Voices from the Arab Press

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

FAIEZ MUSTAFA SERRAJ, head of the Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord of Libya, speaks virtually during the 75th annual UN General Assembly on September 24 (photo credit: REUTERS)
FAIEZ MUSTAFA SERRAJ, head of the Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord of Libya, speaks virtually during the 75th annual UN General Assembly on September 24
(photo credit: REUTERS)
MY OPINION ON THE PEACE BETWEEN UAE, BAHRAIN AND ISRAEL

Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, September 24

Following the signing of the peace agreement between the UAE and Israel, Washington announced that the Kingdom of Bahrain will be the second Gulf state to establish ties with Israel. Such a decision is a sovereign decision, which pertains exclusively to the two countries involved in the agreement. No one else has a right to intervene. These two states are the only ones which assess their political strategies and come to form a decision.

I’ve heard multiple claims of pious groups suggesting that this agreement is religiously impermissible. However, several notable political jurists, such as Sheikh Ibn Baz and Sheikh Ibn Uthaimin, may God have mercy on them, have issued religious verdicts permitting reconciliation with Israel, which cancels this claim from the ground up. In my opinion, these agreements only serve our interests. They bring to the fore issues that the Arabs, in general, and the Palestinians, in particular, have failed to solve through wars. However, remarkable progress has been made through peaceful negotiations.

Anyone who reads the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict from 1948 until now, a lifetime extending to 72 years, will find that the Palestinian issue has been experiencing a continuous deterioration, slowly becoming relegated to the lower rungs of the Arab world’s political agenda, while Israel continues to annex more land. While the partition plan originally allocated approximately 49% of the land for the Palestinians and 51% for the Israelis, Israel has by now seized nearly 80% of the Palestinian geography.

In other words, the wars that took place between the Israelis and the Arabs were all won by Israel, while Egypt and Jordan, as well as the Palestinians themselves, were only able to obtain lands through direct peace talks. The truth is that Israel is no longer the Gulf’s biggest enemy, as was the case before the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Since the rise of the mullah regime in Tehran and the rise of Erdogan’s government in Turkey, the Arab world became subjected to continuous efforts on behalf of both of these states to export their revolutions and restore their long-gone empires. Both of these countries are far more dangerous to us than Israel ever will be.

The other matter that is often ignored is that Gulf countries are increasingly diversifying their economies and turning away from their reliance on oil. Israel is a great partner to collaborate with on technology, science, finance and healthcare. It is one of the most superior countries in innovation and peaceful cooperation, and it will help benefit our collective development and modernization.

–Muhammad Al-Sheikh

THE LIBYAN CRISIS AND THE INGREDIENTS FOR A SUCCESSFUL NEGOTIATION

Al-Etihad, UAE, September 25

At a time when efforts are being made to find a political resolution to the Libyan crisis, it is imperative that we all take time to recall the fundamental ingredients required for the success of any negotiation, regardless of where it happens, based on previous experiences in the field. Over the years, countries have sought to solve internal, regional and international crises, leading to extensive knowledge on strategies, methods and approaches that work better than others. According to these experiences, negotiators achieve positive results, and negotiations lead to an attainable compromise when several prerequisites are met.

First, that both sides come to the negotiation table with good intentions and a true interest in achieving a resolution to their crisis. Second, that the two sides establish a genuine foundation on which they can build their relationship. Third, that all issues, even the most contentious, are discussed and explored.

The first precondition, negotiation on the basis of good intentions, is important due to the fact that it is the existence of these intentions that guarantees the behavior of the two parties both during the talks as well as during the implementation phase. The second precondition relates to the need to understand from the very outset, even before the talks begin, what the negotiation path will look like, and which land mines will need to be defused. The third precondition is crucial in order to prevent a deceiving sense of progress at a time when core issues have not yet been agreed upon.

In the context of Libya, one thing stands in direct conflict to all three of these conditions: the existence of foreign militias, fueled and armed by a foreign actor within Libya. The presence of Turkey-backed militias in Libya, which defies the national military, has been at the core of every round of failed negotiations held in the country to date. Accordingly, and based on the rich experience gained by negotiators in other conflicts, the only way to reach a viable solution to the Libyan crisis is to dismantle the armed militias operating in the country.

Not putting these issue on the table first and beginning, instead, with the less contentious issues has allowed both sides to procrastinate and give the world a false sense of cooperation and dialogue. Instead of explicitly calling out those who are preventing an agreement, ignoring the militia issue allows the parties to circumvent the topic without being accused of rejecting negotiations.

Therefore, as the winds of change begin to sweep Libya and the possibility of direct peace talks once again emerges, it is important not to repeat the mistakes of the past. We must pay attention to our previous negotiation experiences and ensure that this time, the Libyan peace talks succeed in ending years of war and bloodshed.

–Wahid Abdul Majeed

THE ACADEMIC YEAR OF DECEPTION

Al-Qabad, Kuwait, September 25

By virtue of both age and circumstance, I happen to have experienced two bitter crises that had monumental impacts on our country’s education system. The first was the brutal Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, which led to the shutdown of schools for an entire academic year. Following liberation, the educational authorities were forced to make a tough decision that many of us recall to this very day, by imposing the “year of integration,” in which the educational curriculum of each grade was merged to cover two years’ worth of teaching.

Today, over three decades later, another crisis is threatening our educational system. This time, it’s the coronavirus, which has disrupted education in all countries of the world. While this most recent crisis is far from unique to Kuwait, our country does stand out in the disproportional effect of the virus on our children’s education. While many other states implemented remote learning solutions that enabled students to maintain a degree of normalcy in everyday life, the Kuwaiti Ministry of Education decided to simply send our students home.

The solution, according to the ministry, was simply to bump students up a grade without achieving any of the learning requirements for the year. Ironically, no one at the ministry is owning this policy outright. Last week, it published the so-called “pass rates” for the most recent high school matriculation examinations. The figure stood at 99.7%. Now let’s be clear: Not even the most advanced nations and the most endowed educational systems in the world, in places like Finland and Singapore, yield this kind of completion rate.

Therefore, it is surely impossible that Kuwaiti high-schoolers did. Unfortunately, the problem doesn’t end in high school. Given these fabricated rates, our university systems will be the next to suffer. With limited seats available to students, how will our higher education institutions know which students to admit? How will they make use of their limited governmental budgets to accommodate larger classes of students?

The absorption of all high school graduates into our few universities will create a crisis of its own. Yes, the decision pleased the students and their proud families. It also allowed our politicians to remove great pressure from their own shoulders. But it inevitably led us into an educational crisis that no one knows how to get out of. The absence of academic excellence, let alone basic academic competence, should be a concern to us all.

–Modhi Abdul Aziz Al-Hamoud

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.