After his first public address in six months, embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad is coming under a new wave of withering criticism from his Arab neighbors for his “criminal” conduct in the Syrian civil war and his complete “detachment from reality” with regards to political initiative, all Arab headlines state.

The Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports that although Internet was down throughout Syria, and all of central Damascus was shut down for the duration of the speech for security reasons, Assad refused to acknowledge that his grip on power was under any real threat. He promised his listeners that he “will chart the political future for Syria, deliver a referendum to the people, and form a broad government.”

However, he also called the rebel forces seeking to topple him “agents of foreign influence” and dismissed any talk of sitting with them at the negotiating table, which means that carnage in Syria may continue for a very long time.

Asked to give his impression of Assad’s political initiative, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi called the Syrian leader “a war criminal who must face trial at the International Criminal Court at the Hague,” the London-based Al-Hayat reports.

“The Syrian people are waiting for a breakthrough so that the bloodbath stops and a new phase will begin, which will include the creation of an independent parliament and a government of their own choosing,” Morsi said, according to an additional report by the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi. “The Syrian people will ultimately have to decide what they want to do with those who committed crimes against them.”  

Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor-in-chief of Al-Quds Al Arabi, writes in an op-ed titled “A careful reading of Assad’s speech” that it is now clear that the Syrian crisis is even further from being resolved than was previously thought, and that Assad may cling to power by sowing chaos in neighboring countries, including Israel.

“It is unlikely that President Assad will fall without outside military intervention,” Atwan explains. “But that intervention is less likely, if not more unlikely than ever, because the US fears the consequences. It cannot afford a situation similar to Iraq and Afghanistan. With Prince Saud-Al Faisal yesterday expressing his country’s support for a peaceful solution in Syria. . . the Syrian president must be less worried about his fate than ever.”

‘Are there any Egyptian Jews?’

As Egypt’s economy continues to crash and threaten the stability of the country’s government, citizens are engaging in a public discussion of presidential adviser Essam el-Erian’s call for Egyptian Jews living in Israel to give up on Zionism and return to their actual homeland, Egypt.

“I wish our Jews would return to our country, so they can make room for the Palestinians to return,” Erian had said. “Jews should return to their homeland in light of the democracy. I call on them now. Egypt is more deserving of you.”

The comments caused fear among financially strapped Egyptians that Erian was opening the door for Jews to demand compensation for property taken from them or left behind in the 1950s and 1960s, when they were driven from the country.

“Are there any Egyptian Jews? His (Erian’s) words reflect complete ignorance of reality. . . Gamal Nasser did not expel the Jews from Egypt. . . Jews went to Israel because they believed in Zionism, which holds that Jews are one people who do not belong in the country where they lived before,” writes Mohamed Salmawy, the president of the Writers’ Union of Egypt and the secretary general of the General Union of Arab Writers, in an op-ed in the Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm titled “Are there any Egyptian Jews?

“The Jews look at themselves as a people independent of ties to other countries where they lived before,” he writes. “If they don’t see themselves as Egyptians, why is it conceivable that we would call for them today, after decades, to return to their ‘home?'”

The leader of Alexandria’s tiny Jewish community, Youssef Bin Jawon, expresses similar sentiments, telling A-Sharq Al-Awsat that the only Jews who left Egypt were those of foreign origin, and that no Jews who went to Israel deserve any compensation for lost belongings.

“Nasser expelled only some Jews of foreign nationality who proved their loyalty was not to Egypt,” Bin Jawon says. “Statements about Jewish rights in Egypt do not concern us. . . because we were not robbed of any property. . . Real Jews of Egyptian descent did not leave the country. . . The Jews who left are of European origin” and have no right to Egyptian nationality.