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Israel wants big gains for small concessions

Benjamin Netanyahu's new preconditions to halt settlement-building explains the pressure on Mahmoud Abbas to press ahead with negotiations, says the editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

Israel wants big gains for small concessions Benjamin Netanyahu has proposed a new set of preconditions for the US in order to renew the moratorium on settlement building for a limited period of time. This proves why we've been calling on the Palestinian president to press ahead with negotiations, says Tareq Homayed, the editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat. Sources reported that Mr Netanyahu would agree to a renewed two-month freeze on settlement activities if Mr Obama's administration were to promise not to request an additional moratorium and if Washington were to approve of Israel deploying its forces in the Jordan valley. He also asked for US assistance in persuading the opposition within his own government to agree to a new moratorium.

All this implies that Mr Netanyahu would emerge from the negotiations with big gains. Above all, Mr Netanyahu seems to be plotting to hamper any international inclination to acknowledge the Palestinian state and he wants Washington to get rid of his opponents in government and, in a sense, clean out his own backyard. The table was turned on President Mahmoud Abbas. He had a chance to benefit from this historic opportunity with a US president so adamant on resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. Mr Abbas missed the moment to strip Mr Netanyahu before the international community and raise more support for his cause.

Egypt should give the same respect it wants 

During a meeting between the Egyptian foreign minister's aides with ambassadors from 40 European countries, Egypt urged European embassies in Cairo to improve their treatment of Egyptian nationals requesting visas, as these citizens have complained of mistreatment, reports the pan-Arab daily Al Quds Al Arabi in its editorial. Such a landmark step by Egypt reflects the government's interest in its citizens' welfare. Arab citizens are mistreated at foreign embassies and airports, especially in the US, where they are subjected to humiliating physical inspection under the pretext of anti-terrorism measures.

Such abuse only reveals Arab governments' negligence to secure the welfare and dignity of their people. What is worse is that these same governments exempt European and American citizens of many travel formalities. Self-respecting countries practice reciprocity in official matters. Most Arab states don't abide by this principle. In the spirit of reciprocity, Egypt recently denied two American diplomats entry on the grounds of invalid visas. But many Arab and Palestinian citizens in particular have been complaining of abuse in Egyptian embassies. At the Rafah passageway, Palestinian travellers from and to Gaza are held for days in cell-like rooms at Cairo airport, for example.

Egypt's effort to safeguard its citizens' dignity is commendable, but it would be more exemplary if it were to give Arab citizens at its embassies and airports the same respect. 

Al Qa'eda is not fading into the background 

Recent warnings issued by the US and Britain of terrorists attacks that al Qa'eda might perpetrate in crowded locations across European capitals prove that the organisation still constitutes a real threat to the West and a nightmare that might explode at any given moment, says columnist Mazen Hammad in an article for Qatari daily Al Watan.

These notifications refute recent western media reports claiming al Qa'eda is in a state of impotence. In fact, the terrorist organisation proliferates in Iraq, the Arab peninsula, North Africa, Europe, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ten years into the war on terrorism, it is still difficult to argue that the organisation has been weakened. Although many of its leaders have been killed, it still holds great destructive powers.

The US warning didn't specify countries in jeopardy, but it did note that general transportation stations would be likely targets. Official statements in London reveal that Britain, France and Germany are at risk of impending terrorist attacks that would target tourist locations in particular. These countries, including Sweden, have taken prompt measures to intensify security in crowded areas as a response to alarming intelligence data.

As a conclusion, one can fairly say the world in general isn't safer or more secure despite the expensive war that the West has been waging against al Qa'eda for 10 years. 

Damascus 'honours' independence seekers 

In response to Damascus issuing arrest warrants against 33 people named in the former general security chief Jamil al Sayed's 2009 lawsuit, the columnist Ali Hamadeh wrote in the Lebanese daily Annahar: "This is yet another honour list that Damascus issues for Lebanese independence seekers."

"Syrian arrest warrants are void of any real value because they carry no legal weight and prove to all sceptics of Syria's recent intentions that they were right." Those who genuinely believed that Damascus would modify its treatment of Beirut have committed a misjudgement. The arrest warrants only indicate a problem between the two countries and matters must not be left at their current state. It is the Lebanese president's duty to use his power and moral standing to deal with this issue neutrally.

To relinquish truth in order to avoid bloodshed is in itself a condemnation of the parties that are opposing the international tribunal. It is not the answer, for if the country remains silent this time, it will be an invitation to the killers to resort to assassinations to resolve any differences with certain Lebanese factions. "Independence seekers have no choice but to persevere in their resistance."

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem 

rmakarem@thenational.ae

Published: October 6, 2010 04:00 AM

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