x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Hamas has to offer concessions

The powers struggling for control within Gaza have their own share of blame for the lack of progress on easing the Israeli blockade.

"This is not the first time calls have risen for lifting the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip," wrote Abdul Rahman al Rashed in the opinion page of the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat. Hamas was presented before with a proposal to accept opening the crossing points under the supervision of the Palestinian Authority, but the movement declined the offer." Scores of mediators came to convince Hamas to release the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in return for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. Again the Islamic movement rejected the offer, giving every reason for the embargo to continue.

Although pressure has been exercised on Israel and many ideas were suggested in order to open crossing points, they were all rejected either by Israel or by Hamas itself. The latter's leadership believes that any such moves would likely minimise its authority. "This is partly true, but there is no alternative. We all hope the blockade is lifted. For that,  Hamas needs to accept the bargain by freeing the captive soldier, or accept the Palestinian Authority to oversee the crossing points. Otherwise, Israel achieves its three goals: pushing Palestinians to utter despair, promoting further sedition among various factions, and finally "dwarfing the Palestinian cause".

Saad Mehio, in a comment piece for the UAE newspaper Al Khaleej, considered the change of Russia's attitude about Iran in the context of the strategic ambitions of Moscow, which strongly desires to restore its position as a global power. Russia voted for the fourth round of sanctions because this time it put first its strategic interests after it used the Iranian card to negotiate for a bigger role internationally.

Indeed, Moscow emerged victorious. It succeeded in getting recognition as a major regional power, in integrating world economic forums, and in transferring state-of-the-art civil technologies. "The fact that it was involved in SALT talks has proved that Russia  is increasingly treated as a great power." In return for this special treatment, Moscow felt obliged to behave likewise. It stopped the S-300 air defence system deal, which was likely to complicate any potential US or Israeli air strikes on Iran. It also froze the development of the Iranian Bushehr reactor. This situation serves the US, while it is a huge loss for Iran. "Such a development should be a reminder for the Iranians, who might face growing international seclusion. And although Tehran can bet on China, this cannot be taken for granted. Russia's example should serve Iran as a lesson in how strategic interests surpass moral obligations."

"Many politicians from the south of Sudan have recently visited the UN and held talks with representatives of member states, including the five permanent Security Councils members as a first step to join the organisation if southerners vote for separation next year," reported the Saudi newspaper Al Jazeera in its editorial.

Southerners were acting as if independence is an inevitable outcome, which lets us question the reason behind such overconfidence. A possible answer relates to the accumulated governance culture of treating some communities as minorities, though they are almost equal in size with those in office. Favouring one clan over others to rule the country was encouraged by the British occupation and such a tradition has persisted since then. This badly affected the country's national unity. As a result, large groups of Sudanese grew to believe that the separation of the South was  a pressing need.

A similar scenario happened in Pakistan when eastern provinces separated to establish the republic of Bangladesh. The tendency toward separation is mostly the result of errors by regimes which oppress the rights of minorities and thus rip apart the structure of society. This situation encourages the international powers to meddle in their affairs by  supporting one party over the other to achieve their own interests.

Mazen Hammad, in an opinion piece for the Qatari newspaper Al Watan, revisited the repercussions of the Freedom Flotilla. First, the timing of the recent visit by the Arab League's secretary general to the Gaza Strip and Egypt's recent decision to open the Rafah crossing point were both prompted by the growing Turkish role in lifting the embargo after the Arabs failed to do so.

Second, the Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak cancelled a trip to Paris to attend an aviation exhibition. Although he attributed the reasons of his last minute cancellation to a busy schedule, few would underestimate the possibility of a lawsuit in France. Third, the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government has felt uneasy since the attack. Now it is trying to evade any attempt to conduct a credible investigation into this issue. Although it formed a national inquiry committee with the membership of two non-voting international observers, it did so just to find an excuse for its rash behaviour.

Last, unlike the US, which welcomed the decision to establish the committee, the UN backed by the European Union still insists on forming an international council to investigate the incident. * Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi @Email:melmouloudi@thenational.ae