Palestinians of Gazan origin worried about possible travel restrictions

A Palestinian worker inspects trucks carrying supplies following their arrival in Rafah through the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip recently. (AFP)
Updated 21 October 2017
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Palestinians of Gazan origin worried about possible travel restrictions

AMMAN: While the Palestinian reconciliation efforts sponsored by Egypt and supported by the rest of the world appear to be moving in the right direction, unexpected problems are emerging.
Gazans in the West Bank are worried that the reconciliation will have a negative effect on their travel while Hamas supporters in Gaza are worried about the willingness of the Ramallah government to pay Gaza employees appointed by Hamas.
Fatah’s number two-man, Mahmoud Alloul, said on Palestine TV Friday that the reconciliation effort is moving ahead despite some obstacles.
“There was a delay in the transfer of one of the ministries on Thursday,” Alloul said, without naming the ministry, but he continued that “nothing will stop the reconciliation process.”
According to the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Hamas leaders have expressed concern regarding salary payments delayed by the Ramallah government without explanation. The Palestinian Ministry of Finance stated on its official website that only 50% of the month of September salaries will be paid on October 26th.
Hamas, which has been asked to stop collecting taxes from Gazans, has called on the Palestinian government to reassure worried public employees about their salaries, Al-Quds Al-Arabi added. Hamas wants the Palestinian government to commit to paying all salaries, including those of civil servants appointed by Hamas, until a final decision is made about their fate. The Ramallah-based Palestinian government, however, has repeatedly said that the status of these employees will be decided by a follow-up committee.
Payment of salaries is one one several concerns that Gazans have, with worries about freedom of travel expressed by some, especially in relation to entry to Jordan.
Palestinians of Gazan origin must obtain before travel a Jordanian permission to enter the country. Since the 1993 Oslo Accords, West Bank and Gaza residents have been able to travel around the world using the same Palestinian issued passports. Nevertheless, Palestinians deemed by Jordan as Gazans (namely, if they were born in Gaza or are children of Gazan parents), must apply for a special permit called adam mumanaa — a no-objection document — issued by the Jordanian Ministry of Interior.
Wafa Abdel Rahman, founder and director of Filasitynat, a leading women’s nongovernmental organization, is a Gazan who has been living in the West Bank for decades and active in dealing with this problem.
Abdel Rahman told Arab News that some 50,000 Palestinians of Gazan origin who have changed their residency to the West Bank, are worried that they will be unable to travel without restrictions. They are concerned that Jordan is likely to make it more difficult for them to get permission to travel to or through Jordan if the Rafah crossing is reopened.
The Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement calls for the presidential guards to return to Rafah by Nov. 1 and with European observers, the crossing could be opened around the clock soon.
“Living in Ramallah as a Gaza-born means you are stuck, you can’t return to see your family in Gaza, and you can’t travel outside the West Bank for work or pleasure,” she told Arab News. Palestinians in the West Bank need Israeli permission to travel to Gaza. Israel requires no such prior permit for anyone exiting by way of the West Bank.
Students, workers, individuals invited to conferences and business people are among those who have faced difficulties to obtain permits to enter Jordan, said Abdel Rahman.
Abdel Rahman said that the process to get this Jordanian permission is costly, the application fees are irrevocable and it is time-consuming.
“The process takes weeks and sometimes months without any clarity of the rules as to why some people are rejected,” she told Arab News.
Despite this inconvenience, most (but not all) Gazans with a legitimate reason to travel have been granted this permit because Rafah was closed.
Abdel Rahaman is worried however “that when the Rafah crossing is open Jordan will be under less pressure to grant Gazans travel permits to or through Jordan.”
Omar Kullab, the head of an ad hoc committee of Gazans living in Jordan, shares this concern. Kullab told Arab News that it is very possible that Gazans trying to travel to Jordan will find it more difficult in the future. “With the reconciliation on track to get the Rafah crossing open, Jordan will feel less pressured to allow Gazans permission to travel to or through it.”
Gaza’s troubles and that of its people seem set to continue. A visit by a senior Hamas delegation to Iran headed by Salah Arruri, deputy head of the Hamas politburo, has been reported by the Iranian based Al Alam news webstite.
The visit comes amid strong Israeli opposition to Palestinian reconciliation and calls on Hamas to disarm and recognize Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin has said on his Facebook page that “Israel opposes any reconciliation in which the terrorist organization Hamas does not disarm and end its war to destroy Israel.”


