the writer quotes the Washington Post.

The US said it had not delivered lethal weapons such as anti-tank weaponry, but it might do so in the near future.

The weaponry for the Syrian rebels is being stockpiled in Damascus and Idlib near the Turkish border and in Zabadani on the Lebanese border. After the Syrian rebels warned that their supplies of ammunition had significantly decreased, stockpiles of arms - mostly from the black markets of neighbouring countries or through some elements at the Syrian regime's army - flowed to the rebels.

No doubt, the crisis has reached a tipping point, and the worst is yet to come. The regime has once again missed an opportunity to end the conflict, which might lead soon to a civil war.

Countdown begins to Egyptian elections

Amid unprecedented political and popular dynamism, the countdown to Egypt's presidential elections begins, editorialised the UAE-based newspaper Al Khaleej yesterday.

"Placards, debates, discussion panels, election conferences, presidential candidates touring the people and political impulse in Tahrir Square, all bode well for a new era," the writer observed.

Egyptians have never been this excited, as the time for the presidential elections draws nearer. Finally, Egyptians can now elect the president they please, one who works for the people and their causes, and for Egypt to regain the leading role it once had.

In the time left before the elections, political platforms must be the decisive litmus test. An authentic platform shapes the present and future of Egypt, "a free, sovereign and strong Egypt untrammelled by western aid".

Political programmes should lay down realistic development plans for the poor and the unemployed, plans that seek to engage all forces in shaping the future of Egypt, without monopolising decision making by any force to the exclusion of others.

"All eyes now focus on Egypt. All eyes eager to see a new president emerging from the womb of a supposedly new epoch, to lead the country towards a new dynamism."

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk