|Newspaper urges open markets with Israel
|U.A.E.'s Khaleej Times advocates 'new approach' to solve conflict
An Emirati newspaper issued a rare call for Arab countries to forge ties with Israel, arguing that opening up the lucrative markets of the oil-rich Gulf region to the Jewish state would speed up a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"If there is contact between the Arabs and Israel, that can work positively," the English-language Khaleej Times said in a front-page commentary by publisher and chief editor Mohammed Galadari.
If the Israelis are exposed to business opportunities in the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states and see the progress these countries have made, "they will work faster to solve the problems," he wrote.
"Once contacts are there, they will see for themselves and know it is no good to remain isolated. The Israelis will see how Europeans, Americans, Japanese, Australians, Indians, Central Asians are all benefitting from the opportunities they got in the GCC states," Galadari said, referring to the United Arab Emirates and its five partners - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Galadari's call for what he termed a "new approach" to the Palestinian issue came a month after reports of meetings in February between Israeli leaders and a senior official from Dubai, one of the U.A.E.'s seven city states.
The official, Mohammed al-Abbar, subsequently denied a purported offer to buy settler homes in Gaza or that he met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
But Abbar said nothing about reported meetings in Jerusalem with Sharon's deputy, Shimon Peres, and Ilan Cohen, director general of Sharon's office.
They were the first publicly reported encounters between officials from Israel and the U.A.E., which have no diplomatic relations.
Galadari slammed what he called a "fuss" in the Arab media over Abbar's visit, saying: "His idea was to help the Palestinians by way of setting up homes for them."
Abbar is director of the Dubai government's Department of Economic Development and chairman of property developer EMAAR Properties, which has set up a company, Emaar Palestine, in the area controlled by the Palestinian Authority.
The Daily Star