UAE government lifts restrictions on activities, event capacities

UAE government lifts restrictions on activities, event capacities
The Supreme Committee of Crisis & Disaster Management in Dubai announced on Wednesday that all activities, events and social gatherings in Dubai will gradually return to full capacity from Feb. 15. (File/AFP)
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Updated 10 February 2022

UAE government lifts restrictions on activities, event capacities

UAE government lifts restrictions on activities, event capacities
  • Al Hosani pointed out that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be made available to children aged five to 11 in accredited healthcare centers

DUBAI: Restrictions on activities in the UAE have been lifted and events will return to full capacity, as the country sees a steady decline in COVID-19 cases, a government confirmed. 

Saif Al Dhaheri, Official Spokesperson for the National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority (NCEMA), who spoke at a weekly government media briefing. 

“In light of the decline in infection rate and further recovery measures, the country, today, is announcing the cancellation of restrictions on events and activities for various economic, tourism and entertainment facilities, and shopping malls and modes of transportation, to reach their maximum capacities by mid-February,” Al Dhaheri explained.

“It was also decided to raise the maximum capacities at social events, including weddings and funerals, and local authorities will determine the numbers of participants allowed,” he added.

In terms of mosques and places of worship, Al Dhaheri explained that the social distance between worshippers has been reduced to one meter, instead of the previously implemented two-meter rule. 

He said that the country’s authorities would continue to monitor the situation and adjust safety procedures according to the pandemic’s developing status both locally and internationally. 

Also speaking at the briefing was Dr Farida Al Hosani, the official spokesperson of the UAE Health Sector, who highlighted the community’s responsibility in maintaining the country's achievements and supporting sustainable recovery.

She said the health sector continud to provide eligible people with vaccines. So far, 100 percent of the country’s population has received their first dose, while 94.75 percent are fully vaccinated.

Al Hosani pointed out that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be made available to children aged five to 11 in accredited healthcare centers.

“Scientific studies conducted by relevant international advisory commissions in charge of ensuring the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, including the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children, confirmed its clear that it benefits all age groups, as it reduces infections, hospitalisations, ICU admissions and deaths,” she said.

Authorities have stressed that vaccines do not serve as substitutes for adhering to the COVID-19 precautionary measures, which include wearing face masks and respecting social distancing guidelines. 
The Supreme Committee of Crisis & Disaster Management in Dubai also announced on Wednesday that all activities, events and social gatherings in Dubai will gradually return to full capacity from Feb. 15, in line with NCEMA’s decisions. 

The committee expressed its appreciation for the community's commitment to the country’s preventative measures.


Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu leaves hospital after overnight stay

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu leaves hospital after overnight stay
Updated 6 sec ago

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu leaves hospital after overnight stay

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu leaves hospital after overnight stay
  • Former prime minister earlier admitted to a hospital after complaining of chest pains
JERUSALEM: Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was released from a Jerusalem hospital on Thursday, his party said, a day after he was admitted complaining of chest pains.
Netanyahu, 72, was taken to the city’s Shaarei Tzedek hospital a day earlier after feeling unwell at synagogue services for the Jewish fasting day of Yom Kippur.
He underwent medical exams and stayed overnight for observation. The hospital said his tests results were normal.
The former prime minister is now returning to work and already went on his morning walk, his Likud party said, adding that he thanked the hospital’s cardiology department and intensive care unit for their help.
His hospitalization comes less than a month before Israel holds its fifth national election in under four years.
The Nov. 1 election, like the previous four, is focused largely on whether voters believe Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption charges, is fit to lead the nation.

Iran charges former Bayern Munich player Ali Karimi over support for protests

Iran charges former Bayern Munich player Ali Karimi over support for protests
Updated 53 min 53 sec ago

Iran charges former Bayern Munich player Ali Karimi over support for protests

Iran charges former Bayern Munich player Ali Karimi over support for protests
  • This comes after people took to the country’s streets in recent weeks
  • The young woman’s death sparked a wave of protests across Iran despite the government warning of harsh crackdowns

