VOICES FROM THE ARAB PRESS: Mahmoud Abbas's 99% agreement

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

Mahmoud Abbas (photo credit: REUTERS)
Mahmoud Abbas
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Al-Araby al-Jadeed, London, September 7
Last week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met in Ramallah with an Israeli delegation of peace activists and made public statements regarding the political impasse between Israelis and Palestinians. Speaking to local and international news outlets, the Palestinian premier maintained that his government’s disputes with Israel remain “minimal.” To support his claim, he indicated that he had met with Shin Bet officials dozens of times and agreed with them on “99% of the issues discussed.”
I am unsure what is worse: the fact that the Palestinian president boasts of his ties with the Israeli secret security agency, or that he sees eye to eye with its officials on 99% of the matters brought up.
Which issues are included in those 99%? Which aren’t? Does Abbas agree with the Israelis on the status of Jerusalem? The right of return? Water rights? None of this was specified. Abbas didn’t even bother issuing a clarification to his statement. Instead, he simply entertained the idea that the very government in charge of occupying and abusing his people is a legitimate peace partner with whom he has little, if any, disagreements.
As a reminder, this is the very same nationalist government that has been building new settlements, confiscating Palestinian lands, and adopting controversial bills that limit the civil rights of Arabs. Instead of standing up for his people, Abbas chose to embrace Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition partners.
One can only hope that Abbas hasn’t forsaken the Palestinian struggle for liberation, in return for empty promises from the Israelis. To save face, the PA should have, at the very least, rebuked Abbas’s statements. Unfortunately, we’ve heard nothing to date. Sometimes, silence speaks louder than words.
– Hussam Kunfani
Felesteen, Gaza, September 8
Only two weeks ago it seemed as if Hamas and Israel were on the brink of a groundbreaking cease-fire agreement that would restore stability to the region and enable the much-needed rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip. Yet something changed since then. The airlift of international mediators and messengers flying between Tel Aviv and Cairo to oversee the negotiations quickly wound down, reaching a complete standstill in recent days. Now, prospects of a cease-fire between the two sides seem almost impossible.
Each one of the parties partaking in these talks shares some degree of responsibility for this stalemate. Egypt, which hosted the delegations, is highly wary of strengthening Hamas at the expense of the Palestinian Authority, and it therefore is in no rush to sign a deal. While it seeks to advance its own security interests, Gaza does not pose an immediate threat to Egyptian forces in the Sinai Peninsula.
The United Nations, meanwhile, is trying to remain a neutral player in these talks. Without the ability to take sides or call for a certain position, the UN remains highly limited in its ability to pressure Hamas or Israel to accept an agreement. The organization’s envoy to the region has thus served as a mere courier, relaying messages between Hamas and Israel.
Qatar, whose name has also come up during the talks, views itself as the mere financer of the deal, not one of its chief stakeholders. According to several accounts, Doha agreed to fund a new electrical power plant in the Gaza Strip, but when the PA rejected this proposal, it simply relinquished its efforts and left the talks.
Finally, Israel is trying to buy time. With the summer vacation over and Israeli children back at school, the Israeli government is facing less pressure to confront tensions on the Gaza border. From a pubic relations standpoint, the Israeli government has more to achieve by stalling and getting Hamas on its knees, than by accepting a truce with Hamas as an equal partner.
For all of these reasons, the talks seem to go nowhere. Gaza remains in desperate need of help, with little hope in sight.
– Jibril Abu Amar
Al-Quds al-Araby, London, September 8
The Turkish government has certainly seen better days. Caught between US President Donald Trump’s whims in the West and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s crazes in the East, the government in Ankara is currently navigating stormy waters in an attempt to maintain stability.
With no international partners left to turn to, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided to soften his tone against Europe in an effort to placate Brussels and normalize his country’s relations with its neighbors. In his recent speeches and interviews, he referred to countries such as France and Germany as “strategic” trade partners with which Turkey would like to conduct more business.
This sentiment has not gone by unrequited. French President Emmanuel Macron called on his European counterparts to help save the Turkish economy from recession by investing in the importation of Turkish goods and services. He stated that while Turkey will not join the European Union, it is still viewed by Europe as a valuable political partner.
Such a statement would have been virtually unfathomable only a year or two ago, when Turkey sought to join the EU. It would have likely sparked a wave of heated remarks by Erdogan against various European leaders, including personal slurs and insults against his counterparts. But times have changed, and desperate times call for desperate measures: The Turkish premier understands very well that in order to save the Turkish lira from further decline, he must accept whatever lifeline is offered to him.
Macron’s remarks, even if merely symbolic, are momentous. Similarly, the upcoming visit of the German foreign minister to Turkey is another positive development. With little hope of restoring his ties with Trump or Putin, Erdogan is trying to cut his losses and minimize the damage he has done to his country’s economy over the course of the past few weeks. This may very well send him into the open arms of Europe. There, he will be met with an embrace, but will also be required to make major democratic reforms in his country. These are the same reforms he was asked to carry out in return for entry into the EU. This time, however, he will implement them for almost nothing in return.
– Bakr Sidki
Okaz, Saudi Arabia, September 10
Whether we agree with US President Donald Trump’s policies or not, it remains clear beyond any doubt that the vehement attacks directed at the American president are simply unparalleled by those faced by any other administration in the past. Ever since his first day on the campaign trial, Trump has been targeted by the liberal media and framed as the so-called enemy of the people.
With the midterm elections coming up, these orchestrated attacks have escalated even further. They now take shape in books and memoirs published by White House officials who proudly worked for Trump until only recently, describing their former boss as a shameful and mentally unstable leader. They manifest themselves in anonymous op-eds written by members of the current administration accusing Trump of being an incompetent and inept leader. Finally, they consist of public speeches that seek to galvanize the masses against the Republican Party.
One of these speeches was given by none other than former president Barack Obama – perhaps the biggest mouthpiece of the American Left – who urged Americans to push Republicans out of Congress in the upcoming elections. Obama warned against Trump’s so-called “politics of fear and hatred.” He urged people to replace the current president.
Seemingly, there is nothing wrong with a former president sharing his political views in public. Yet Obama paved a direct path for Trump into office. It was Barack Obama’s foreign policy failures that pushed Americans to seek a leader who is more confrontational and protective of their interests. It was Obama’s embrace of Islamic fundamentalists that pushed people to call for tougher immigration policies. It was Obama’s weakness with Mexico and Europe that gave birth to the calls to renegotiate America’s deals with its international trade partners. Speaking to the public now, in the aftermath of the chaos that he himself created, Obama is no better than the president he so fervently attacks. Indeed, he provided the very conditions for the fall of the liberal Left in America. He might be an inspiring speaker, but his words are empty.
- Mshari al-Zaydi