Israel has finger in African water disputes

'Israel plays a major role in inciting African states, especially Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, to abrogate previous Nile Basin Countries agreements.'

The pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds al Arabi observed in its editorial that the ministerial conference of the Nile Basin Countries (NBC), held in Egypt's Sharm el Sheikh, has come to nothing due to differences between Sudan and Egypt, on the one hand, and other African member states over three key issues. These are water security, water projects and the system of voting on resolutions.

The Arab-African camp - Sudan, the passage country, and Egypt, the mouth of the river - is now facing a tough African front consisting of the source countries - Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi - which are refusing to recognise the previous water distribution agreements of 1929 and 1959. They argue that these agreements were imposed on the African states by the British colonisers who were occupying most of the concerned parties.

"Israel plays a major role in inciting African states, especially Ethiopia - from whose heights originate 85 per cent of the Nile's water - Kenya and Uganda to abrogate previous NBC agreements by providing them with agricultural expertise and investment funds to build dams and keep the water at home." The Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, who once threatened to destroy the High Dam of Egypt, leads this incitement campaign. Last year, he headed a delegation representing 10 Israeli corporations during a tour of five African countries.

Three main sources of power will determine the results of the Sudanese elections: cash, media and organisation, commented Ahmed Amorabi, a Sudanese columnist with the Emirati newspaper Al Bayan. The ruling National Congress party wields all three decisive components, while its rival parties lack every single one of them. "That means the ruling party has secured victory already, whether other parties boycott or take part in the election process."

But what is post-election Sudan going to look like? First, we can see the disparities between two strong opposition parties: the nationalist Umma Party, led by Al Sadeq al Mahdi, and the Democratic Unionist party, led by Othman al Mirghani. While the Umma Party boycotted the entire elections, including the contest for the presidential seat, the Democratic Unionist party did the exact opposite and fought all elections battles at the municipal and presidential levels.

"There is no logical reason for this except that - as observers have it - a deal was sealed between Mr al Mirghani and the National Congress promising his Unionist party a number of ministerial portfolios as a recompense for participation in the elections." As to the outcome of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Treaty between the south and Khartoum, we can only wait and see if its provisions will still be observed.

A couple of major developments in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have been intensively reported this week, only to wither away as the weekend drew closer, wrote Ali al Khaleeli, a columnist with the Palestinian newspaper Al Ayyam. The first serious development had to do with the Israeli military order to displace more than 70,000 Palestinian citizens from the West Bank to Gaza, under the pretext that they are "infiltrators". As such, they may face a seven-year prison sentence and may be forced to pay a fine.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz had an exclusive report on the decision last Monday, which immediately made headlines everywhere. "This unusual and rather dramatic story, however, fell into oblivion in no time." The second big story was about the US president Barack Obama's "serious intention" to put forward a US plan for the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict next fall. Columnists and newsmakers were quick to interpret it as the peak of US-Israeli divergence and an clear indication of Washington's exasperation with Israel's tireless game of hide-and-seek. But where is that piece of news now? Many more stories feeding into the Palestinian cause are for some mysterious reason easily forgettable; their longevity never reflects their significance. The thing is, this media's short-term memory is hurting the Palestinian side alone.

Observers of Arab-US-Israeli relations draw a grim picture of the conditions that define Washington's attitude towards this triangular relationship, wrote Ragheed al Solh in the London-based newspaper Al Hayat.

The US position is to a large extent moulded by the powerful Israeli lobby in Washington, a steady, deep-rooted and perpetual entity. And it is also said that a clever politician in Capitol Hill should never challenge it. Such a powerful Israeli influence has encouraged Israeli premiers to challenge American presidents. Menachem Begin, the Israeli prime minister during the 1970s and 1980s, did just that. When the then US ambassador Sam Louis came to him with a request from the Reagan administration to refrain from annexing the Golan region, Mr Begin's response was aggressive. "Israel has lived for 3,700 years and will continue to exist for another 3,700 years. American presidents come and go," the writer quoted Begin as saying.

The twist is, this aura of the Israeli influence in Washington serves US diplomacy in its relations with the Arabs. The White House can always claim that it is against some Israeli actions, but is somehow "forced" to sanction them. * Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi