A file photo of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "Abu Mazen (Photo: Reuters) A file photo of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "Abu Mazen (Photo: Reuters)

Analysis: Why hasn’t Mahmoud Abbas lifted the sanctions off Gaza

Tue, Oct. 24, 2017
CAIRO – 24 October 2017: The Palestinian reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas is moving forward in steady steps under the auspices of the Egyptian state with the aim of turning over the leaf of Palestinian division.

Great regional and international anticipation is awaiting developments that are going to extend the authority of the Palestinian government over Gaza as well as the West Bank’s institutions. The reconciliation will conclude when the Palestinian Unity Government led by Rami Hamdallah finally takes over and assumes its responsibilities in Gaza.

A Palestinian lady among destroyed houses in Gaza - Gaza Strip November 4, 2014. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

There has been a state of anticipation in Palestine, particularly in Gaza which is under a blockade by Israel and severe sanctions by Mahmoud Abbas, despite the dissolution of the Hamas Administrative Committee. A number of individuals closely-linked to the Palestinian authority have made negative statements and comments that aim to cast ill effects on the reconciliation, whereas Hamas leaders respond with silence in commitment to the recent agreement that they made with Cairo.
The young people of Gaza expressing approval of the reconciliation
Rumors and hostile statements spread from sources closely linked to the Palestinian Authority attacking Hamas and its leaders in order to disturb the reconciliation. Ahmed Majdalani, a member in the Palestinian Liberation Organization and one of the closest people to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, was one to make such hostile statements about Hamas because the organization has a delegation in Tehran.

Majdalani attributed the fact that the Palestinian Unity Government has not taken over any of its responsibilities in Gaza yet to major issues, which indicate the government’s inability to take full control of the Strip. An example of this is how ministries, establishments and institutions should be allowed to exercise full authority and operate in Gaza just as they do in the West Bank.

Another issue is the handing over of crossings and borders, and the intricate relationship that this issue has with home security; in addition to the problem that all taxes collected from the crossings have to be gathered in one treasury, and this should be the Ministry of Finance.

PLO official Ahmad Majdalani Ahmad Majdalani Facebook page

Majdalani repeated the statements that were previously made by Abbas, saying that adopting Hezbollah’s example in Palestine will not be tolerated; adding that it is a model that cannot be copied in Gaza. “…There is one authority and one law, and it is not acceptable to have two regimes and two states inside one country,” Abbas previously stated.
FILE PHOTO: Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh gestures before delivering a farewell speech for his former position as a Hamas government Prime Minister, in Gaza City June 2, 2014. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem/File Photo

Not only do the hostile statements that are made by Palestinian leaders impact the reconciliation negatively, but they also show disregard to the Palestinians’ blockade in Gaza; the Palestinians who are eagerly looking forward to the handing over of Gaza to the Palestinian Unity Government.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (AFP/File Photo)

A state of anticipation and anxiety permeated the Arab and Palestinian political, media and public circles, in addition to the demands raised by the Palestinian people asking Fatah and Hamas to put the interests of the Palestinian issue above their own factional interests. People also demanded that Hamas and Fatah consider the difficult circumstances that the citizens of Gaza are living in, which are made even more difficult by the punitive measures taken by President Mahmoud Abbas against the Strip.

A number of Palestinian political and public circles have raised their demands to Mahmoud Abbas asking him to fulfill his earlier promises of taking back his punitive measures against Gaza on the dissolution of the Hamas Administrative Committee. These circles also called upon Hamas and Fatah to unite and end the Palestinian division and to conclude the reconciliation in order to protect the national Palestinian project.

Palestinian children on January 27, 2015 in Gaza City's al-Shejaiya neighborhood. Mohammed Abed (AFP/File)

The question keeps ringing in Palestinian streets, which suffer destruction, blockade and poverty: why does President Mahmoud Abbas procrastinate taking any positive initiative to help rebuild the trust between Fatah and Hamas? Why does he procrastinate lifting the sanctions he imposed on Gaza, which he promised to end as soon as the Hamas Administrative Committee is dissolved?
Destruction in the Gaza Strip
The success of the reconciliation will be an unprecedented achievement for Abbas and can strengthen his political stance and his negotiating assets with Israel; it can also mobilize the political process which has been frozen for 11 years because of the division, and can put the Palestinian issue back on the list of regional and international communities’ priorities, after it had been neglected during the years of the division.
Destroyed Houses in Gaza
The Palestinian street is enraged that Abbas ignores lifting the sanctions. Other parties are observing the situation for fear of escalations that could be made as a response to the Authority’s refusal to give up its punitive measures against Gaza and to Abbas’s lack of commitment towards concluding the reconciliation.
A file photo of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "Abu Mazen (Photo: Reuters)

Abbas made harsh decisions against the Gaza Strip as a response to Hamas having formed an administrative committee to manage the Strip, and he demanded that Hamas dissolves the committee as a condition for lifting the sanctions.

These sanctions take the form of reducing the Strip’s share of Israeli electricity from 120 megawatts to 70, deducting 30 percent off governmental employees’ pay in Gaza, reducing medical transfers and provisions to the Strip, and reducing financial transfers to philanthropic organizations in general. All these measures have had a very deep and damaging effect on the people of Gaza.
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