The critical event on which the Palestinian reconciliation depended – the transfer of rule over Gaza from Hamas to the Palestinian Authority’s government in Ramallah headed by Rami Hamdallah – was supposed to occur already. Instead, it has been postponed for 10 days, until December 10, 2017, but there is doubt as to whether it will occur at all.
According to sources in Ramallah, one of the major obstacles to implementing the reconciliation is the Palestinian Authority’s difficulty in paying workers’ salaries beginning in December, the month the Hamdallah government was supposed to extend its authority to Gaza and pay salaries.
Saudi Arabia rejected PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ request to finance the reconciliation. Qatar is prepared to do so, but Abbas cannot comply because of the rift between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. He does not want Abu Dhabi’s money because it comes via his enemy in Fatah, Muhammad Dahlan.
Roadblocks to the PA Entering Gaza
Abbas sent his officials to Gaza to take their places in the government offices, but Hamas officials refused to let them enter. Ramallah’s interior minister also tried to enter his office in Gaza with senior officials, but he too was rebuffed. It turns out that Hamas’ shadow government – “The Committee” – is continuing to function despite the fact that Hamas announced its dismantlement.
Abbas insists on a full deployment of Palestinian security forces in Gaza. But Majed Faraj, head of the Palestinian General Intelligence, told Abbas that he could not send his people into Gaza because they will be unable to defend themselves against Hamas and Salafi forces.
The Egyptians accept Hamas’ insistence that security in Gaza must be managed jointly and exclusively by Gazans from two organizations, Fatah-Gaza and Hamas. The person representing Abbas in the talks, Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Abu Amr, is also a Gazan.
Even if the reconciliation fails again, there remains one notion that Egypt and Hamas support and that Abbas and the United States oppose, but not firmly enough – namely, that the reconciliation can go through even if Hamas does not disarm. Hamas is trying to make the point that at this stage the “weapons of the resistance” cannot be touched. Israel must continue to warn against the dangerous idea of a “reconciliation lite,” which is likely to return to the table if the sides still want to promote the reconciliation.