No Israeli change of attitude is expected

What is unknown is what kind of changes are taking place in the "new" Israeli approach.

After the visit of Benjamin Nethanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, to Egypt and his meeting with the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian foreign minister,  Ahmed Aboul Gheit, stated that his country felt a change in Israeli attitudes, but he could not give more details, declared the Palestinian newspaper Al Quds in its lead article. Meanwhile, Mr Gheit added that the US was still brainstorming ideas on how to push the peace process forward. In Riyadh, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, upon meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, promised to contact influential states to exert more pressure on Israel to halt settlement expansion and resume negotiations.

It is known that the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Nethanyahu is more moderate compared to his foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, and that promises by the US president Barack Obama have never come through, but what is unknown is what kind of changes are taking place in the "new" Israeli approach. This is at a time when Israel is relentlessly carrying out its expansionist policy and is not ready at all to discuss the final status of Jerusalem. The Palestinians highly praise the support of Egypt and Saudi Arabia but a question remains as to what extent these noble actions can be effective in bringing change.

It costs the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad little to put forward an Israeli-American conspiracy as being behind the ongoing popular unrest against his regime, while Hizbollah avoids thinking of why more than half of the Lebanese rejects its possession of weapons and its control of security zones, wrote Hassan Haydar in a comment piece for the London-based newspaper Al Hayat.

"Tehran and Beirut's southern suburbs are solidly tied by ideology, money and weaponry. They belong to the same school of thought and follow the same style: mistrusting and terrorising whoever oppose them, while undermining those who try to get closer." Iran has come into the spotlight because it has interfered with internal affairs of several Arab countries, especially Lebanon and Iraq. A major mistake by Hizbollah is its attempt to exclude Christians from national political projects because of their attitude against the party's weaponry. "In other words, Hizbollah is forcing a de facto state within a state, wanting to use arms to subdue the Sunni districts of Beirut under its control as it once did."

According to Amos Harel, Haaretz's correspondent, 2010 will be the year of Iran, in the sense that the Iranian nuclear programme will top Israel's priorities, said Mazen Hammad in an opinion piece for the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

"Based on information leaked by Israeli officials, the use of force appears as one of the options against Tehran. Israel believes that a military plan should be in place if other solutions fail." In this case, Israel must have thought of upgrading its ability to protect its front if the Iranians attack in retaliation. Part of its preparedness would be to urge its allies in Europe and the US to exert more pressure on the Islamic Republic, including the threat to use force. But this is less likely to happen if Israel initiates a raid.

According to information widely circulated by air force commanders, Israel is able to strike Iran, but political leaders are more prudent about taking such a "hasty" decision. Moreover, Israel cannot decide alone on a massive raid without prior consent from its allies. This is because the Israelis cannot act against the will of the Americans, nor can they wage a war against a state which owns an important missile arsenal and whose population exceeds 70 million. Israel needs to get rid of its illusions that it still can impose a Middle Eastern system of its own design. "It also needs a wiser man who knows when to ring the emergency bell."

At this time each year, the world gives an account of their concerns, and Washington must be the centre of attention, said the UAE newspaper Akhbar al Arab in its editorial. The US maintains the leading role against terrorism, a phenomenon that has preoccupied the international community because it is a major threat to global peace and security. "There is a consensus that the US has failed in this mission which is a result of its unpopular approach and its policy of double standards in handling violence and terrorism. Some Americans think there is a benign terrorism and a malignant one. And this is the reason why the US did not succeed in persuading the world of its vision on fighting terrorism."

The US has erroneously opted for using force in an unjustified manner, which, in turn, has generated more violence as a reaction. The war on terror has thus entered a vicious circle, and this is seen in such hotspots as in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. It is necessary thus to review the means and strategies of addressing terrorism worldwide, starting with defining the concept of terrorism and then devising suitable methods - ideological, political and cultural - that are likely to help contain such an enduring phenomenon.

* Digest compiled by Mostapha Elmouloudi