"What kind of Palestine is to be projected in 2010? Perhaps a more accurate question would be: What 'Palestines' are still lying ahead, after 2009 brought further disorder to the prospect of a Palestinian state?" asked Saad Mehio in the comment pages of the Emirati daily Al Khaleej. Undeniably, the rift between Gaza and the West Bank is increasingly widening, turning the former into a fortress where a ideology has the upper hand, and the latter into a Hong Kong-like free market where Palestinian, western and even Israeli economic interests prevail.
"The project for a Palestinian state is waning at the same rate that Gaza and the West Bank gain these new contours, easing the way for the Zionist agenda that consists in consigning 'a land without people to a people without land'," he said. In 2009, John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the UN, said the two-state solution had failed because the Palestinian Authority stalled it and Hamas gave it a fatal blow. The only way out, Mr Bolton suggested, was to apply the three-state approach whereby Gaza will become an Egyptian province and the West Bank will be annexed to Jordan. As strange as seems, this pitch has been met with some welcoming cheers.
Israel is not hiding its frustration with the US administration's slack enforcement of tougher sanctions against Iran, Mazen Hammad wrote in the Qatari newspaper Al Watan. Israel was looking forward to back-breaking sanctions against the Islamic Republic, but the US administration, while pushing for a review of Iran's nuclear programme in the Security Council, is remaining quiet on the scope of prospective sanctions should Tehran continue rejecting the engagement policy initiated by the president Barack Obama soon after his election.
The Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, said future sanctions against Tehran must be harsh enough to paralyse its economy; a pledge that Mr Obama himself had made when he received the Israeli primer Benjamin Netanyahu last May. "But the Obama administration is showing no signs of satisfying Israeli expectations," the writer said. "Washington has rather kept reaffirming that the diplomatic option will remain open." At the same time, the US wants punitive measures to be carefully thought out, for fear of an oil market crash and to protect the interests of Iranian citizens.
The national compromise that ushered in a new Lebanese government after an extended period of polemics does not mean that Lebanon's strife is finished. Nor does it suggest that Hizbollah's strength of arms will protect the country against threats, opined Ali Hamade in the Lebanese daily Annahar.
Lebanon's chronic helplessness with regard to the "Hizbollah republic" in the southern suburbs of Beirut allows the armed organisation to gain more power and legitimacy, and brings the cedar state under "the leader of the revolution", following the Iranian model. The recommendations that Hassan Nasrallah gives to the various Lebanese sects every time he makes an appearance reflect how close Hizbollah is to becoming part of Iran. Now, the regime that Hizbollah looks to has turned its guns against its own people, and the lesson to be learnt from this cannot be clearer. "We don't want the Lebanese nation to regret, in the foreseeable future, having capitulated to religious fascism," the writer said. "Without a shadow of a doubt, it will always be impossible for Lebanon to be united, secure and liveable as long as it is home to a group that possesseses its own artillery."
The rising China, which dazzled spectators all over the world in the 2008 Olympics, has reaffirmed in 2009 that it stands on solid foundations as its economy managed to weather the global downturn and, more than that, acted as a locomotive to haul the world economy out of stagnation, Mohammed al Haddad wrote in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.
Even on the diplomatic level, China brazenly challenged Britain when it executed a British national convicted of drug smuggling. The British premier Gordon Brown could not do anything besides protest because of his country's economic interests in China. Unlike Iran and its Hizbollah and Hamas sidekicks, which brag about their strength, China is a true power indeed. "There is a key difference between violence and power. Power in modern times relies on the economy, technology and strategic planning. Violence, however, is making believe that one has power when one has none," the writer said.
* Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi email@example.com