A religious state is now an anachronism

The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's opening speech in Washington focused on requesting a formal Palestinian acknowledgement of Israel as a Jewish state.

The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's opening speech in Washington focused on requesting a formal Palestinian acknowledgement of Israel as a Jewish state. As for the Palestinian Authority's president Mahmoud Abbas, his address focused on insisting on the implementation of international laws and UN resolutions, wrote Dr Fahd al Fanek in the Jordanian daily Al Rai.

The question here is whether the world's Jews accept Israel as their state, which means they are mere guests in their countries of residence. The establishment of a religious state is no longer viable nowadays. States are built on citizenship rather than religion. Just as there isn't a specific country for Muslims or Christians, why should there be a specific country for Jews? Israel has more than one million Arabs of Israeli nationality. Mr Netanyahu's propositions can be interpreted as a preamble to these people's deportation in the future to their fledgling Palestinian state in return for the withdrawal of settlers from the West Bank. It is true that the balance of military and economic power tips heavily towards Israel, but the balance of ethical and legal power still favours Palestine. The status quo equation has always been known and internationally approved in advance. Mr Netanyahu cannot derail it now.

For the past week, all of Britain has been talking about the former prime minister Tony Blair's memoirs entitled A Journey, wrote Jihad al Khazen in the London-based newspaper Al Hayat.

Around the same time, a perhaps more interesting book was published but received little notice. In Failing Intelligence: The True Story of How We Were Fooled into Going to War in Iraq, Brian Jones recounts his experience working with the defence intelligence department at the British government on the eve of the war on Iraq.  He tells us about how he had witnessed evidence being falsified, how he was told to draft a report confirming that Iraq possessed WMDs, which he refused to do, and how the British government came up with the myth that Saddam Hussein could arm and launch his weapons in 45 minutes.

Juxtapose Mr Jones's testimony to Mr Blair's statement that he would still stand by his decision even if he knew Saddam did not possess WMDs and you will find all the signs of absurdity and arrogance. Mr Blair, whose fortune is estimated by his opponents at £40 million since he left office three years ago, tried to play nice guy by donating his £4.6 million memoir proceeds to wounded soldiers, but concerned parties were quick to let him know that money will never wash his hands of the blood of the victims.

A few days ago, Iran and only a few Arab countries celebrated World Al Quds Day. Streets teemed with angry protesters brandishing anti-Zionism slogans, reported the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds al Arabi in its editorial. Arabs don't commemorate this day because it was Iran's Ayatollah al Khomeini who was the first to call for it. It could also be that Arab regimes don't want to remind their peoples of the holy city's tragedy under occupation.

The city that has been systematically subject to Judaisation efforts and excavation works under the Al Aqsa Mosque deserves a show of solidarity from all over the Islamic world. Jerusalem is a holy destination for all Muslims notwithstanding sectarian considerations. Incidentally, those who did celebrate the day belong to the opposition camp and expressly support resistance within the Occupied Territories and elsewhere, while moderate Arab countries are support Israeli-Palestinian direct negotiations.

It is unfortunate that officially moderate Arab regimes have boycotted World Jerusalem Day. As Arabs, we are more entitled than anyone else to honour the city and express solidarity with its oppressed people. Such a boycott only goes to show that Arab disunity is the reason behind the collapse of Arab power and the continuity of Israeli occupation of the holy city.

With the approach of the anticipated referendum on the separation of Southern Sudan in January, the People's Liberation Movement is increasing its threats against Khartoum in light of conflicts between the government and the movement, reported the Emirati daily Al Khaleej in its editorial. The People's Movement threatens to resort to "various options" and calls for the referendum to remain on schedule. The adviser to the Sudanese president, Ghazi Saladdin, warned weeks ago of an impending war if the referendum were to take place before reaching an agreement on the issue of borders.

Matters of nationality, foreign debts and international agreements are all likely to spark confrontation. Add to that, Sudan's main oil fields are right at the boundaries that are to become national borders, a matter that threatens to become a serious source of tension. It is clear that there are those who are interested in beating the drums of war in order to create a state of terror leading to the referendum. All factions in Sudan should learn from past experience and focus on the country's interests through reasonable dialogue. The alternative would bring nothing but devastation to the fabric of the country.

* Digest compiled by Racha Mararem @Email:rmakarem@thenational.ae