x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

UNRWA's mission is in financial jeopardy

UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees has suffered from heightening financial woes for two decades now.

UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees has suffered from heightening financial woes for two decades now, wrote Ali Badwan in the pan-Arab newspaper, Al Hayat. The crises are mostly fabricated in essence and conceal efforts to terminate the agency's mission. Last week, the agency announced that its budget deficit has exceeded $84 million, which threatens to pull the plug on its services to more than 850,000 Palestinians, especially in Gaza.

UNRWA's financial troubles stem from various reasons. The agency has been ever more burdened with responsibilities due to the rise in refugees' numbers and the continuing siege on Gaza. Efforts are being exerted to terminate its work in its five regions of operation. In addition to that, under US and Israeli pressure, donor nations have been eluding their commitments to support it financially. "It seems that, six decades after its founding, UNRWA has exhausted its task and mission. Since the Madrid convention in 1991, the agency has been drawn into a series of deficits and shrinking aid that render it unable to serve its purpose." Now, more than any time before, the international community is required to strive to improve the living conditions of the refugees and to put an end to the propaganda leading to the agency's dissolution.

Today, the US president Barack Obama is expected to announce officially the end of US military operations in Iraq. In a comment piece for Emirati daily Al Ittihad, Abdallah Khalifa al Shaiji wrote that Mr Obama and his administration will present the event as a victory and will certainly use it as evidence of the president's commitment to fulfill his promises.

However, the end of the war doesn't mean the end of the Iraqi people's suffering. As the US troops leave Iraq, they leave a country afflicted by the tightening grip of al Qa'eda and the disappearance of an important power balance. After seven years of a bloody and destructive war that cost the US $800 billion and left thousands of casualties,"A New Dawn" operation has been announced. But which dawn is that?

More than 100,000 Iraqis were killed during this war. Four million people have become refugees. Most of the Iraqi people live without work, security, water, electricity and hope. Iraq, once the state that established the balance of power and contained Iran, has been transformed into a model that doesn't entice its own people, a state drowning under the weight of sectarian differences and widespread corruption. Iraq's future isn't clear. It is subject to the game of oil and political interests. Whether the country will return to its status as a regional power remains to be seen.

As its role increases in the Middle East, Caucasus and Balkan regions, Turkey is facing immense internal political challenges, which might transform the government, wrote Thaer Abbas in a report in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

The Turkish government has geared up since last May for a referendum on constitutional reform due on September 12, aimed at restricting the military's judiciary power. The amendment proposal presented by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was met by strong opposition from the army and pro-secular elites. They accuse the present government of planning to tighten its control over key judicial bodies, a situation that is likely to undermine the system of checks and balances.

Key terms in the proposal relate to the composition of the constitutional court and a council dealing with judicial appointments. Another important aim is restricting the jurisdiction of military courts, while entitling civil courts to try soldiers in peace time for coup attempts and other offences related to organised crime.    Although the opposition can challenge the referendum if it is voted for, Turkey will generally experience a retreat of the army's influence in politics in compliance with European standards, but at the same time a government with a stronger religious orientation is likely to emerge.

If the Israeli rabbi Ovadia Yosef  were a little-known public figure,  his call to exterminate  the Palestinians and their leadership could be ignored, but this is not the case, noted the Qatari newspaper Al Watan in a lead article. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is the spiritual leader of the religious political party Shas, which is one of the main pillars of the right-wing coalition that forms the government led by Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a statement to the press on Sunday, he damned Mahmoud  Abbas, the president of Palestinian Authority, and he described the Palestinians as evil, wishing for their demise. He said God should strike the Palestinians and their leader with a plague. "Of course, the Palestinian leadership condemned such a criminal statement, described by Saeb Ereket, chief Palestinian negotiator, as racist Israeli incitement against Palestinians.

"And even though an Israeli spokesman said that these remarks did not reflect the formal position of the Israeli government, this, however, should not negate the fact that Rabbi Ovadia's party is part and parcel of the ruling coalition. What is more, such a statement came on the eve of direct negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis, which foretold the spirit of aggression with which the Israeli will enter the talks."

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem @Email:rmakarem@thenational.ae