Voices from the Arab press: The time has come for political reform in Palestine

A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from Arab media around the world.

HEZBOLLAH SUPPORTERS gesture out of a car window in Marjayoun, Lebanon, on May 7, 2018 (photo credit: REUTERS)
HEZBOLLAH SUPPORTERS gesture out of a car window in Marjayoun, Lebanon, on May 7, 2018
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, London, May 8
Last week, the Palestinian National Council met in Ramallah, bringing together 18 members of the PLO’s Executive Committee who effectively comprise President Mahmoud Abbas’s cabinet. A look at the list of participants reveals that the average age of those in attendance was about 70. This should cause anyone reading this to pause.
The Palestinian leadership, claiming to represent the people of Palestine, consists of elderly politicians. Meanwhile, the demonstrators taking to the streets of Gaza, demanding their right to return, were all born after the turn of the millennium. This generation did not witness the Oslo Accords, the formation of the Palestinian Authority, the summit at Camp David or the outbreak of the two intifadas. Many of them have been born into a political reality that leaves them with no hope for a better future.
The dichotomy between the Palestinian people and their leaders could not be starker. Luckily, this new generation of Palestinians is rebellious. It refuses to accept the status quo. It resents complacency and idleness. It wants to take its future into its own hands and is determined to bring an end to the apathy that has come to plague Palestinian politics.
The Palestinian leadership must recognize this reality. In order to salvage the Palestinian cause, the Palestinian political system must be reformed. This can be done in a few ways. First, new elections must be announced, in which all Palestinian factions are represented, regardless of religious affiliation or geographic location. We cannot afford to exclude the Palestinians in Gaza or those living in refugee camps outside Palestine from the nation’s political process. The fate of these Palestinians is just as important as the fate of those living in the West Bank.
Second, Palestinian unity must be our top priority. So long as Hamas and the PLO reject each other’s legitimacy, Palestinian politics will continue to suffer from the stalemate we are witnessing.
Third, young blood must be allowed to enter the fray. It is abnormal for an exclusive group of 70-year-olds to lead a nation of which roughly half the population is younger than 20. The PLO is an admirable organization that played a crucial role in promoting and advancing the Palestinian struggle for liberation. Its institutions form a crucial part of the foundation necessary for Palestinian statehood. However, in order to survive in the coming years, Palestine’s political system must reinvent and reinvigorate itself. Otherwise, it will be replaced or, perhaps, overthrown. And this will come sooner than we think. – Muhammad Ayash
Al Jazeera, Qatar, May 8
A few weeks ago, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke in front of the Palestinian National Committee and made remarks pertaining to the roots of antisemitism in Europe. These comments were widely condemned by world leaders who viewed them as offensive, thus forcing the Palestinian leader to issue a formal apology to the Jewish community.
Regrettably, President Abbas did not employ the same morality by apologizing to the people of Egypt for slandering ousted president Mohamed Morsi. For months, Abbas has spread libelous claims about Morsi, accusing him of pressuring the Palestinians into abandoning their territorial demands and instead accepting lands in the Sinai Peninsula rather than in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Such allegations, of course, have no factual basis and can easily be refuted.
Sadly, Morsi cannot rebut Abbas’s claims since he was unlawfully incarcerated during the July 2013 coup. However, it suffices to review old Al Jazeera reports to learn about Morsi’s steadfast support for the Palestinian people. In one interview, when asked about the idea of providing Palestinians with lands in Sinai, then-president Morsi rejected the idea outright and called it “ludicrous.” He compared any Palestinian willingness to give up lands in historic Palestine to the prospect of Egypt giving up the Suez Canal. Both were non-negotiable issues, he explained.
Therefore, it is clear beyond any doubt that Abbas is lying. Why he chose to do so remains beyond my understanding, but one can only imagine that he has been trying to improve his public image by deflecting responsibility for his failures onto other leaders. To make matters worse, he has been a nodding sycophant who willingly takes orders from a criminal: President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. This is the same man who handed over cherished Egyptian lands to Saudi Arabia as a “gesture of goodwill.”
