The word from Gaza on Tuesday was that residents had power for only three hours.
That latest decline sparked rumors in the Strip that Israel had already started to reduce the electricity supply, as requested by the Palestinian Authority, which is no longer ready to pay the bills for the Hamas-run Strip. In fact, however, the cause was one of the frequent technical problems in the power supply from Egypt, which also provides electricity to Gaza.
This typifies the daily reality for the nearly two million Palestinians of Gaza this past decade. Ten years have passed since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in a violent and swift coup during which 160 members of PA chief Mahmoud Abbas’s rival Fatah party were wiped out. Within three and a half days, the Hamas military wing defeated the military units of the Fatah-dominated PA, even though Abbas’s loyalists were four times more numerous. (The most powerful PA figure in Gaza at the time was Mohammad Dahlan, but he happened to be in Germany for physiotherapy treatment on his back.)
Unemployment at the end of the Hamas decade is around 40%. Poverty is widespread. Two-thirds of the population in Gaza needs help from international aid organizations. The water isn’t fit to drink. And now the power is dwindling.
If anyone hopes that Hamas might reconsider its policies, and start to invest in the citizens of the Strip instead of its military infrastructure, they should forget it. Hamas remains the same cynical organization that exploits the distress of Gaza’s residents for political gain, both locally and internationally. Sometimes against Israel, sometimes against the Palestinian Authority.
The current electricity crisis is just another example. Hamas could, if it wanted to, pay for enough electricity to significantly improve power supplies. But it prefers to spend tens of millions of shekels a month digging attack tunnels into Israel and manufacturing rockets.
According to various estimates by the PA and Israel, Hamas raises NIS 100 million ($28 million) every month in taxes from the residents of Gaza. A significant part of that amount covers the wages of its members. But a large portion is diverted for military purposes. Estimates say Hamas is spending some $130 million a year on its military wing and preparations for war.
Hamas could easily step in to pay for the electricity from Israel that Abbas is no longer willing to cover. But it adamantly refuses to do so. It stubbornly insists that the PA should pay the entire bill, without clarifying why.
Ten years after the revolt that drove it out of Gaza, the PA has decided to sever economic ties with the coastal enclave. It is doing so in stages, but that’s where it is heading: economic separation. Or, in other words, making Hamas pay for its coup.
This process raises the possibility of another war between Israel and Hamas. Some see the Israeli cabinet’s agreement to the PA’s request to reduce electricity supplies as a step that could pave the way for another round of violence.
But Israel didn’t have too many options. It can’t decide of its own accord to deduct Gaza’s electricity costs from the tax revenues it collects on behalf of the PA. And Israeli funding for electricity in Gaza is also not a realistic option.
Meantime, everyone is blaming everybody else. Hamas is trying to put the blame for the power crisis on the PA (and Israel); the PA is putting the blame on Hamas; and in the middle of it all, up pops Dahlan.
In the past few days, those close to Dahlan have leaked details of meetings he recently held in Cairo with a Hamas delegation led by the terror group’s new Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar. Dahlan’s camp is trying to sell a story that he reached an understanding with Egypt and Hamas on a formula to resolve the crisis — without restoring PA rule in Gaza.
Egyptian sources adamantly deny this, but it seems that Dahlan and Hamas are doing everything they can to give Gazans the feeling that all their woes are caused by Abbas. According to his people, Dahlan, a sworn opponent of the PA president, could solve the crisis, while Abbas, professing to seek Palestinian unity, is seeking to abuse the Gaza population by exacerbating it.
Make no mistake, both the PA and Hamas are maneuvering at the expense of the Gaza population — which amounts to real collective punishment. And still, the bottom line is clear: Those who took control of Gaza in a military coup and since then invested more than $1 billion in their military infrastructure, could have easily directed their resources to resolve Gaza’s problems. But what is the value of another few hours of electricity for the people of Gaza, compared to another few tunnels or rockets?
The absurdity continues
Some more food for thought about the Palestinian Authority, this time regarding its activities in the West Bank.
The Palestinian security services are making an ongoing, serious effort to prevent terror attacks against Israeli targets.
The security cooperation with Israel is excellent, perhaps unprecedentedly so, partly because it is out of sight of the general Israeli and Palestinian public.
Hundreds of members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Islamic State and other groups have been arrested by the Palestinian security services to prevent terror attacks on Israelis.
The absurdity is, if a member of one of those terror groups manages to slip under the radar of the PA security apparatus or the Israeli security services, and carries out an attack, then the Palestinian Authority will pay a monthly allowance to the assailant and to his family members if they are arrested by Israel — defying the US, Israel, and much of the international community.