Netanyahu defends Qatari cash infusion to Gaza

Netanyahu’s remarks late Saturday were his first on the issue since Israel allowed the cash to be transferred to the enclave controlled by Hamas. (File/AFP)
Updated 11 November 2018

Netanyahu defends Qatari cash infusion to Gaza

  • The Israeli-authorized money transfer appeared to be part of a deal that would see Hamas end months of often violent protests
  • Border protests have been much calmer the last two Fridays

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defended his decision to enable Qatar to bring $15 million into Hamas-controlled Gaza for salaries, saying it would calm tensions and prevent a Palestinian humanitarian crisis.
Netanyahu’s remarks late Saturday were his first on the issue since Israel allowed the cash to be transferred to the enclave controlled by Hamas, considered not only by the Jewish state but also the United States and European Union as a terrorist movement.
“I’m doing what I can, in coordination with the security elements, to return quiet to the southern communities, but also to prevent a humanitarian crisis,” Netanyahu said, referring to Israeli towns near the Gaza border and deteriorating conditions in the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu said the Israeli security establishment supported the move and that ministers in his security cabinet approved it.
“We held serious discussions,” he said ahead of his flight to Paris, where he will join world leaders marking the centenary of the end of World War I.
“I think we’re acting in a responsible and wise way.”
He added: “At this time, this is the right step.”
On Friday, Palestinian civil servants began receiving payments after months of sporadic salary disbursements in cash-strapped Gaza, with money delivered into the Palestinian enclave through Israel, reportedly in suitcases.
The Israeli-authorized money transfer appeared to be part of a deal that would see Hamas end months of often violent protests along the border in exchange for Israel easing its blockade of Gaza.
Border protests have been much calmer the last two Fridays.
The money influx was criticized by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, which saw it as undermining reconciliation efforts with rivals Hamas and its attempts to return to power in the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu has also faced political pressure within Israel, including from opposition head Tzipi Livni, who called it the premier’s “submission to Hamas,” which would strengthen the Islamist movement.
Deadly clashes have accompanied the major protests along the Gaza border with Israel that began on March 30, generating fears of a new war between the Jewish state and the strip’s militant rulers.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008.
At least 221 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, the majority shot during protests and clashes, since the protests began.
Others have died in tank fire or air strikes.
One Israeli soldier has been killed along the Gaza border in that time.


Private schools and universities in Lebanon are in economic crisis

Updated 31 May 2020

Private schools and universities in Lebanon are in economic crisis

  • Education centers risk closing or reducing costs after nationwide disruption

BEIRUT: The future of thousands of Lebanese students is at stake as private educational institutions assess their ability to continue operations in the next academic year, due to the economic crunch facing Lebanon.

“If the economic situation continues, private schools will be forced to close down for good, a move that will affect more than 700,000 students, 59,000 teachers and 15,000 school administrators,” said Father Boutros Azar, secretary-general of the General Secretariat of Catholic Schools in Lebanon, and coordinator of the Association of Private Educational Institutions in Lebanon.

Over 1,600 private schools are operating in Lebanon, including free schools and those affiliated to various religion societies, Azar said.

The number of public schools in Lebanon, he added, is 1,256, serving 328,000 students from the underprivileged segment of society and 200,000 Syrian refugee students.

“The number of teachers in the formal education sector is 43,500 professors and teachers — 20,000 of them are permanent staff and the rest work on a contract basis,” Azar said.

This development will also have an impact on private universities, whose number has increased to 50 in the past 20 years.

Ibrahim Khoury, a special adviser to the president of the American University of Beirut (AUB), told Arab News: “All universities in Lebanon are facing an unprecedented crisis, and the message of AUB President Dr. Fadlo R. Khuri, a few weeks ago, was a warning about the future of university education in light of the economic crisis that Lebanon is facing.”

Khoury said many universities would likely reduce scientific research and dispense with certain specializations.

“Distance education is ongoing, but classes must be opened for students in the first semester of next year, but we do not yet know what these classes are.”

Khoury added: “Universities are still following the official exchange rate of the dollar, which is 1,512 Lebanese pounds (LBP), but the matter is subject to future developments.”

Lebanese parents are also worried about the future of their children, after the current school year ended unexpectedly due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Dr. Tarek Majzoub, the minister of education and higher education, ended the academic year in public schools and gave private schools the right to take a call on this issue.

He said: “The coming academic year will witness intensification of lessons and a review of what students have missed.”

But what sort of academic year should students expect?

Differences have developed between school owners, parents, and teachers over the payment of tuition fees and teachers’ salaries.

Azar said: “What I know so far is that 80 percent of the Catholic schools in Lebanon will close their doors next year unless they are financially helped. Some families today are unable to pay the rest of the dues for the current year either because their breadwinners were fired or not working, while others do not want to pay dues because schools remain closed due to the pandemic.

“Lebanese people chose private schools for their children because they trusted them for their quality — 70 percent of Lebanese children go to private schools. Today, we are facing a major crisis, and I say that if education collapses in Lebanon, then the area surrounding Lebanon will collapse. Many Arab students from the Gulf states receive their education in the most prestigious Lebanese schools,” he added.

“What we are witnessing today is that the educational contract is no longer respected. It can be said that what broke the back of school owners is the approval by the Lebanese parliament in 2018 of a series of ranks and salaries that have bankrupted the state treasury and put all institutions in a continuous deficit.”

Those in charge of formal education expect a great rush for enrollment in public schools and universities, but the ability of these formal institutions to absorb huge numbers of students is limited.

Majzoub said that his ministry was “working on proposing a law to help private schools provide a financial contribution for each learner within the available financial capabilities or grants that can be obtained.”

The undersecretary of the Teachers’ Syndicate in Private Schools, former government minister Ziad Baroud, said: “The crisis of remaining student fees and teachers’ salaries needs to be resolved by special legislation in parliament that regulates the relationship between all parties — teachers, parents, and schools — and takes into account the measures to end teachers’ contracts before July 5.”

Baroud spoke of “hundreds of teachers being discharged from their schools every year based on a legal article that gives the right to school owners to dismiss any teacher from service, provided that they send the teacher a notification before July 5.”

H said it should be kept in mind that thousands of teachers have not yet received their salaries for the last four months, and some of them had received only 50 percent or even less of their salaries.

Khoury said: “The AUB received a loan from the late Prime Minister Rashid Karami at the beginning of the 1975 Lebanese civil war to keep it afloat. In the 1990s, the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri provided aid and grants to the universities. Today, no one can help universities.”

Last Thursday, the Lebanese parliament adopted a proposal submitted by the leader of the Future Parliamentary Bloc, Bahia Hariri, to allocate LBP300 billion to the education sector to help it mitigate the effects of COVID-19.