DUBAI: Tehran has charged Iranian international footballer Ali Karimi in absentia for his support of the recent anti-government protests taking place in various parts of the country.
The Dubai-based footballer, who was a former player at German sports club Bayern Munich, has allegedly been under pressure by Iranian security forces in recent days over his posts on social media, reported Radio Farda.
This comes after people took to the country’s streets in recent weeks, fanned by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after being arrested by morality police for failing to ‘properly wear’ the hijab. Amini was rushed to the hospital shortly after her arrest and died three days later.
Karimi, widely regarded as one of the greatest Iranian players of all time, condemned the young woman’s death by supporting protesters and urged security forces to avoid ‘innocent blood to be shed.’
Mehr News Agency has reportedly said that the Iranian footballer has been charged with unlawful ‘assembly and collusion with the intention of acting against national security’, wrote Radio Farda.
The football legend, once described as the Asian Maradona, was one of the first celebrities to condemn the death of Mahsa Amini, added Radio Farda.
The young woman’s death sparked a wave of protests across Iran despite the government warning of harsh crackdowns.
Videos posted on social media show demonstrations taking place in several cities across the country and around the world in support of the cause.
In one of the videos, protesters in the Iranian capital Tehran are seen gathering on Shariati Street with many women blocking it completely.


Jason Greenblatt’s ‘In the Path of Abraham’ offers an inside track on the Middle East peace process

Jason Greenblatt’s ‘In the Path of Abraham’ offers an inside track on the Middle East peace process
Updated 06 October 2022

Jason Greenblatt’s ‘In the Path of Abraham’ offers an inside track on the Middle East peace process

Jason Greenblatt’s ‘In the Path of Abraham’ offers an inside track on the Middle East peace process
  • Abraham Accords have normalized ties between Israel and an Arab quartet: UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco
  • Greenblatt: Normalization leads to a reasonable, peaceful settlement of the Middle East conflict

MISSOURI, USA: With the two-year anniversary of the historic Abraham Accords upon us, it seems as good a time as any to reflect upon the changes they heralded for the Middle East and North Africa.

The agreement has normalized relations so far between Israel and four Arab countries: the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

Jason Greenblatt’s “In the Path of Abraham” offers readers an inside account of the thinking and process which made the accords possible. Appointed by President Donald Trump in 2016 as representative for international negotiations, Greenblatt, together with Jared Kushner, Ambassador David Friedman and Kushner aide Avi Berkowitz led the US efforts to broker peace between Israel, the Palestinians and their neighbors.

The book offers a very accessible, clear and forthright account of how they approached this monumental task. In the process, Greenblatt and his colleagues had to throw out much of the received wisdom on the Arab-Israeli conflict accumulated over the years and propagated by a vast army of “experts” on the issue.

The long-held consensus view on this conflict maintained that one could not pursue peace and normalization between Israel and various Arab states until after a final peace deal with the Palestinians had been achieved.

That peace deal with the Palestinians proved ever elusive, however, even to this day, effectively giving the Palestinian political parties a veto over anything to do with Israel in the region.

The MENA region has changed over time, however, even if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict appears frozen in place.

The old experts, from academics and think tanks to intelligence officers and people manning desks in the State Department or various foreign ministries, largely failed to appreciate the changes. 

Pan-Arabism does not exert the same hold over the Arab world that it once did, and while most Arab leaders and their public remain very sympathetic to the Palestinians, they also have their own state interests to look to. 

Iran, in particular, looms very large within the risk assessments of various Arab states, and in Israel they can find a militarily and technologically powerful — and determined foe — of Iran with which to make common cause. 

An integral part of the MENA region, whether some like it or not, Israel is also not going anywhere. Indeed, in the present circumstances, Israel will neither lose sight of the threat that Tehran poses, nor fail to grasp the geopolitical significance of a nuclear-armed Iran. 

Common interests between many Arab states and Israel go beyond Iran as well, as Greenblatt so astutely understood, and the Palestinian leadership’s intransigence in the face of various Israeli peace offers over the years could no longer be permitted to veto such a confluence of interests.

FASTFACT

2020

The Abraham Accords, signed in September 2020, normalized relations between Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.

He writes: “By continuing to make perfect the enemy of the good, the Palestinian Authority had, slowly but surely, eroded much of what was once rock-solid political and financial support by its neighbors.

“For more and more Arab countries, it was one thing to support the desire of Palestinians for a peaceful state, but it had become increasingly untenable to continue to make that cause a higher priority than the competing needs of their citizens who both desired and deserved a more prosperous future as well.” 

That common interest resides not just in geopolitical alignments and threats, but in the social and economic realms as well — including energy, food, water, health, and other issues.

Greenblatt provides the example of a recent Rand Corporation study that “forecasts nearly $70 billion in direct new aggregate benefits for Israel and its four partners (the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan) in these free trade agreements over the next decade and the creation of almost 65,000 new jobs.

If all five partners, in turn, trade with one another in a plurilateral FTA, Rand calculates the additional aggregate benefits will exceed $148 billion and the jobs created to exceed 180,000.” 

