The Palestinian reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fatah looks as though it is about to evaporate into thin air in the West Bank and Gaza.
Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV reported Friday night that Hamas ministers will return to work as sole rulers of the Gaza Strip by the 15th of Ramadan (July 13) if the Palestinian Authority doesn’t pay the salaries of roughly 40,000 Hamas government clerks. Those same 40,000 Palestinians have been the focus of discord between Fatah and Hamas since the formation of the national unity government in April.
Hamas has demanded that the the government pay its workers, while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his associates claimed that the reconciliation agreement had dictated that a special committee would decide which employees would continue to work for the PA government and receive salaries from it. Those decisions have yet to be made.
Qatar has already expressed willingness to front the funds, but there is no way to do so — banks refuse to transfer the money to Hamas members’ accounts because of international laws restricting aid to terrorist groups, and Egypt refuses to let Qatar transfer cash overland into the Gaza Strip. Abbas, for his part, is not prepared to pay the salaries, and certainly not after the kidnapping and murders of three Israeli teens last month.
For the time being the rocket fire from Gaza into Israel continues. It appears as if Hamas is conveying a message to the various small factions that they’re allowed to launch, and that it doesn’t intend to stop them.
Israeli experts claim time and again that Hamas is in a state of unprecedented weakness because of the IDF crackdown in the West Bank, and that perhaps this is what’s caused it to resort to rocket fire at Israel.
The true story is likely a little different, and the blow the organization has suffered in the West Bank is not as mortal as the IDF describes. It would appear as if Hamas’s weakness in Gaza and the renewal of rocket fire by the Islamist group stem from the salary crisis and the failure of the reconciliation deal with Fatah. At present the organization does not possess the means to pay its people’s salaries. Its greatest concern is that public frustration in Gaza will ultimately be directed at its members. Perhaps, then, Hamas feels it’s better to create tension with Israel (not a full-scale escalation) in a bid to increase pressure on Egypt to permit the transfer of funds or salaries to the Gaza Strip.
On Friday evening, an anonymous senior Hamas official spoke to the Palestinian Sawa news agency. He said that “those who expect Hamas to stop the rocket fire (against Israel), should turn to (Palestinian Authority Prime Minister) Rami Hamdallah.” He added that the situation in the Gaza Strip was the consequence of not paying Hamas clerks’ salaries.
In other words: Salaries in exchange for calm.