Options after direct negotiations fail

Mr Netanyahu's goal is to get Palestinians to withdraw from negotiations and take the crisis back to a pre-Oslo state.

The Israeli-Palestinian negotiations started in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt yesterday in a discouraging atmosphere that promises no breakthrough, wrote Tariq Masarwa in a comment article for the Jordanian daily Al Rai. The French sent an envoy to Israel, Syria and Turkey to promote negotiations with Syria. The step was met with apparent contempt from the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government as no Israeli official welcomed the French diplomat. Israel doesn't want any more pressure concerning the settlement issue since they are in negotiations.

No one in Israel is convinced that Mr Netanyahu is prepared to accept or refuse any proposal. For the first time in the history of Israeli diplomacy, he has none of the habitual excuses that Israel has been using since 1948. Mr Netanyahu's goal is to get Palestinians to withdraw from negotiations and take the crisis back to a pre-Oslo state. The Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has reportedly expressed his decision to resign from office in case the negotiations fail while a number of Palestinians are talking about ending the Palestinian Authority and giving Israel sole control over the Occupied Territories, as it was before Oslo. It is unlikely that Mr Netanyahu would want that. The one-state solution means occupation.

Israel may be the only country that was frustrated with the landmark achievement of the Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan when the Turkish people voted on Sunday in favour of 26 constitutional amendments aimed at "taming" the army and the secular group, commented Mazen Hammad in the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

The Israeli press has generally reacted angrily to Mr Erdogan's win, seeing it as a measure of the wide popular support he enjoys. This is a sign that Mr Erdogan will easily clinch another term in office come the 2011 elections. One Israeli commentator, however, approached the Turkish premier's victory with a cool head. This observer, Alon Liel, admitted that the Turks have granted their government - led by Mr Erdogan's Justice and Development Party - the power to control the army and the judiciary, which until now have been the bastions of Ataturk secularism.

From now on, Mr Liel said, it would be hard to imagine the military trying to overthrow the government as it did before, or the supreme court seeking to ban specific political parties. Meanwhile, Israeli forecasts that Mr Erdogan will turn Turkey into another Iran are groundless. As Mr Liel argues, the popular support behind Mr Erdogan is not strictly energised by his ideology, but more so by his constant efforts to modernise Turkey and boost its economy.

Despite the recent positive developments in the Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri's positions and the steady improvement in the Saudi-Syrian relationship, Hizbollah believes that both countries have not reached final and detailed agreements on contentious issues, mainly deciding on the new Iraqi prime minister, wrote Sarkis Naoum in an article for the Lebanese daily Annahar.

In Lebanese matters, the Saudi-Syrian relationship seems frigid still. Saudis believed that they would succeed in separating Syria from Iran, which proved to be difficult if not impossible. They implicitly welcomed the accusations that Hizbollah had some role in the assassination of the former prime minister Rafiq Hariri. They are reticent about encouraging their allies to cooperate with Hizbollah and Syria in the effort to solve this matter.

The Special International Tribunal is of great interest to both Syria and Hizbollah even if the former pretends otherwise. On another front, Israeli officials believe that the pending indictment of Hizbollah would create internal confusion among the party's ranks, and they hope that this would lead to its disintegration and alienate its allies, primarily Syria. However, despite apparent feebleness in defending its ally, Syria will not abandon it. Hizbollah is an essential element of its increasing regional role and power.

In its editorial, the Emirati daily Al Bayan commented on the positive international reaction to the results of the constitutional referendum in Turkey on Sunday. Some described the results as the key to Turkey's coveted membership in the European Union. What is crucial now is that the ruling AKP party seek more comprehensive public support. The reform project requires a nation-wide endorsement, which means that the Turkish leadership must reach a compromise with the opposition; otherwise, it would be accused of monopoly.

The AKP, led by the prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, now retains the power to pass any decision. In the absence of a compromise, such power threatens to derail it from its unifying course. Numerous contentious matters face Turkey on internal, regional and international fronts. In order to tackle them, the country needs internal harmony. Sunday's referendum mirrors a democratic vivacity and a social tendency for renovation. The outcome goes hand in hand with Turkey's calculated moves during the past 20 months when the West turned its back to it. The government focused on strengthening its international position and improving its domestic affairs. Now, it is better positioned for a new regional projection that might take it into the heart of the EU.

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem @Email:rmakarem@thenational.ae