x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Israel may regret tax-withholding ploy

Starving the Palestinian Authority of funds means Israel risks a new Intifada, an Arabic columnist writes. Also today: there are no UAE "plots" against Egypt, and how to support Arabic.

By holding back the tax payments it collects for the PA, Israel runs the risk of a new Intifada

The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah is in dire circumstances, Al Quds Al Arabi, the London-based daily, said in its editorial yesterday. It is incapable of paying the salaries of its 60,000 staff members since the Israeli government, in a spiteful reaction to Palestine's admission into the UN, confiscated $120 million (Dh440 million) in Palestinian funds this month.

Each month, Israel collects approximately $100 million in taxes for goods that pass through Israeli ports destined for Palestinian markets.

"Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, is practising the most hideous kind of extortion against the Palestinian Authority and President Mahmoud Abbas," said the paper. "The latter was unfazed by Israeli threats and pressed ahead with his bid for statehood at the United Nations," it added.

At the end of November the UN General Assembly approved the upgrade of Palestine's status to that of an observer state.

Since then, Israel has announced plans to build 3,000 residential units in settlements surrounding Jerusalem, which would completely isolate the city from the West Bank. And in a blatant act of defiance, it withheld the PA's tax revenues in a bid to shake its stability.

"The Israeli government is well aware that this type of vengeful pressure will not be effective with the PA and it will not change the fact that the UN has indeed recognised Palestine as a state. The ultimate objective of these actions is to prevent the PA from becoming a member of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which would allow it to pursue Israeli war criminals," explained the paper.

In a counter-reaction, the Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad called on Palestinians to boycott all goods manufactured by Israel.

Official reports reveal that Palestinians imported $3 billion-worth of Israeli goods last year while their exports amounted to $618 million only, which sheds light on the benefits that Israel's economy reaps from its control over the economic activity of the Palestinians.

"Mr Fayyad's call must resonate among Palestinians in the West Bank and in Gaza," opined the paper. "We hope that the prime minister himself holds on to his position even if Israel, under pressure from abroad, should restore the funds to their rightful owners," it said.

In the same context, efforts must be exerted to rectify the damage that the Paris Protocol has done to Palestine by linking Palestine's economy to that of Israel's and banning the PA from substituting for Israeli goods.

"The Palestinian territories in the West Bank are ripe for a third Intifada," suggested the paper. "Mr Netanyahu government's economic punishment of the PA may end up accelerating the onset of the next uprising."

No basis for claims of UAE plots in Egypt

"Some are trying to seize on the changes and tribulations that Egypt is going through … to settle old or new scores with the UAE," Emirati columnist Mohammed Al Hammadi wrote in yesterday's edition of the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad.

But such vicious attempts to drive a wedge between Egypt and the UAE are not going anywhere, he said. "Accusing the UAE of meddling in Egyptian affairs sounds like a desperate manoeuvre by some to achieve political - or other - gains," the columnist added. He did not specify who might be doing such a thing.

This week UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed urged the Egyptian ambassador to Abu Dhabi to investigate "baseless" reports in the Egyptian media, claiming that the UAE was engaged in plots against the leadership in Egypt.

Sheikh Abdullah said those reports were simply intended to damage "historic and special relationship" of the two countries.

But relations are "strategic" and rock-solid, the columnist said. "The UAE has publicly stated, on many occasions, that it respects the Egyptian people and their choices, and that it is convinced that no one knows Egypt's higher interests better than Egyptians themselves."

Egypt is going through a delicate phase that makes it vulnerable to potential acts of sabotage, the columnist said, but the UAE will be there to help, not the contrary.

Arabic language must be spoken with pride

Arabs do love their mother tongue. But unfortunately, this love does not always translate into real action, Dr Ziyad Al Dris opined in the London-based paper Al Hayat yesterday.

On Tuesday the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization adopted a decision to celebrate December 18 as World Arabic Language Day, the writer reported.

"But what can we do for our language?" he asked. It is usually said that "the question is easy but the answer is hard". This time around, the converse is true.

The question here is tough because "we have not agreed on the legitimacy of the question; and the rightness, the need, the supposed background and timeliness of the question". But there is an "easy answer … just speak".

"Speak our Arabic language with pride - with no disdain for … our identity. This is the biggest thing we can do to serve Arabic."

Rhetorical praise of Arabic is of little use in gaining more speakers or in regaining the native speakers who have turned their back on it. he said.

In the Saudi paper Okaz, meanwhile, Abdel Rahman Al Akimi quoted Dr Nasser Al Din Al Assad as saying that the main challenge is that Arabic "is walking on one foot: doing well in theoretical and literary fields but hardly moving in scientific areas."

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk