- Special Pages
The Emir H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, H H Sheikha Moza bint Nasser and the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister H E Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani arrived in Gaza yesterday to a rapturous welcome by Palestinians.
When a head of state visits another country, the news is usually covered by the media in both the countries. But the Emir’s visit to Gaza made headlines all over the world. The reason: it was a historic visit as the Emir was the first head of state to visit Gaza since the Islamist movement Hamas took control of the tiny enclave more than five years ago, and secondly, it effectively broke a blockade in force since Hamas took power in 2007. The Emir entered the Gaza Strip from Egypt at the border crossing of Rafah.
The visit is in line with Qatar’s policy of promoting reconciliation and peace in conflict zones and promoting dialogue. Qatar has stood vigorously behind the Palestinian people and has spoken against isolating the people of West Bank, which will in no way help the peace process. With the visit, Qatar is sending the message that engagement rather than estrangement and isolation is the best way to bring all the parties to the negotiation table and solve the Palestinian issue. The West and America have pursued a policy of divide and rule in Palestine, by refusing to engage with the Hamas. This is nothing but an example of double standards as the US has been open to the idea of talking even to Taliban in Afghanistan. The Hamas government has been elected by the people, and while the West hollers about the need to respect democratic verdicts all over the world, they chose to look the other way when Hamas came to power in Gaza Strip.
Qatar believes that shutting off the path of dialogue can only deepen the crisis and prolong the suffering of Palestinians. The visit is also indicative of our leaders’ courage and determination to pursue a foreign policy of their choice, not influenced by extraneous factors, which has justice and fairness as the cornerstone.
The visit has evoked moderate to extreme reactions all over the world. While the Israeli government has been viscerally critical, which is understandable, the media in the region has been appreciative. The US government reacted rather cautiously, calling the visit a humanitarian mission. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: “We share Qatar’s deep concern for the welfare of the Palestinian people, including those residing in Gaza.”
The biggest beneficiaries of Emir’s visit are the people of Gaza, who are leading miserable lives under the Israeli blockade. This is evident from the hero’s welcome which the Emir received. Also, the $400m investment which Qatar is planning in Gaza will give major fillip to the territory’s economy, in addition to improving the lives of ordinary Palestinians.
The visit will also pave the way for bringing Hamas and the West together.