The Palestinian Authority has included some 20,000 Hamas employees in its 2018 budget, thus removing any obstacle hindering the implementation of the “reconciliation” agreement between the two factions, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah announced on Saturday.
He called on Hamas to allow the PA government to assume full responsibilities in the Gaza Strip, including tax collection and control of the border crossings with Egypt and Israel.
Hamdallah also demanded that the PA be allowed to enforce law and order in the Gaza Strip through its police force and judicial system and urged Hamas to permit PA civil servants in the Gaza Strip to return to their jobs.
Hamdallah’s statements came during a visit to the town of Anabta in the Tulkarem area of the West Bank.
The Palestinian Authority prime minister did not provide details about the Hamas employees who have been added to the PA payroll.
The Hamas employees do not include members of Hamas’s military wing or other security apparatuses, a senior Palestinian official in Ramallah clarified.
Hamas, an Islamist terror group, has strongly rejected the idea of laying down its weapons or dismantling its military wing in the context of any agreement with the PA.
Hamas has also long demanded that thousands of its employees be incorporated into the PA government as part of any deal to end the dispute with PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction.
Hamas appointed thousands of employees in its government institutions after its violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007.
Then, the PA instructed its civil servants in the Gaza Strip not to work under the Hamas administration. The PA employees continued to receive salaries although they did not report to work.
Some PA employees who tried to return to their jobs after the signing of the Egyptian-brokered “reconciliation” accord in Cairo in November 2017 were expelled by Hamas.
Hamas maintains that the issue of its employees must be solved before the PA civil servants are permitted to return to their jobs.
Hamas recently accused the PA government of “misleading” the Palestinian public about its intention to implement the “reconciliation” agreement and called on Hamdallah and his cabinet ministers to quit.
“President Abbas and the government are ready to assume all responsibilities in the Gaza Strip as soon as the government is empowered (by Hamas),” Hamdallah said.”The Gaza Strip is an integral part of the homeland and the Palestinian state.”
The PA leadership and government, he added, are “committed to national reconciliation and unity.”
In response to Hamdallah’s announcement, senior Hamas official Salah al Bardaweel said the PA was dealing with the Gaza Strip as if it were an “inheritance that it must lay its hands on.”
According to the PA, he added, the “empowerment of its government means the total exclusion of the other party.”
“They want Hamas to hand over everything and to have no presence on the Palestinian political map,” Bardaweel charged in an interview with Hamas’s Aqsa radio station, referring to the PA. “The Palestinian Authority does not understand that reconciliation means partnership and unity to confront the occupation. Rather, they understand it as being part of their effort to remove Hamas from power.”