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THE CITIZEN BUREAU | 8 SEPTEMBER, 2014

Abbas Threatents to Disband Palestinian Unity Govt

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas recites a prayer in memory of those killed during the seven-week


NEW DELHI: Barely few weeks after a unified Palestinian side negotiated with the Israelis in Cairo in a bid to end the latter’s 50 day assault on the Gaza strip, fissures have emerged with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas threatening to disband the recently unified Palestinian government.
Abbas accused Hamas, who control the Gaza strip, of running a “shadow government” in violation of the unity deal between Fatah and Hamas. Demanding "one authority, one gun, one law,” Abbas said that the Palestinian government could not do "anything at the moment in the Gaza Strip" because of Hamas’ actions.

"We won't accept a partnership with [Hamas] if the situation continues like this in Gaza where there is a shadow government of 27 deputy ministers who are running the territory,” Abbas said during a three day trip to Cairo that commenced this weekend.

Abbas’ comments come at a crucial period as the following week has been set for talks to implement the reconciliation agreement. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, speaking with the AFP, said that the international community has threatened the PA with a boycott if it attempts to pay the salaries of former Hamas employees in Gaza, which is a key feature of the unity deal between Hamas and Fatah.

Hamdallah, who heads the unity government that came into effect following the Hamas-Fatah deal on June 2, said that the payment of wages had turned into the main stumbling block to an intra-Palestinian reconciliation deal. As Ma’an News reports, Hamas has demanded the new government take responsibility for paying its 45,000 employees, some 27,000 of which are civil servants, and the rest are members of the Hamas police and security forces. The Hamas government, before stepping down in June, had been unable to pay the wages of its employees for months due to an economic crisis. However, as Hamdallah has revealed, the Palestinian government has been warned against channeling any money to anyone employed by Hamas, which Israel, along with the United States and Europe, considers a terror organisation.

"The government and the banks operating in the Palestinian territories were warned that if they make these payments to former Hamas government employees in Gaza then the government and the people will be boycotted. If this happens, the Palestinian banking system will face a huge problem that will threaten the Palestinian situation in general," Hamallah told AFP.

This inability to pay former Hamas employees has become the main reason why the Palestinian government has been unable to operate in the Gaza strip, with Hamas still functioning what Abbas has called a “shadow government.”

Many analysts believe that Israel’s reservation over the Fatah Hamas unity deal led it to attack the Gaza strip to pressurise Hamas. The deal was the final straw in an already complicated peace negotiation between Israel and Palestine, brokered by the US. Both the US and the EU supported the unity deal, whilst backing the need for a two-nation solution. Israel however, took a strong opposing stand to the unity government, suspending peace talks with Palestine over the move. Following a six hour cabinet meeting led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a statement issued read that Israel will “not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas, a terror organisation that calls for the destruction of Israel". Pinning the blame on the Palestinians for the talks being suspended, the statement added that the deal was "a direct continuation of the Palestinian refusal to advance the negotiations".

However, the peace process faced complications from the start with another thorn in the talks being the issue of release of Palestinian prisoners, with the talks reaching a deadlock after Israel’s reversal on the scheduled release of Palestinian prisoners in early April. Israel blamed Palestine’s decision to restart a push for membership for 15 UN bodies for the decision, which in turn was itself a response to Israel’s delays over prisoner release.

The move marked a compromise of two key confidence building measures put in place in 2013. Palestine agreed to suspend a move for recognition by UN bodies in exchange for the release of 104 prisoners that had been jailed before the Oslo Peace Process by Israel. The last group of these prisoners, also the most controversial, had been scheduled for release but delays prompted Palestine to respond by restarting a campaign for unilateral recognition by the UN.

Tensions soured between the two sides when Israel carried out bombings in besieged Gaza strip territory, saying the measures were in response to rockets fired into southern Israel. The rocket attacks, from which no casualties were reported, were claimed by the military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Al-Quds Brigade and came a day after Israel killed three of its members in an air strike. The Israeli military called the rocket attack "the most substantial attack" in two years against the country. Palestinians consider Israeli incursion beyond the pre-1967 territorial lines to be illegal and an obstacle to peace, whereas Israel refuses to recognise what has been termed as the 'Green line' as a starting point for negotiations.

Israel’s demand that Palestine recognize the former as “Jewish State” also led to complications, with a resolution released at the headquarters of the Arab League in Cairo on the grounds that it will undermine the rights of Palestinian refugees who are integral to the peace process. The statement backed Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas who refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state despite facing international pressure.

With Israel refusing to recognise the unity government, negotiations between Israelis and the Palestinians will continue to face complications. Further, with the US and EU whilst backing the unity deal but threatening with a boycott if its measures, including the agreement to pay former Hamas employees, are implemented, any attempt at a unified Palestinian presence will be impossible to achieve. This, in turn, will perpetuate what Abbas has called Hamas’ “shadow government,” in Gaza.

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