Israel's referendum masquerade

"The Israeli Knesset's vote for a bill that requires the government to undertake a referendum before any Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories was not surprising at all," noted the Saudi newspaper Al Watan in its editorial.

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"The Israeli Knesset's vote for a bill that requires the government to undertake a referendum before any Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories was not surprising at all," noted the Saudi newspaper Al Watan in its editorial. "It is in line with the present government's agenda and reflects the position of Israeli public opinion which has become more extreme in recent years."

Undoubtedly, the bill came to rescue the government, which is under increasing pressure from the international community to take practical action towards the peace process. This is seen in the US plan based on the two-state solution and recently in the European proposal of Jerusalem as the joint capital of the two states.  These international calls to advance the peace process are a real challenge for the Israeli government which continues to oppose any possible solution. This is why the Knesset resorted to pass such a bill to help prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu if he ever finds himself obliged to make concessions in order to move forward in the peace process forward.

The law is a clever masquerade, though, because in Israel all resolutions are effectively taken by the parliament and there is no need for a referendum or extra discussions outside this forum.  It is thus a stratagem meant to further violate the Palestinians' rights.

"In many cases, we tend to misinterpret figures if we fail to grasp their significance," wrote Fahd al Fanek in an opinion piece for the Jordanian newspaper Al Rai. "If raw data alone is enough to draw a picture about Jordan's economy, it would be possible to dispense with statisticians and economic analysts. I said this in order to highlight some national economic indictors and how their significance varies." According to statistics,  Jordan's exports dropped by 21 per cent this year, but this does not mean that they fell in terms of quantity. The decline can be due to low prices linked with lower costs of fuel and other raw materials. In this sense, it is a monetary one. The decreasing value of foreign commercial transactions is not necessarily harmful to overall profit per se, and this is the case with Jordan.

"In this context and under the austere budget expected for the next year,  many fear that economic growth will be affected as they still tend to link economic growth with the public budget and spending in general. As such, they fail to consider another important factor in the economic process: the role of the private sector, which is the biggest spender and investor." With a 940 million dinar (Dh4.8 billion) budget, there is hope yet that Jordan's economy will achieve a good rate of growth, or at least stay balanced amid volatile global economic conditions.

Commenting on the Copenhagen Climate Conference 2009, Abdul Rahman al Rashed wrote in an opinion piece for the London-based newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat that Arab countries cannot be blamed for the increase in the earth's temperatures. "This is simply because we are not a big industrial polluter. However, Arab countries are responsible for ruining their local environments which in turn threatens their future. This matter was not the centre of interest of those who rushed to meet in Copenhagen. The apocalyptic scene which they gave us was the impression that the earth would be submerged under rising water in a week while, in fact, we are more at risk of local environment sabotage than of global warming."

Most  Arab cities are under threat of thirst not only because of  drought, but because of governments' over-exploitation of  the rural areas and neglect. "There has been a trend that Arab  governments implement development projects primarily in urban areas to the effect that cities have become the only viable  places available." As a result, farms and villages are almost deserted, while cities are inflated with infinite square miles of poor districts. From this perspective, rural migration should be monitored and a more livable environment in that countryside created that will  encourage people to stay settled and make a good living.

The US president Barack Obama's speech at the Nobel Prize award ceremony captured public opinion for justifying the use of force to achieve peace, observed Hazem Sariya in a comment piece for the London-based daily Al Hayat. The speech drew special attention because it was delivered in a special venue which is supposed to celebrate peace and peacemakers. Many critics seized this occasion to condemn the Nobel Prize committee and this year's peace laureate at a time when Mr Obama was building up his military presence in Afghanistan.

"A just war implies a heroic act, and it is too romantic to delve into it here. In his reference to war in Afghanistan by necessity, Mr Obama was wrong in his assumption too. A war is normally launched only after diplomatic attempts have been exhausted and this was not the case in Afghanistan." The whole issue is a shift in the system of values governing what is meant by peace and who are the peacemakers. Recent past examples tracked this change, "when this very committee decided to award such people as Menachem Begin, former Israeli prime minister, and Henry Kissinger, former US secretary of state, as if to clean up their record".

* Digest compiled by Mostapha Elmouloudi