x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

British PM's frankness wins Gazan approval

It is a beautiful, if not amazing moment, when a British prime minister refers to the Gaza Strip as a prison camp, a description likely to hurt Israel's ears.

It is a beautiful, if not amazing moment, when a British prime minister refers to the Gaza Strip as a prison camp, a description likely to hurt Israel's ears. Moreover, David Cameron has called for Gaza's opening, and the free movement of its people and humanitarian aid, says Mazen Hammad in the Qatari newspaper Al Watan. We are not used to hearing British premiers being fair to the Palestinians, even if only in words. This is why Mr Cameron's statements on his visit to Turkey earlier this week were sensational.

Of course, London was quick to clarify that the declarations had not amounted to a change in the UK's policy towards Israel. However, Mr Cameron's utterance of the phrase points to a genuine seachange in the European view of the Gaza blockade - and Israel's responsibility for it. Still, Mr Cameron has his detractors, who have insisted that strong language against Israel is better avoided. This is particularly the case as relations between Britain and Israel are slowly recovering from the crisis that saw Mossad agents use British passports to enter Dubai and assassinate a Hamas commander in January. All in all, what Mr Cameron said - and where he said it - has left a lasting impression in Ankara, which is hardly Israel's ally in the region anymore.

The tension is rising in Lebanon as political actors and observers have to wait a little longer for Hizbollah's chief, Hassan Nasrallah, to deliver a speech on August 3 that was originally slated for today, writes Saleh al Qallab in the London-based newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

Amid a continuing war of words, Sheikh Nasrallah's speech is expected to address the charges that the Special Tribunal on Lebanon may press against members of Hizbollah over the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. Though the court has not issued a formal indictment yet, Mr Nasrallah has already overreacted to press leaks that alleged Hizbollah members had taken part in the assassination plot. Earlier this month, he made a point of denouncing the "international conspiracy" aimed at undermining the "resistance".

Even Saad Hariri, Rafik's son and the current Lebanese premier whom Mr Nasrallah regards as the source of the reports, has repeatedly denied having received any official note on the matter from the tribunal. If Mr Nasrallah was really "not afraid and not worried" - as he asserted in his speech last Thursday - he would have waited patiently for the court's decision instead of behaving as though he'd been on the receiving end of a scorpion bite.

In a first, the United Nations has recently called on states around the world to diversify the cash reserves of currencies, and to make sure the amount of US dollars in those reserves is maintained at a lower level, according to Mohammed al Assoumi in the Emirati newspaper Al Ittihad. A new report by the White House-affiliated Office of Management and Budget forecasts the deficit in the US budget this year will reach a record $1.04 trillion due to the aftershocks of the global downturn.

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, may have to pay a high price for this unprecedented move from the international body. In fact, only a few days after the UN statement, Mr Ki-moon was subject to a fierce campaign accusing him of corruption and impugning his credentials as a candidate for a second term next year. The global financial balance before the downturn will never be restored, the writer said. The report did not target the US dollar per se; but was rather intended as an an appeal for the rearrangement of worldwide monetary relations to reflect the actual weight of states and economic blocs.

The crisis over the Special Tribunal on Lebanon has escalated to a new level after the interference of Iran, comments Saad Mehio in the Emirati newspaper Al Khaleej. Ali Larijani, the Speaker of the Iranian parliament, found fault with the latest developments in the case of Rafik Hariri's assassination, and declared that "Iran and Hizbollah in Lebanon are being targeted so that the Zionist entity can introduce a new peace plan".

The fact that Mr Larijani is making links between international court procedures in a specific case, in addition to a new peace strategy that may affect the whole region, suggests that Iran has obtained information of a new peace deal about to be reached between the Palestinians and the Israelis and, more curiously, on the Syrian-Israeli front. Over the past weeks, fingers have been pointed at Hizbollah over the assassination of Mr Hariri five years ago; accusations that the group maintains are maliciously aimed at creating civil strife in Lebanon and the Arab world.

Sources close to Hizbollah assert that interference of this scale will serve as a cover for attempts to precipitate a new settlement deal in the Middle East for the sole benefit of Israel. * Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi @Email:aelbahi@thenational.ae