After many weeks of communications with Israel and Arab states involved in the Middle East peace process, it seems that the US has managed to re-open the route for negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis, a route that Israel had closed off when it stuck to its guns regarding its settlement expansion projects in East Jerusalem, the Emirati newspaper Al Khaleej noted in its leading article.
Reports from Washington have it that negotiations mediated by the US envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, will resume soon "without preconditions". This means that the Palestinian Authority, which has firmly conditioned its resumption of talks on a complete freeze of all Israeli settlement activity, has made yet another concession. "Accepting talks without preconditions is synonymous with accepting Israel's own terms. This is all the more ironical because Israel has just unveiled plans to displace more Palestinians living in Jerusalem as part of its policy to colonise the holy city." These upcoming negotiations are thus vividly reminiscent of previous ones brokered by the US administrations under Bill Clinton and George W Bush. They would consist in countless pledges and widely publicised rounds of talks but yield absolutely no result. "Just so much ado about nothing, really."
The London-based newspaper Al Hayat carried an article by Abdul Salam bin Abdul Ali about the French government's project to transfer the remains of the Algerian-born author and philosopher Albert Camus to the Pantheon, the prestigious cemetery in the Latin Quarter in Paris, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of his death.
"This move is evidence of the French government's intention to make the writer of The Fall a right-winger whether he likes it or not, notwithstanding his characteristic caution to stay away from pre-established political paradigms and ideologies."
In fact, the political opinions of the author of The Stranger have remained a bit enigmatic for the French and the Algerians alike. "As far as we Arabs are concerned, we could only partake in the author's Mediterranean glee in Nuptials, and rejoice at his constant wakefulness and his staunch defence of the poor and the oppressed. On the other hand, we cannot yet forgive him for portraying the Algerian capital, Oran, as devoid of Arabs in The Plague. Likewise, we cannot stomach the fact that The Stranger's protagonist, a character who sees the world as a bundle of nonsense, shoots 'one of the Arabs' multiple times 'because of the sun'."
General elections in the Arab world may have acquired notoriety as fraudulent processes that bestow legitimacy upon unwanted leaders, but it seems that the upcoming elections in Sudan will take place in a better atmosphere, as the ruling party's totalitarian grip has loosened up a bit, wrote Al Sadeq al Mahdi, the former Sudanese prime minister, in the comment pages of the Dubai-based newspaper Al Bayan.
The 2005 peace treaty signed between the central government in Khartoum and the southern rebels has made way for a breath of pluralism in the country and allowed in play the Popular Movement, a party that is ideologically opposed to the party in power, the National Congress. "Also, the passing of an elections law and the formation of an electoral delegation that will oversee the elections process have enjoyed a decent period of national consultation."
Furthermore, given the significant international presence in Sudan, embodied by UN officials, African Union monitors and aid missions, the elections are sure to happen under the watchful eyes of the international community. On the flip side, the elections oversight delegation has given reason for some to doubt its integrity and accuse it of manipulating the electors' lists in favour of the ruling party. Sudan's political forces must watch carefully lest these relatively auspicious elections turn into a pathetic farce.
The editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds al Arabi, Abdelbari Atwan, wrote that the US administration under Barack Obama is going through its worst troubles to date: it has received two major security-related blows in the last thirty days. The first was when Umar Farouk Abdulmoutallab, a Nigerian national with alleged ties to al Qa'eda, managed to get round strict airport security measures and attempted to blow up a Detroit-bound civil aircraft. The second occurred when a Jordanian triple-agent-turned-suicide-bomber, Homam Balawi, infiltrated the Central Intelligence Agency office in Khost, Afghanistan, and killed seven CIA officials.
Perhaps even more painful and humiliating was Tehran's disdain of the ultimatum fixed by the US for Iran to decide on its uranium enrichment strategy. Tehran's response consisted in a provocative long-range missile test and the occupation of an Iraqi oil well. Amid these upsets, the Obama administration is looking forward to "some sort of achievement" in the Middle East, and for that it is resorting to its Arab friends: first, moderate Arab states can help push the Middle East peace process; second, Israeli or US raids targeting Iranian nuclear facilities can only be launched from Arab bases or through their airspace, the editor claimed.
* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi firstname.lastname@example.org