This is the same president who bowed down to Donald Trump and conspired with him in moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This is the same president who locked up hundreds of his own people while staging a coup against a democratically elected leader. This is the president that Abbas chooses to idolize while dishonoring Mohamed Morsi. Abbas does not have the basic courage to admit to his two-faced policy and apologize. Shame on him! His time, too, will come. – Salah Abd al-Maqsoud, former Egyptian minister of information in Morsi’s cabinet
Al-Ittihad, UAE, May 13
Lebanon is a completely different place than it was just a few weeks ago. Two major storms have swept across the country, the first revolving around the recent parliamentary elections. In this respect, Hezbollah and Amal, together with the Christian Free Patriotic Movement, managed to garner over 65 of the 128 seats in parliament, thereby securing a majority for the Shi’ite bloc.
Hundreds of Hezbollah activists took to the streets to celebrate their victory, while Prime Minister Saad Hariri grappled to explain his party’s loss. Hezbollah is likely to play a major role in forming the next government and naming the future prime minister. The party can now easily sideline Hariri without appearing to attack the Sunni bloc. The recent marches of Hezbollah gunmen in the streets of Beirut are a stark reminder of the power that this party now possesses.
The second originated from Washington, when US President Donald Trump announced the American withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal. The United States is no longer a guarantor of stability in our region. Whereas the previous power equation dictated that Russia would tame Iran’s aggression while America would rein in Israel’s military action in Syria, this is no longer the case. With the nuclear deal breached, Israel and Iran appear headed towards a direct confrontation, which could drag the entire region – including Lebanon – into a free fall.
When the war between Israel and Lebanon broke out in 2006, Lebanon was in much better shape; the Lebanese government enjoyed strong support and stability, the Europeans and Americans did everything they could to end the hostilities as quickly as possible and UN peacekeeping forces proved effective. Today, however, Lebanon is controlled by Hezbollah, which is viewed by the majority of world leaders as a terrorist organization. If Lebanon finds itself pulled into a war with Israel, none of its allies will come to its help, as they have in the past. We thus face a dangerous future that could forever impact the fate of Lebanon. Hariri’s foremost priority should, therefore, be the formation of a steady coalition that ensures the security and stability of Lebanon in the months to come. – Ridwan al-Sayed
Asharq Al-Awsat, London, May 12
Incoming ballistic missile attacks have become the norm in the southern region of Saudi Arabia. Civilians there are now accustomed to taking cover in shelters whenever an attack takes place. These assaults are carried out by Houthi militias directly backed and financed by Iran. They target civilian infrastructure in Saudi territory in an effort to weaken border forces and with a view to dragging Riyadh into a war.
And yet, there are those who choose to turn a blind eye to these flagrant provocations. Countries like France and Germany are doing everything they can to salvage the Iranian nuclear deal, while completely overlooking Tehran’s proxy wars throughout the region. In Berlin and Paris, leaders preach about the need to empower Iranian moderates, while failing to mention that the very same regime they are part of continuously undermines the sovereignty of almost every other nation in the Middle East.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, for example, reiterated last week to her Iranian counterpart her commitment to working with Tehran to protect German-Iranian trade. Similarly, French President Emmanuel Macron described the Iranian deal as “the lesser of two evils.” But the Mullahs have only provided reason to doubt their true motivations. Instead of giving them the benefit of the doubt, it would be much wiser to put the onus on them, by having Tehran demonstrate that it is truly committed to peace with its neighbors.
By standing against President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal, Merkel and Macron have essentially given the Iranian regime carte blanche to continue their malicious activities. Good intentions are important, but they are not enough. If Germany and France, or any other European state, is serious about salvaging the atomic accord, then they must first provide an answer to this question: that is, how will Iran’s involvement in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Yemen, or Saudi Arabia be stopped?
– Abdulrahman al-Rashed