Hamdallah Admits Unity Government is Powerless
Ten days after the swearing in of the Fatah-Hamas unity government, unity Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah admitted on Thursday that his government is effectively powerless, and lacks any authority in Hamas-controlled Gaza.
In an hour long interview with the New York Times, Hamdallah proposed no concrete plans for integrating the military forces of both sides, a point of contention even from before the government's formation.
That issue, along with all security matters, would be the responsibility of a high commission to be appointed in the future by Abbas, according to Hamdallah.
Hamdallah complained about his ministers, who were selected through Fatah and Hamas negotiations. He said he would have chosen "very few" of the ministers if it was up to him.
The new prime minister also acknowledged "you have to be realistic - we're not in control," when asked when he would visit Gaza. He cited the reunification of Germany which started around 1990, saying "up until now, they are still working on that, so don’t expect we’ll do it all in 24 hours.”
Highlighting the lack of control in Gaza, Hamdallah admitted that the recent crisis over payment of Hamas employees' salaries in Gaza, which led to the closing of all the region's banks last week until this Wednesday, was not solved by his government.
The prime minister said the financial bail-out from Qatar and public pressure in Gaza, where 40,000 Hamas employees and roughly 70,000 Fatah employees were left without pay, led to the reopening of banks by Hamas.
As for next month, Hamdallah said the PA would not pay Hamas employees, and has not been promised by Qatar or other countries to bail them out again, indicating the crisis will likely repeat itself.
"This is not in our hands"
Another issue in Gaza which has caused the poor financial situation is the Egyptian siege on the Hamas-enclave, given that Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood which has been at odds with the new military-backed government.
While a senior Egyptian official revealed Saturday newly elected President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's administration is considering giving the unity government supervision of the Rafah crossing from Gaza to Sinai, Hamdallah said negotiations with Egypt on the issue have not yet begun.
“I wish I could open it (the Rafah crossing) yesterday, but this is not in our hands," Hamdallah opined.
The unity government's limitations in terms of Gaza are such that it can not even collect taxes in the area.
A five-member committee was appointed on Tuesday by the government to deal with integrating Gaza. It hopes, among other things, to reverse an old order by Abbas exempting Gaza residents from taxes, following the 2007 violent seizure of the area by Hamas.
"We will be asking people to pay their electricity bills," Hamdallah said, adding "we’re not going to do it tomorrow."
The new unity government is set to be in office for six months, when national and legislative elections are to be held in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
It has been charged that the formation of the unity government as a "non-partisan, independent government" of 17 "technocrats" is an attempt to deflect criticism over Hamas's involvement.