x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Hamas: 'We don't need your mayonnaise'

'Gaza has been a profitable market for Israel. Today we don't want any of its goods.'

In an interview with the London-based newspaper Asharq al Awsat, the minister of health, youth and sports of the Hamas government, Bassem Naeem, said the Palestinian people were not beggars. They simply wanted the blockade to be lifted on their land, sea and airspace so they can lead decent lives. About Washington's approval of an Israeli decision to lift the ban on four products, including mayonnaise, Mr Naeem said: "We have loads of it. It came from Egypt through the tunnels. And we have 40 other products that, if Obama so wishes, we can export to the US at nominal prices. And this bothers Israel, because we used to import rotten vegetables from it. Gaza has been a profitable market for Israel. Today we don't want any of its goods."

The official was speaking to the newspaper in the wake of a landmark visit earlier this week by the Arab League secretary general, Amr Moussa ,to the Gaza Strip, marking a détente between the pan-Arab body and Hamas.  Asked whether the "divide" between the regime in Gaza and the Arabs is coming to an end, Mr Naeem responded: "The divide is over, and must be over. We hope that Amr Moussa's visit will lead the way for visits by other Arab officials."

Symptoms of a crisis are hanging over Egyptian-Israeli relations after a statement from the Israeli transportation minister, Yisrael Catz, calling for the annexation of the Gaza Strip to Egypt, the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds al Arabi reported. The Gaza question has special importance for the Egyptian regime, politically and security-wise. Cairo's line has been to push for re-linking the Gaza Strip to the West Bank within the framework of an independent Palestinian state, whereas Israel seeks to restore the 1967 set-up under which the Strip was under Egypt's military rule.

"The Egyptian administration views its return to Gaza as a red line not to be crossed, and is wary of an Israeli conspiracy to fling the Strip with its complex problems into the face of Egypt and sneak away from all responsibility." The strong response from the Egyptian foreign ministry came as no surprise. Hussam Zaki, the ministry's spokesman, categorically rejected the Israeli minister's statement and warned of an official scheme brewing in Israel to wash its hands of Gaza.

"Israel really wants Egypt to be a warden of a huge prison named the Gaza Strip, with all that that entails: providing for it, controlling its resistance factions and thwarting the struggle against the Israeli occupier." It is time that Egypt began rethinking its partnership with Israel.

"Does it make any sense that a country sitting on 10 per cent of the world's oil reserves should be in a panic over power outages and water shortages? asked Jamal al Kandari, a lawyer, in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Watan. "Who would believe that the Kuwaiti people are moaning in pain from power and water cuts?" The Kuwaiti people have stopped complaining about the deterioration of their country's public image, their unstable economic status, mediocre health services and dire sports performances and are strictly concerned now with a solution to their immediate household needs: electricity and water supplies. Even the accountability bureau, which should normally review all national issues, hasn't been able to deliver.

The defence ministry did the right thing by installing its own power generators to alleviate the strain on public electricity. The same goes for the health and education ministries which have taken measures to cut down on their power consumption to survive this critical summer, as Ramadan is only months away. "Kuwait is indeed facing a full-fledged calamity. The heat is insufferable and all the ministry of electricity does is appeal for rationalisation. As a matter of fact, we're not so sure it could do anything else. We want to see clear-cut plans and agendas, not just reactions to every single event."

Israel has now moved to implement an overt displacement policy against Palestinian officials in the West Bank and Jerusalem, the Palestinian newspaper Al Quds stated in its editorial.  The campaign first started with the persecution of the Palestinian Israeli Knesset member Haneen Zoghby after her participation in the Freedom Flotilla to break the siege of Gaza, which culminated in revoking some of her parliamentary prerogatives amid demands for scrapping her Israeli nationality.

In the West Bank, Israel is now displacing freed prisoners away from their homes and families, while in Jerusalem four elected MPs were denied the right to residency, which by extension negates their right to represent their electors.  "Palestinian sources are talking about Israeli plans to invalidate the residency rights of some 300 Palestinians in Jerusalem." One wonders why the international community and human rights organisations keep inexplicably quiet.

"What kind of law is this that denies citizens their right of residency in their very native town? Where is the US administration that drowns us with hollow promises while nothing on the ground changes except Israel's new ways to lay more hurdles in the way of the peace process?" * Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi @Email:aelbahi@thenational.ae