Elections for a new Palestinian government will not take place by the end of the year as hoped, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said in an interview published Thursday, blaming the summer’s Gaza conflict for the delay in the vote.
Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Hamdallah said the extensive damage caused in the Gaza Strip during the recent conflict between Hamas and Israel makes elections unpractical.
“Winter is coming and people are displaced,” he said. “We’re not abandoning the plan to have elections… [but] looking for a home for them is more important than going for elections.”
The elections were a central part of a unity government deal between Fatah and Hamas, signed in May, that aimed to end the animosity between the two rival organizations. Elections were originally slated to be called within six months of the formation of a technocratic government, which happened in early June.
Hamdallah said that relations between the Fatah-controlled PA based in the West Bank and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, remain frayed.
Many donors may be cautious about committing money that could make its way into Hamas hands, Hamdallah warned, echoing comments by other officials ahead of a donors conference in Egypt slated for October 12 planned to raise money to rebuild the battered Strip.
“We are not controlling Gaza up until this moment. We are doing our best to integrate all ministries, all institutions. We are facing difficulties. We are talking about seven years of separation,” Hamdallah said.
Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, causing a bitter rift with Fatah that continued until the unity deal earlier this year.
The Palestinians hope to raise billions of dollars toward the estimated $7.8 billion required to rebuild Gaza over the next five years.
“This is a war that inflicted a lot of casualties on Gaza,” Hamdallah said. “Gaza not only needs reconstruction but also development,”
Among the plans for the rebuilt Gaza are $460 million desalination plants and a 105-megawatt floating power plant, the report said. So far only Saudi Arabia has offered funds, with a pledge of $500 million.
Hamdallah said that potential donors will want to be assured that their money doesn’t just go towards building more Hamas tunnels.
“We are keen as a government—to give assurances that this money will go toward rebuilding,” he said.
During Operation Protective Edge the IDF destroyed dozens of concrete-lined tunnels dug under the border with Israel that were used to infiltrate into Israeli territory and carry out deadly attacks, with a considerable amount of imported material that was intended for construction going instead to build attack tunnels.
But Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said Hamdallah’s problems in exerting an influence in Gaza are the result of his own ineptitude and donors should not be put off.
The PA wants overall control of armed forces in Gaza, though Hamdallah admitted that the demilitarization of Hamas “can’t be done now.”
“You cannot talk about disarmament and at the same time have the occupation,” he said referring to Israeli control in the West Bank. “Once occupation is gone, there will be certain security arrangements with Israel.”
One possible solution could be a system to verify and monitor supplies of concrete and steel into Gaza, Hamdallah suggested, and added he eventually intends to put the idea to the UN and Israel.