The Arab leaders in the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan proved far-sighted enough and courageous enough to see all this as well and take the necessary steps. 

Advocates of the Abraham Accords model argue, rightly or wrongly, that reversing the equation of “peace with the Palestinians first, normalization with the Arab world after” increases the likelihood of arriving at an Israeli-Palestinian peace as well. As evidence, they say some 70 years of Arab League boycotts and shunning of Israel certainly did nothing to achieve peace.

For better or worse, the united Arab front against Israel convinced Israelis of the need to remain militarily strong and vigilant, decreasing their ability to imagine any scenario in which the Arab world would truly accept them and make genuine peace.

Yet since everyone pretty much agrees that an Israeli-Palestinian negotiated peace remains the most difficult and elusive objective, why not marshal the assistance of all those who share that goal? 

Most of the Arab states in the MENA region most definitely want a reasonable peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and now the ones that have normalized relations with Israel can help bring it about. 

Jason Greenblatt (L) meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 25, 2017. (AFP file)

They can help broker talks, they can help persuade both Israelis and Palestinians to find a middle ground somewhere, and, most of all, they can become stronger forces for moderate politics in the region.

Greenblatt and his team understood all this. They did not just sense that the Arab region was ready for a change in policy, however.

They tirelessly worked to help bring about the change for the better, and in the process probably improved the lives of millions in the region. 

For that we all owe them our thanks. 

Unfortunately, the people who could most benefit from reading this account behind the Abraham Accords will probably never do so. People do not, as a rule, like to read about how they were wrong. There are also more minor things in the book to take issue with, which might dissuade some readers.

Many Americans (including this reviewer) will not at all share the author’s extremely high regard for former President Trump, for instance. To such readers, the same president who threw Washington’s Kurdish allies under the bus in 2017 and 2019 — the very allies who defeated Daesh with a US-backed coalition — cannot be trusted to understand the region nor to always make the right call.

Israeli settlers throw stones at Palestinian protesters during a demonstration against settlement expansion in al-Mughayer in the occupied West Bank on July 29, 2022. (AFP file)

I would also expect Israeli policymakers to receive at least some criticism at some point somewhere in the book. The issue of illegal settlements might be a case in point — I still cannot understand how Israel can claim more land in the occupied West Bank (Judea and Samaria) without accepting (meaning offering citizenship to) the people there.

The simple unavoidable calculus supporting a two-state solution still seems to be that you cannot have one without the other — if you take all the land, you need to take all the people there too and offer them equal citizenship. If offering them equal citizenship is too dangerous for Israel, then settlements need to stop in order for the Palestinians to retain enough land for a viable and dignified state of their own — whenever they might be ready for that. 

Finally, the issue of the Iran nuclear accords remains a thorny one. The uncomfortable truth is that Iran has made more progress toward building nuclear weapons since Trump pulled the US out of the nuclear accord than in the years following its signing. There may be no good answers here as long as the US lacks the appetite for military conflict with Iran, a lack of appetite that the Obama, Trump and Biden administrations all shared.

(L-R) Bahrain FM Abdullatif al-Zayani, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, and UAE FM Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan during the signing the the Abraham Accords. (AFP)

In Greenblatt’s telling of the issue, things are a good deal simpler: The nuclear deal with Iran was a con job that Obama and Kerry fell for, and Trump put a stop to that. The counterargument is, apart from the targeted assassination of Qassem Soleimani in January 2020, the Trump administration achieved little in the matter of defanging Iran.

The regime remains solidly in place, uranium enrichment has expanded rather than quieted down, and Iranian influence in places such as Iraq and Syria is stronger than ever (especially after Trump chose to let Iranian and Iraqi forces attack Washington’s Kurdish allies in October 2017).

These quibbles notwithstanding, Greenblatt’s book remains well worth picking up. The narrative regarding peace and progress in the MENA region, including an almost contagious optimism for such, could use more space on any bookshelf.

-----------------------

“In the Path of Abraham,” Jason D. Greenblatt (New York: Wicked Son Publishing, hard cover, 325 pages). 

Reviewer: David Romano, Thomas G. Strong Professor of Middle East Politics, Missouri State University

 

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Yemen government has ‘fully’ implemented UN-brokered truce, says FM

Yemen government has ‘fully’ implemented UN-brokered truce, says FM
Updated 06 October 2022

Yemen government has ‘fully’ implemented UN-brokered truce, says FM

Yemen government has ‘fully’ implemented UN-brokered truce, says FM
  • The country has experienced the longest cessation of hostilities and violence in eight years over the last six months, resulting in a significant drop in civilian deaths

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s internationally recognized government has carried out all of its obligations under the UN-brokered truce and has made “major” concessions to clear the way for its renewal and the end of the war, Yemen’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak told reporters in the Moroccan capital Rabat that the Houthis have imposed numerous restrictions and conditions to thwart attempts to extend the truce.

