x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Varied views on Emir's trip to Gaza

Arabic commentators did not speak with one voice about the mission of Qatar's ruler to the Gaza Strip. Other topics today: That Syrian truce idea, and progress for Yemen.

Was the Qatari emir's visit to Gaza a charitable gesture, or the beginning of a new alliance?

Tuesday's momentous visit to the Gaza Strip in Palestine by the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, along with his wife and a delegation of 60, has elicited mixed reactions.

In its editorial Al Quds Al Arabi, the London-based newspaper, reiterated the comment of the Gazan prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, who called the visit historic. "For an Arab leader to take a security and political risk of this magnitude is no trivial matter," the paper said.

Gaza has been under siege for about seven years. During this time, it has withstood vicious Israeli aggression that has killed 1,400 people and destroyed 60,000 residential units.

The emir arrived at the strip with a grant of $400 million (Dh1.47 billion) to be used for financing residential projects, building a hospital for people with disabilities and for other development schemes.

Needless to say, the step received a whirlwind of criticism. The Israeli foreign ministry was quick to issue a statement describing the visit as bias towards a "terrorist organisation" that launches missiles and carries out suicide bombings against Israeli targets.

"It would have been ideal if the visit had occurred under a well-established inter-Palestinian reconciliation," commented the paper. "But these new development projects will create job opportunities for many in Gaza, where the unemployment rate has reached a staggering 50 per cent."

For his part Tareq Al Homayed, editor of the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat, wasn't as enthusiastic about the Qatari gesture.

He wrote that the visit raised a number of arguments, and he wondered if the voyage symbolises that Qatar has taken Gaza under its wing and that it is no longer under the control of Iran and of Syrian leader Bashar Al Assad.

"The emir of Qatar's visit certainly won't be a fleeting matter. But following the toppling of the Mubarak regime in Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood's ascent to power, it was believed, or at least assumed, that Gaza would become the charge of Egypt, not Qatar," the writer suggested.

Doha's "fostering" of Gaza makes it a de facto party to the Palestinian internal conflict and, consequently, jeopardises the reconciliation and peace process.

"Can Qatar shoulder such a hefty political burden? And more importantly, will it take responsibility for any missiles that might be launched from Gaza into Israel?" asked the writer.

The emir's trip to the besieged strip can also be interpreted as a reward for Hamas for its stance regarding the Syrian regime and also as an attempt to sway it away from Iran.

"Questions about this new Gazan-Qatari relationship abound and await answers, but what is certain is that it will be costly for everyone concerned," Al Homayed concluded.

Syrian envoy's Eid truce bid is 'surreal'

There is an Arabic saying that applies perfectly to the recent truce proposal put forward by Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, according to the Emirati columnist Mohammed Al Hammadi.

"The mountain went into labour only to birth a mouse," goes the saying, cited by the columnist in yesterday's edition of the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad.

After his talks with regional leaders to try to find a way out of the 20-month Syrian crisis, Mr Brahimi pitched a proposal for a ceasefire between the Syrian army and the rebels, asking both parties to commit to the truce for the duration of Eid Al Adha, which lasts only a few days.

For the columnist, Mr Brahimi's proposal comes across as "surreal" given the Syrian tragedy, in which most of the 30,000 casualties have been killed by regime forces.

"It is naive to assume that the Syrian people are busy thinking about Eid festivities," the columnist argued. "How can a people rejoice when, in every home, someone has been killed, wounded or raped, or is unaccounted for?"

For the Syrians, the real Eid will start the day their country regains stability and is freed from the clutch of repression, he said.

Granted, Mr Brahimi's mission is too complex. But if he has nothing substantial to offer, he should simply step down, the writer concluded.

Yemen takes a step in the right direction

Yemen's political forces have agreed to form a supreme commission to prepare a new electoral register for elections in 2014. This is a crucial step towards cementing the democratic transition initiated with the signing of the Gulf initiative for Yemen, commented the UAE-based newspaper Al Bayan in yesterday's editorial.

This step reaffirms the necessity of national dialogue in preventing conflicts and reaching democracy, the paper noted.

Yemen's president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, has underscored the need to back these steps, which are in line with the Gulf initiative and other initiatives to get Yemen out of its current crisis into a better future.

"This step, as described by President Hadi, is a real achievement … this requires all Yemen's political forces and civil society to work towards accomplishing the national goals and requirements of the transition period," the editorial went on.

Yemen's national dialogue must be welcomed and supported by all parties, the paper said.

The report of the preparatory commission for the national dialogue contributes a great deal in moving Yemenis towards realising their aspirations, and it is a step on the right direction to build a democratic, prosperous and stable Yemen, it concluded.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk