In an interview with the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat, Saif al Islam Qadafi, the second son of the Libyan leader Col Muammar Qadafi, said the aid ship Hope routed earlier this week by the Qadafi International Charity and Development Foundation to Gaza, has achieved its main goal, although it didn't dock at a Palestinian port. "We didn't expect or even dream that things would turn out the way they did. The UNRWA agency told me they didn't manage to spend a single dollar on the reconstruction [of Gaza] due the Israeli blockade," Mr Qadafi said.
"Now, with the arrangement that was reached, we can say that the reconstruction process has effectively started. The Israelis, after an agreement with our Egyptian brothers of course, have consented to Libya spending $50 million through the UNRWA on aid for the Palestinian people and reconstruction efforts without any interference." In terms of the deal that was sealed between the Israelis and the Egyptians, Mr Qadafi said: "The Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak called Maj Gen Omar Suleiman, the head of Egyptian intelligence, which is no secret. After both parties made an arrangement, they sent us a formal letter saying that they both agree to the disbursement of Libya's $50 million that was approved during the Arab summit on the reconstruction of Gaza."
In spite of all the pressure and international resolutions against it, Hizbollah has managed to safeguard its military power, says Emile Khoury in the Lebanese newspaper Annahar. Whether it succeeds in maintaining sole control over its arsenal or bend to repeated requests to put it under the command of the Lebanese government remains to be seen. Hizbollah officials have made it clear, especially after the 2006 war with Israel, that any attempts to dissolve or marginalise it would be violently countered. The Party of God claims that its presence is the one hurdle standing in the way of Israeli occupational projects. However, numerous voices in Lebanon are calling for Hizbollah to become part of the national army.
There is some suggestion that Hizbollah would not give up control of its weapons but would, at best, agree to co-ordinate with the army; the argument being that its operations as a stealth resistance force are impractical for a conventional army, the writer notes. Yet, if Hizbollah insists on maintaining power, no peace will in the region will happen any time soon, for Israel's single issue is "its security". In general, when there are armed factions beyond the control of their governments, peace and security remain the stuff dreams are made of, the writer concludes.
In a bold move, Qatar made the decision to impose revenue taxes on foreign companies as of this year. Long before, Kuwait took a similar measure, and for a few years now, a value added tax has been mulled by other GCC states, writes Mohammed al Assoumi in the opinion pages of the Emirati newspaper Al Ittihad. Gulf states have long relied on petrodollars to fund their mega-projects, but the oil era is coming to an end; not necessarily because of the relative decline in oil revenues, but due to the major changes that have occurred within the Gulf economies over the past few years.
Considered tax havens, GCC states have enjoyed an influx of investments which played a big part in speculation that have shaken local stock markets. That investment played an even bigger role in quickening the pace of vital infrastructural development in those countries, the writer notes. Being so tightly linked to foreign investment, the question of taxes proves a complicated one indeed. There is still no legislative or legal platform which a prospective tax system could be implemented on. Even Qatar's move is preliminary. A whole structure from tax collection and auditing, to mechanisms for spending in the public sphere, would have to be put in place if the Gulf is to take that dip into the world of taxation.
"We rooted for Hope, the Libyan-chartered ship carrying aid to the besieged Palestinians, to make it to its planned destination, the Gaza Strip, and break the oppressive blockade enforced on two million people," the London-based newspaper Al Quds al Arabi stated in its editorial. "But the fact that it changed course and docked in Egypt's al Areesh port and unloaded its cargo there remains a commendable achievement."
The organisers knew beforehand that the Israeli authorities would not allow the ship to berth in Gaza. The mission wasn't really about bringing humanitarian aid to a besieged people; it was more about exposing once again Israeli arrogance to the world. And the Libyan ship has succeeded in doing just that. Confronting Israeli occupation needs to take various forms, and sending aid ships to break the blockade on Gaza is one of the more civilised ways to do so. These ships speak to the collective human conscience and lay bare Israel's phoney claims.
The Libyan ship has given hope to the people of Gaza and another push to the international civil resistance movement. It will also pave the way for other civilian ships to show their solidarity with the Gazans. * Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi firstname.lastname@example.org