He added that the Iran-backed militia has refused to pay public employees in the areas they control despite having made millions of dollars from the sale of oil ships that entered Hodeidah port during the truce.

“We carried out everything in the armistice agreement and made major concessions. The Houthis erected new roadblocks at every stage of the talks,” the Yemeni minister said, noting that Houthi artillery, explosive-rigged drones, snipers and landmines had killed or injured 1,400 government soldiers and officers, as well as 94 civilians during the truce.

The minister said that the government would only pay public employees in Houthi areas if the militia group would deposit earnings from Hodeidah port into the central bank in accordance with the UN-brokered Stockholm Agreement in 2018.

“The Houthis plundered more than 45 billion Yemeni riyals ($18 million) prior to the armistice and have not paid a single riyal in public employee salaries since the signing of the Stockholm Agreement.”

He accused Iran of using the Houthis to further its expansionist goals, vowing to oppose Iran’s attempts to seize control of the country’s resources, including oil.

“The Houthi group imposed the war in order to carry out Tehran's expansionist agenda in the region,” he said. “We will utilize our constitutional right to defend our nation and people, and we won’t let Iran take control of Yemen’s oil riches.”

The international community’s efforts to end the war in Yemen took a major hit this week when the Iran-backed Houthis refused to renew the truce and threatened to target oil ships transporting the country’s oil exports from government-controlled areas.

The Houthis rejected a suggestion to partially ease their siege of Taiz by opening at least one main road leading into and out of the city, and they told UN Yemen envoy Hans Grundberg that they would agree to renew the truce only if the Yemeni government paid public servants in areas under their control.

The country has experienced the longest cessation of hostilities and violence in eight years over the last six months, resulting in a significant drop in civilian deaths.

With the truce, which went into effect on April 2 and has been renewed twice, thousands of passengers have been able to fly from Sanaa airport, and more than 50 fuel ships have entered the port of Hodeidah, ending severe fuel shortages in the Houthi-controlled areas.

Similarly, the EU mission in Yemen has blamed the Houthis’ “maximalist demands” for undermining international efforts to renew the truce and has urged warring factions, particularly the Houthis, to cooperate with the UN’s Yemen envoy and de-escalate.

“We urge in particular the Houthis to moderate their demands and to engage constructively with UN special envoy Grundberg so that the truce can continue and develop into an effective ceasefire, paving the way for a comprehensive process leading to peace in Yemen,” the EU mission said in a statement.


Italian judges’ association condemns Iran for crackdown on protesters

Italian judges’ association condemns Iran for crackdown on protesters
Updated 05 October 2022

Italian judges’ association condemns Iran for crackdown on protesters

Italian judges’ association condemns Iran for crackdown on protesters
  • The Court of Auditors Magistrates Association rarely takes a stance on political issues, but in a communique, it criticized the Iranian regime’s tough response to demonstrations
  • Amini, 22, died at the hands of Iran’s morality police, the Gasht-e Ershad, after being held for allegedly breaching strict dress codes imposed on women

ROME: A top Italian judges’ association has condemned Iran for its crackdown on protests over the death in custody of Mahsa Amini.

The Court of Auditors Magistrates Association rarely takes a stance on political issues, but in a communique, it criticized the Iranian regime’s tough response to demonstrations taking place throughout Iran.

Amini, 22, died at the hands of Iran’s morality police, the Gasht-e Ershad, after being held for allegedly breaching strict dress codes imposed on women.

Her death has since sparked protests in almost every province of Iran over the policing of personal freedoms.

In its statement, the association expressed its “deep solidarity and closeness to Iranian women, who are demonstrating in many ways to claim their freedom and against an oppression that has lasted for 40 years, putting their own lives at risk.”

Association president, Paola Briguori, described Tehran’s actions as “horrible and unacceptable,” adding that “when fundamental rights are undermined one cannot remain silent waiting for everything to calm down.”

Briguori said the crackdown on demonstrators reflected “the legacy of a regime that constantly violates human rights and freedom of expression, repressing and nullifying women’s rights. It is time to give voice to the disapproval and to say enough.”

President of the Italian National Press Federation, Beppe Giulietti, took part in a demonstration outside the Iranian Embassy in Rome. He said the media had an important role to play in highlighting the situation in Iran and urged news organizations to “give space to those who have no voice today.”