The social uproar that followed the recent holdup of a government bank in Baghdad, which left seven people dead and earned the armed robbers the equivalent of $6 million, has not abated as yet, wrote Basheer M Nafei in the opinion pages of the pan-Arab daily Al Quds al Arabi. According to diverse reports, two or four of the gang members worked as bodyguards for Adel Abdul Mahdi, the Iraqi vice-president who is a prominent figure of the major Shiite Supreme Council party. The security forces later retrieved part of the stolen money from the offices of the Adala newspaper, which is affiliated with the party.
"The amazing thing is some of the thieves, a few of whom hold the rank of officer, have fled to Iran seeking apolitical cover." In a state other than Iraq, such a scandal would lead to the downfall of all the political actors involved. "But the new Iraq is not like that. The new Iraq is where millions of dollars disappear just like that, where civilians are killed on the street, where people are abducted by official or semi-official security forces, and where ruling political parties own armed militias."
Now that the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared that the "big mistake" Israel made in Gaza -the 2005 Unilateral Disengagement Plan whereby Israeli forces pulled out from Gaza and vacated the settlements - will never made in the West Bank, "what exactly are the bettors still betting on" as a way out of the Arab-Israeli conflict? asked the Emirati daily Al Khaleej in its leading article.
"If Netanyahu is not enough, take the foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman who has threatened to bomb Egypt's High Dam and who publicly pledges to evict the Palestinians of 1948." On the ground, settlement activity is ongoing and evictions of Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem are relentless, coupled with daily acts of harassment against civilians. "All of which, had it been committed by any party other than Israel, would have prompted the UN Security Council to hold an emergency meeting, denounce the acts and approve a series of sanctions, or even perhaps mobilisie troops to wage a pre-emptive war." Mr Netanyahu and Mr Lieberman are "pouring cold water" over those who took the liberty of thinking that the efforts of a new administration in Washington will rein in Israeli violations.
In contrast to reports made by international organisations, Arab regional reports are still listing Arab economies under the same category, noted Mohammed al Assoumi in the comment section of the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad.
"Listing all Arab economies as part of the same pool may have been accurate some twenty years ago, but over the last several years key changes have occurred on the economic and social structures of these countries, leading to proportional discrepancies." Thus, some Arab countries, oil-rich countries topping the list, have seen a significant improvement in living standards, a wider reliance on modern technology and a higher GDP. In the meantime, many Arab states have remained practically unchanged, not merely due to lack of natural resources but also because of bad governance. The classification standards adopted by some regional Arab organisations must be revised because their reports do not heed the key criterion of "development management", hence the simplistic divisions of "either poor or rich" Arab countries. For the sake of accuracy, the social and economic achievements of some countries that fall under the poor cluster must be given their true worth.
"The sixth Fatah convention in Bethlehem has, indeed, been Mahmoud Abbas's convention par excellence; he was unanimously reappointed leader of the movement, president of the National Palestinian Authority and head of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation," commented Hammad Mazen in the Qatari daily Al Watan.
Even the "fresh new blood" that has been injected into Fatah is not that removed from the convictions of its leader, most importantly, clinging fast to the option of negotiations with Israel.
But, at heart, the Fatah convention was no challenge to Israel. It was rather a re-confirmation of a host of conciliatory bids that are still coldly waiting on the Israeli backburner. "We could say, without reservations, that this sixth convention has put an end to the legitimacy of the revolution only to reinstate the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority. Likewise, we could say that the convention has once again adopted the 'diplomatic method', championed by Mahmoud Abbas, despite its virtual ineffectiveness in the face of renewed Israeli ambitions."
The Palestinian Authority needs start working towards reconciliation with Hamas and toughen its stance against "outrageous Israeli proposals". * Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi email@example.com