Recent appointments in Egypt show rise of women to high political office in Mideast

The appointment of the women ministers may help to assuage disappointment about the make-up of the rest of the — all male — Cabinet.
Updated 26 min 20 sec ago
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Recent appointments in Egypt show rise of women to high political office in Mideast

  • Recent appointments in Egypt are the latest example of the rise of women to high political office in the region
  • “The men’s monopoly has been broken,” the Jordanian National Commission for Women declared in a celebratory statement which also praised the prime minister’s “clear position”

CAIRO, LONDON: The appointment of two more female ministers this month to the new Egyptian Cabinet means women now fill eight out of 34 positions, the highest number in the modern history of Egypt.

Hala Zayed is the new health minister while Yasmine Fouad takes over as environment minister. Both women replaced men and join culture minister Inas Abdel-Dayem, tourism minister Rania Al-Mashat, Nabila Makram (immigration minister) Ghada Wali (social solidarity minister), Hala El-Saeed (planning minister) and Sahar Nasr (minister of investment and international cooperation).
The appointments by Egypt’s new Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly have been welcomed as forward thinking by social and political commentators.
Dr. Magda Bagnied, a writer and professor of communication, told Arab News: “I believe whoever planned for those eight effective ministries was looking forward for the future of Egypt since they are all interconnected in some way, and having females leading them is a leap forward.
“A country’s rank and status is measured by the role of women. The higher the number of leadership roles for women, the further the country is considered to be on the road to development.”
Four out of 15 new deputy ministers are also women and women now hold 15 percent of the seats in Parliament.
The rise of women to high political office in the Arab world is by no means restricted to Egypt.
Jordan also has a record number of women ministers after Prime Minister-designate Omar Razzaz appointed seven women to the 29-member Cabinet sworn in last week.
“The men’s monopoly has been broken,” the Jordanian National Commission for Women declared in a celebratory statement which also praised the prime minister’s “clear position.”
The appointment of the women ministers may help to assuage disappointment about the make-up of the rest of the — all male — Cabinet.
Twenty-three members of the new Jordanian Cabinet have been ministers before and 13 were members of the outgoing government that was brought down by popular protest.
Rawan Joyoussi, whose posters became one of the defining images of the protests, said: “I was hoping that women would be empowered and I am happy with that. But as far as the composition of the rest of the government is concerned, I think we have to play our part to create the mechanisms that will hold the government accountable.”
In the UAE, women hold nine out of 31 ministerial positions, and one of them, Minister for Youth Shamma Al-Mazrui, is also the world’s youngest minister, appointed in 2016 when she was only 22.
This makes the UAE Cabinet nearly 30 percent female, which is higher than India, almost equal to the UK and far ahead of the US, where Donald Trump has just four women in his Cabinet.
The general election in Morocco in October 2016 produced 81 women members of Parliament, accounting for 21 percent of the total 395 seats. The Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), which won the most votes, also ended up with the highest number of women MPs, 18.
Though elections in Saudi Arabia were open to women only in 2015, it ranks 100th out of 193rd in the world league table of women in national governing bodies, slightly above the US at 102nd place.
A policy briefing from the Brookings Institution think-tank in Washington says that one of the best ways for a country to ease economic pressure and boost productivity is to increase female participation in the workplace and in political life.
“Introducing diversity through gender parity will benefit economic growth and can help Arab countries to generate prosperity as well as the normative and social imperative of change,” wrote analyst Bessma Momani.
Yet in some parts of the Middle East, female representation seems to be going backward.
In 2009, four of Kuwait’s 65 MPs were women. In 2012 there were three and in 2013 only one. In 2016, 15 women stood for election to the 50 open parliamentary seats (the other 15 are appointed). Only one, Safa Al-Hashem, who was already an MP, was successful.
Qatar has no women MPs or ministers at all.
Egypt’s appointment of two more women ministers does not have the appearance of tokenism. The new Health Minister, Hala Zayed, 51, has a solid background in the field as a former president of the Academy of Health Sciences, a hospital specializing in cancer treatment for children.
She was also government adviser on health, chairwoman of a committee for combating corruption at the ministry she now heads and also has a Ph.d. in project management.
Similarly, Yasmeen Fouad, 43, the new environment minister, has four years’ experience as a former assistant minister in the same department, where she was known as “the lady for difficult missions,” and liaised with the UN. She is also an assistant professor of economics and political science at Cairo University.
Egypt’s first female minister was Hikmat Abu Zaid, appointed minister of social affairs in 1962 by President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who dubbed her “the merciful heart of revolution.”
Now there are eight like her, demonstrating that in the Middle East, “girl power” is on the rise.