Photo Credit: Michal Fattal/Flash90
Mohammed Dahlan in Ramallah, December 16, 2006.

Police in Sharjah, the UAE’s third-largest emirate (behind Abu Dhabi and Dubai) have banned New Year’s Eve firework displays and celebrations as a “sincere expression of solidarity and humanitarian cooperation with our brethren in the Gaza Strip.”

New Year’s Eve festivities in the UAE, particularly in Sharjah, prominently feature fireworks, drawing tourists who seek to celebrate the end-of-year holidays. The ban means a considerable financial penalty to the emirate, and it also highlights the degree of UAE involvement in restoring the Gaza Strip.


A month ago, the United Arab Emirates announced they would uphold diplomatic relations with Israel, despite global criticism of the escalating casualties in the Gaza war, with the hope of exerting some “moderating influence” on the Israeli military campaign while safeguarding its own interests.

The Emirates continues to stand out in providing humanitarian aid to the Strip, where they’ve been investing more economic power than other countries. It started with the field hospital the UAE established in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. It is the most significant hospital that was brought into Gaza, both in terms of equipment and resources, even featuring CT imaging.

The UAE has also established a desalination plant on the Egyptian side of Rafah, which began to flow desalinated water into the Gaza Strip through one pipe, with a plan to connect a second pipe. The Emirates thus became the only country other than Israel that supplies water to Gaza.

It should be noted, however, that the desalination plant is more a public relations ploy than actual assistance: it will only bring in 2,300 cubic meters of water per day, compared to the 30,000 daily cubic meters coming from Israel.

The UAE is also very visible in bringing into Gaza ambulances, tents, and food packages, in numbers that far outweigh other Arab donor nations such as Saudi Arabia. The Gazan on the street is more likely to encounter examples of UAE generosity than anyone else’s (and, of course, Israeli acts of generosity are ignored).

In mid-November, there was much press coverage of a group of eight children from Gaza and their families, who arrived in Abu Dhabi for treatment after being evacuated through the Rafah border crossing to Egypt.

Reshet Bet Radio suggested Sunday morning that the emirates are doing this to increase their regional influence and their footprint ahead of other countries in the region, especially their pro-Iran rival Qatar.

The UAE is buying a seat at the table for the day after the war, where their agenda will be to install the former head of PA security services in the Gaza Strip, Mohammed Dahlan, as governor of Gaza, possibly as a first step in crowning him Chairman of the Palestinian Authority after Mahmoud Abbas.

Dahlan, who was accused before his ouster from Gaza of torturing Hamas members and of plotting the 2006 assassination attempt on Ismail Haniyeh, has been on the outs with Chairman Abbas and is awaiting the call to save Gaza in his UAE home.

So far, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been quashing the attempts of his war cabinet ministers Benny Gantz and Yoav Gallant to start a thorough discussion of “the day after the war,” although he did make it clear that the IDF would continue to monitor and control the security situation in Gaza for years to come. In that context, the PM might consider going with a known entity – Dahlan, and a friendly Arab peace partner, the UAE, as the best of all evils.

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