x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Donors must take precautions in Yemen

"Friends of Yemen" have to take extra steps to make sure their money is used well, an Arabic-language commentator says. Other topics: Jerusalem in US politics, and a rock band in Beirut.

Yemen deserves generous aid packages, but must ensure funds go where they are needed

"The Yemeni government's executive bodies have a low capacity to absorb substantial aid and channel it to its intended beneficiaries at the right time," Dr Saleh Al Manea, a political-science professor at King Saud University, wrote yesterday in the opinion pages of the UAE newspaper Al Ittihad.

Last Tuesday, donor countries held a conference in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and agreed to provide $6.4 billion (Dh23.5 billion) in aid to Yemen over a transitional period until the end of 2014.

It was the second such meeting this year, the writer said. The Friends of Yemen group held a similar meeting in May in Riyadh, and a third one is slated for the end of this month on the sidelines of the United Nations' General Assembly proceedings in New York.

In 2007 in London, Friends of Yemen had offered a generous aid package of about $5 billion.

"Sure, Yemen is genuinely in need of a humanitarian relief programme to provide food for about 10 million people. It also needs development programmes focusing on desalination and drinking water to meet the needs of an ever-growing population that lives in major cities facing the spectre of water scarcity," the author wrote.

But one of the main issues is that aid, even in substantial bundles, does not necessarily cascade down to areas and communities where it is most needed, at the time it is most needed.

"This situation has led donor countries and international organisations to set up offices in Yemen to oversee the disbursement of funds and ensure the proper execution of projects," the writer noted.

Note that these significant financial efforts to develop Yemen are just one component of a larger political programme based on the Gulf Cooperation Council's initiative to rescue the country from a decades-long political and economic crisis that peaked during the Arab Spring.

"The GCC initiative seeks to instil security and stability in Yemen and enable its central government to establish its authority in all the regions of the republic," the writer said.

"So it doesn't make much sense when some of that aid goes to regions that are not under the control of the central government in Sanaa - like Saada province, which was taken over by Houthi rebels five months ago."

Capitalising on the political vacuum that accompanied last year's uprising in Yemen, the Houthis, based in the north, tried to expand eastward and southward and would have succeeded had it not been for the intervention of local tribes.

As important as offering aid, donor nations ought to follow up more closely on where that aid goes, the writer argued in conclusion. It is by restoring the Yemeni people's faith in their central government that the country can start to inch away from the edge of territorial division.

Mr Obama, Jerusalem is occupied territory

By adopting "Jerusalem is the capital of Israel" as one of the main slogans for his re-election campaign, US President Barack Obama has committed "a flagrant breach of international law", the Jordanian newspaper Addustour said in its lead editorial yesterday.

Mr Obama should be advised that UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 both qualify Jerusalem as an "occupied territory", the newspaper argued.

By vowing lst week to support Israel's plans to make Jerusalem its capital, Mr Obama is also "completely contradicting the US role as a mediator for fair and comprehensive peace" between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Mr Obama's stance constitutes "a blatant affront to the Palestinian people as well as to the Arab, Muslim and Christian communities, given Jerusalem's particular status", the paper added.

For Muslims, Jerusalem is the site of Al Aqsa mosque, where the Prophet Mohammed led prayers during the night of Isra and Miraj. For Christians, it is where Jesus Christ preached and died.

"With Washington being so biased in favour of the Zionist enemy and readily adopting its expansionist theses, the door is decidedly shut on any form of US mediation to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."

The situation of Jerusalem is dire enough without Mr Obama's endorsement. Now, he has given Israeli authorities carte blanche to turn everything Palestinian in the city into something Jewish.

Red Hot Chili Peppers spur protest in Beirut

Activists from the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel in Lebanon "did not lose hope and kept chasing the American rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers all the way", reported Sawsan Al Abtah, the Beirut correspondent of London-based Asharq Al Awsat.

The boycott group tried to get the 12,000-odd concertgoers to change their mind as they stood in line for the Chili Peppers' show last Thursday. Their main argument: the US band's next tour stop is Tel Aviv.

The Lebanese people consider Israel a belligerent enemy state and the two countries do not have diplomatic relations. A similar action preceded a Lara Fabian concert in Lebanon last January. The Canadian singer had performed in celebration of Israel's 60th Independence Day.

About 60 activists greeted newcomers at the entrance of the purpose-built seafront theatre with flyers, according to the reporter. In those flyers, the boycott group called on the public to "not engage in the game of dissociating music from politics".

Concertgoers reacted in different ways. "Some did not even bother reading their flyer; some read it and then put it in their pocket; others threw it … Then there were those who became irritated and made statements like: 'Grow up!' or 'If this band performs in hell, we'll go there'."

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi