Prisoner swap a victory for Palestinians

Arabic editorials also comment on frozen Egyptian accounts, the Arab League initiative in Syria and the fact-finding mission in Bahrain.

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Shalit swap deal marks a Palestinian triumph

Thanks to the Palestinian armed resistance and to the Egyptian revolution, Palestinians were able to celebrate yesterday the release of hundreds of Palestinian men and women from Israeli prisons, commented Abdelbari Atwan, the editor of the London-based newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, in a column yesterday.

The Egypt-brokered prisoner swap deal between Hamas and Israel, by virtue of which a total of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners will be released from Israeli jails against one Israeli soldier - Gilad Shalit - who was freed by Hamas yesterday, is "one of the most remarkable Palestinian triumphs" over Israeli arrogance.

Israel considers Hamas, which rules over the Gaza Strip, a terrorist organisation, and Hamas does not recognise Israel as a state.

"This deal has broken all the Israeli taboos," the editor said, "the taboo of negotiating with 'the terrorists'; the taboo of yielding to the other party's terms; and the taboo of freeing hands stained with Jewish blood … Now some Palestinian prisoners who were given up to 10 life sentences back to back are released."

These unprecedented Israeli concessions would not have been conceivable before the historic geopolitical alterations that took the Arab world by storm.

The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted a swap deal that his predecessor Ehud Olmert refused. Because Mr Netanyahu knows that things have changed in the region.

Egypt must focus on illegal money inside

Why are Egyptians so obsessed with getting back the Egyptian money transferred abroad while they can dedicate themselves to recovering money obtained illegally at home," observed Maamoun Fandi in an article for the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

During Hosni Mubarak's rule, many businessmen were granted large swathes of premium agricultural lands with prices that were less than their market value. Instead of hunting migrating Egyptian money in countries whose laws we know little about, why do not journalists go searching in the Ministry of Agriculture for records and file cases?

The Ministry of Agriculture, for its part, can ask those businessmen to pay back the price difference. Thus, the state can earn huge amounts of money, and avoid borrowing from neighbouring countries.

The same applies to banks and other financial institutions, which granted loans in violation of financial standards. According to a report by the Central Auditing Authority, which was made public in 2008, the majority of large loans were given to 94 businessmen aided by the political influence of Mubarak and his sons.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. The ongoing hunt for the Egyptian funds abroad is reminiscent of the campaign undertaken by many groups to recuperate the stolen antiquities outside Egypt while smuggling at home is in steady increase.

Syria's must accept the Arab initiative

That the Assad regime expressed reservation regarding the most important points in the Arab League ministerial council, including holding any dialogue with the opposition outside Damascus, it is feared that Libya's scenario will recur, argued Mazen Hammad in an opinion piece for the Doha-based newspaper Al Watan.

In other words, Syria had rejected the statement, which means that Damascus needs no Arab umbrella to mediate any dialogue efforts with the opposition. With such a decision, Syrians had thus prematurely killed the Arab initiative, a situation that might allow for a western intervention as it happened in Libya.

Reviewing the events in Libya, it's clear to see how the gradual recognition of the Libyan National Transitional Council by the world community has stripped Col Muammar Al Qaddafi of any legitimacy. If Syrians fail to sit together within two weeks as stipulated by the League, member states might examine suspending Syria's membership. And this is only to usher in a journey of acknowledging the Syrian National Council.

It is surprising to know that Syria looked at the timing of the ministerial meeting with suspicion. Damascus associated it with what it called a failure of the US and EU in exerting any pressure on it.

Syria should remember that China and Russia have "blessed" Nato's action in Libya after months of resilient opposition.

Bahrainis are anxious to see Bassiouni report

The hot talk in Bahrain's majlises and government halls these days is about the forthcoming report of the Bassiouni fact-finding commission which is due to be presented to the King of Bahrain on October 30, wrote Mansour Al Jamri, the editor of the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat, in a column yesterday.

Bahrainis are anxiously anticipating whether the findings of this report would indeed mark the start of a new phase in Bahrain.

"This report is not supposed to act as a mediating agent between various parties," the editor said, "but it definitely has the potential to play a role in galvanising efforts aimed at finding out the truth and achieving comprehensive national reconciliation.

"And between the optimists and the pessimists, the majority of Bahrainis are standing there waiting to see what the report will bring, and how its findings will be dealt with."

At present, Bahraini society is still polarised in terms of sects, ever since the violence that broke out last February and the repercussions that ensued.

"So what we really hope now is that this Bassiouni report paves the way for the establishment of something like a truth and reconciliation commission … which, as other experiences show, helps heal deep wounds."

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk