At his inauguration ceremony, Mr El Sisi, left, received Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. Mena news agency/AP Photo
At his inauguration ceremony, Mr El Sisi, left, received Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. Mena news agency/AP Photo

Egypt revives Palestinian mediator role



Cairo has moved to regain its traditional leadership role in the region with a mediation push between the Palestinians, split between rival leaderships in Gaza and the West Bank, and Israel.

On Sunday president Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority met with Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El Sisi to discuss reviving the dormant peace process and affirming the primacy of a two state solution.

This was preceded in recent months with other potentially more momentous negotiations with Hamas and the Fatah power broker Mohamed Dahlan, who has emerged as an important player in the ever-complicated conflict.

Since November last year Egypt has eased its restrictions on the densely populated Gaza Strip, which has been under blockade by air, sea and land from Israel and Egypt since 2007 when Hamas, the Islamist party affiliated with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, won popular elections.

Last month, the Palestinian Authority, based in the West Bank, pushed on with its sanctions of Hamas requested from Israel by cutting electricity to the beleaguered territory. The move designed to punish Hamas’s belligerent stalling in forming a unity government left two million Gazans with around four hours of power a day.

The thawing of relations between Egypt, which has sought to quell regional Islamist movements under the umbrella of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas has caused consternation for Mr Abbas, the Fatah chief.

Yet, Gehad Al Hazarin, a Fatah leader and spokesman for the movement in Cairo, who was involved in the meeting between Mr Abbas and Mr El Sisi on Sunday, said the octogenarian leader is unfazed.

"Abu Mazen wants an end to the divisions among Palestinian parties and to ultimately end the blockade of Gaza" he told The National.

He downplayed the rising star of security czar Mohamed Dahlan.

“This is a storm in a teacup” he said. “Egypt has reiterated that it is embracing of all sides and has thus negotiated accordingly with the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people embodied in the Palestinian Authority.”

Others such as Mouin Rabbani, a political analyst with the Washington based Institute of Palestine Studies, are skeptical of Mr Abbas’s footing.

“All relevant developments are pointing in the opposite direction”, he said referring to the formation of a unity government anytime soon. Hamas and Fatah had announced creating a unified front to stem the flow of Israeli settlements in January this year after a round of talks in Moscow.

“Israel is, to put it mildly, exceptionally pleased with Mr El Sisi and sees in him the best Egyptian development for its policies since Anwar Sadat,” Mr Rabbani said.

“It is also unlikely to be particularly perturbed by an agreement that keeps the blockade in place and in which the only relief is managed by one of its closest Arab allies and partner in strangling the Gaza Strip”, Mr Rabbani added.

Days ahead of Mr Abbas’s meeting with Donald Trump in May, Hamas released a new policy document in Doha outlining a softening of its stance towards Israel and accepting the 1967 borders of an independent Palestinian state.

The prominence of the Abu Dhabi based Mohammed Dahlan’s positioning in background talks with Cairo’s security and political elites as well as with Hamas has offered another avenue for Fatah-Hamas reconciliation especially if the Islamist movement is true to its word on seeking to turn a new chapter in its governance.

“Polls are saying that Palestinians have grown tired of Mr Abbas’s laggard and old politics that ultimately serve an American and Israeli agenda since Oslo," said Ahmed Youssef, a former advisor to prime minister Ismail Haniyeh and prominent leader with Hamas. Dahlan represents a reformist political ideology within Fatah that we can work with.”

He was even more upbeat about the turn in negotiations with the Egyptian government in recent months with Hamas’s new leader Yahya Sinwar, from the more militant wing of the Islamist movement, meeting with Egyptian intelligence chiefs last month.

"The talks with the Egyptians were urgent and shouldn't have deteriorated this much. The security portfolio with the rise of terrorism in Sinai has really brought the two sides together. We need an honest broker when it comes to negotiating with Israel" he told The National from Gaza.

Hamas has catered to Egypt’s security requests creating a buffer zone on its border replete with cameras and watch towers to track the movement of extremist militants between Egypt and Gaza.

The thaw in political ties between Cairo and Gaza gives Mr Dahlan an upperhand in legitimising his leadership potential while raising anxieties among Fatah’s old guard.

“Hamas are the first people who betrayed our nation. They are thriving on these divisions to serve the Israelis” Mr Al Hazarin said.

For now, the Israelis are keeping a watchful eye on Cairo’s manoeuvrings on deep-seated divisions in the Palestinian camp, which will remain embedded in the near future.

“These recent developments are likely to lead to a deepening of the separation and fragmentation between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which remains a key Israeli policy objective vis-a-vis the Palestinians” Mr Rabbani said.

Florida: The critical Sunshine State

Though mostly conservative, Florida is usually always “close” in presidential elections. In most elections, the candidate that wins the Sunshine State almost always wins the election, as evidenced in 2016 when Trump took Florida, a state which has not had a democratic governor since 1991. 

Joe Biden’s campaign has spent $100 million there to turn things around, understandable given the state’s crucial 29 electoral votes.

In 2016, Mr Trump’s democratic rival Hillary Clinton paid frequent visits to Florida though analysts concluded that she failed to appeal towards middle-class voters, whom Barack Obama won over in the previous election.

Everybody Loves Touda

Director: Nabil Ayouch 

Starring: Nisrin Erradi, Joud Chamihy, Jalila Talemsi

Rating: 4/5

MEDIEVIL (1998)

Developer: SCE Studio Cambridge
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation, PlayStation 4 and 5
Rating: 3.5/5

Sinopharm vaccine explained

The Sinopharm vaccine was created using techniques that have been around for decades. 

“This is an inactivated vaccine. Simply what it means is that the virus is taken, cultured and inactivated," said Dr Nawal Al Kaabi, chair of the UAE's National Covid-19 Clinical Management Committee.

"What is left is a skeleton of the virus so it looks like a virus, but it is not live."

This is then injected into the body.

"The body will recognise it and form antibodies but because it is inactive, we will need more than one dose. The body will not develop immunity with one dose," she said.

"You have to be exposed more than one time to what we call the antigen."

The vaccine should offer protection for at least months, but no one knows how long beyond that.

Dr Al Kaabi said early vaccine volunteers in China were given shots last spring and still have antibodies today.

“Since it is inactivated, it will not last forever," she said.

Essentials

The flights
Emirates, Etihad and Malaysia Airlines all fly direct from the UAE to Kuala Lumpur and on to Penang from about Dh2,300 return, including taxes. 
 

Where to stay
In Kuala Lumpur, Element is a recently opened, futuristic hotel high up in a Norman Foster-designed skyscraper. Rooms cost from Dh400 per night, including taxes. Hotel Stripes, also in KL, is a great value design hotel, with an infinity rooftop pool. Rooms cost from Dh310, including taxes. 


In Penang, Ren i Tang is a boutique b&b in what was once an ancient Chinese Medicine Hall in the centre of Little India. Rooms cost from Dh220, including taxes.
23 Love Lane in Penang is a luxury boutique heritage hotel in a converted mansion, with private tropical gardens. Rooms cost from Dh400, including taxes. 
In Langkawi, Temple Tree is a unique architectural villa hotel consisting of antique houses from all across Malaysia. Rooms cost from Dh350, including taxes.

The five pillars of Islam

The Word for Woman is Wilderness
Abi Andrews, Serpent’s Tail

The specs: 2018 Nissan Patrol Nismo

Price: base / as tested: Dh382,000

Engine: 5.6-litre V8

Gearbox: Seven-speed automatic

Power: 428hp @ 5,800rpm

Torque: 560Nm @ 3,600rpm

Fuel economy, combined: 12.7L / 100km

Pad Man

Dir: R Balki

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Sonam Kapoor, Radhika Apte

Three-and-a-half stars

A Round of Applause

Director: Berkun Oya
Starring: Aslihan Gürbüz, Fatih Artman, Cihat Suvarioglu
Rating: 4/5

The years Ramadan fell in May

1987

1954

1921

1888

Four tips to secure IoT networks

Mohammed Abukhater, vice president at FireEye in the Middle East, said:

- Keep device software up-to-date. Most come with basic operating system, so users should ensure that they always have the latest version

- Besides a strong password, use two-step authentication. There should be a second log-in step like adding a code sent to your mobile number

- Usually smart devices come with many unnecessary features. Users should lock those features that are not required or used frequently

- Always create a different guest network for visitors

FIRST TEST SCORES

England 458
South Africa 361 & 119 (36.4 overs)

England won by 211 runs and lead series 1-0

Player of the match: Moeen Ali (England)

Sarfira

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

Kill

Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, Raghav Juyal

Rating: 4.5/5

SPEC SHEET: SAMSUNG GALAXY Z FLIP 4

Display: Main – 6.7" FHD Dynamic Amoled 2X, 2640 x 1080, 22:9, 425ppi, HDR10+, up to 120Hz; cover – 1.9" Super Amoled, 512 x 260, 302ppi

Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, 4nm, octa-core; Adreno 730 GPU

Memory: 8GB

Capacity: 128/256/512GB

Platform: Android 12, One UI 4.1.1

Main camera: Dual 12MP ultra-wide (f/2.2) + 12MP wide (f/1.8), OIS, portrait, super slo-mo, hyperlapse

Video: 4K@30/60fps, full-HD@30/60fps, HD@30fps; slo-mo@240/960fps; HDR10+

Front camera: 10MP (f/2.4)

Battery: 3700mAh, 25W fast charging, 15W wireless charging, reverse wireless charging, 'all-day' life

Connectivity: 5G; Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC (Samsung Pay)

I/O: USB-C

Cards: Nano-SIM + eSIM; no microSD slot

Colours: Bora purple, graphite, pink gold, blue; Bespoke Edition in select countries

In the box: Flip 4, USB-C-to-USB-C cable

Price: Dh3,799 / Dh3,999 / Dh4,449

SPECS

Engine: 4-litre V8 twin-turbo
Power: 630hp
Torque: 850Nm
Transmission: 8-speed Tiptronic automatic
Price: From Dh599,000
On sale: Now

A QUIET PLACE

Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5

The specs

Engine: 2.9-litre, V6 twin-turbo

Transmission: seven-speed PDK dual clutch automatic

Power: 375bhp

Torque: 520Nm

Price: Dh332,800

On sale: now

SPEC SHEET: APPLE IPHONE 14

Display: 6.1" Super Retina XDR OLED, 2532 x 1170, 460ppi, HDR, True Tone, P3, 1200 nits

Processor: A15 Bionic, 6-core CPU, 5-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine 

Memory: 6GB

Capacity: 128/256/512GB

Platform: iOS 16

Main camera: Dual 12MP main (f/1.5) + 12MP ultra-wide (f/2.4); 2x optical, 5x digital; Photonic Engine, Deep Fusion, Smart HDR 4, Portrait Lighting

Main camera video: 4K @ 24/25/3060fps, full-HD @ 25/30/60fps, HD @ 30fps; HD slo-mo @ 120/240fps; night, time lapse, cinematic, action modes; Dolby Vision, 4K HDR

Front camera: 12MP TrueDepth (f/1.9), Photonic Engine, Deep Fusion, Smart HDR 4; Animoji, Memoji; Portrait Lighting

Front camera video: 4K @ 24/25/3060fps, full-HD @ 25/30/60fps, HD slo-mo @ 120fps; night, time lapse, cinematic, action modes; Dolby Vision, 4K HDR

Battery: 3279 mAh, up to 20h video, 16h streaming video, 80h audio; fast charge to 50% in 30m; MagSafe, Qi wireless charging

Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.3, NFC (Apple Pay)

Biometrics: Face ID

I/O: Lightning

Cards: Dual eSIM / eSIM + SIM (US models use eSIMs only)

Colours: Blue, midnight, purple, starlight, Product Red

In the box: iPhone 14, USB-C-to-Lightning cable, one Apple sticker

Price: Dh3,399 / Dh3,799 / Dh4,649

Gulf rugby

Who’s won what so far in 2018/19

Western Clubs Champions League: Bahrain
Dubai Rugby Sevens: Dubai Hurricanes
West Asia Premiership: Bahrain

What’s left

UAE Conference

March 22, play-offs:
Dubai Hurricanes II v Al Ain Amblers, Jebel Ali Dragons II v Dubai Tigers

March 29, final

UAE Premiership

March 22, play-offs: 
Dubai Exiles v Jebel Ali Dragons, Abu Dhabi Harlequins v Dubai Hurricanes

March 29, final

In Full Flight: A Story of Africa and Atonement
John Heminway, Knopff

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

A Long Way Home by Peter Carey
Faber & Faber

The specs

Engine: 1.5-litre 4-cylinder
Transmission: CVT
Power: 119bhp
Torque: 145Nm
Price: Dh,89,900 ($24,230)
On sale: now

Russia's Muslim Heartlands

Dominic Rubin, Oxford

The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE.

Part three: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part two: how climate change drove the race for an alternative 

Read part one: how cars came to the UAE

Tips from the expert

Dobromir Radichkov, chief data officer at dubizzle and Bayut, offers a few tips for UAE residents looking to earn some cash from pre-loved items.

  1. Sellers should focus on providing high-quality used goods at attractive prices to buyers.
  2. It’s important to use clear and appealing photos, with catchy titles and detailed descriptions to capture the attention of prospective buyers.
  3. Try to advertise a realistic price to attract buyers looking for good deals, especially in the current environment where consumers are significantly more price-sensitive.
  4. Be creative and look around your home for valuable items that you no longer need but might be useful to others.

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