Tags: Middle East | gulf | palestinians | states

Gaza Residents Left Struggling as Hamas Rebuffs Qatar

flag of qatar

The current flag of the country of Qatar.

(Steve Allen/Dreamstime)

By Friday, 25 January 2019 02:53 PM Current | Bio | Archive

In November of 2018 Qatar decided to help Palestinians living in Gaza and provide them with an aid package in the amount of $150 million.

The relief was to be used to cover the cost of badly needed electricity and for the salaries of government workers. Electrical shortages are common in Gaza. Most of the electricity that flows into the area comes via Israel and is paid for by Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority (PA) which then sells it to Hamas in Gaza.

The PA usually pays Israel for the cost of the electricity. However, the PA refuses to pay Israel when Hamas does not pay them. That’s when Abbas turns off the electricity in Gaza.

Unfortunately for Gazans, this is not a rare occurrence.

$80 million of the $150 million Qatari aid package to Gaza has been dedicated to creating an electricity substation. It’s a simple and straightforward arrangement. The people of Gaza would pay for their electricity and Qatar would make back their money.

In proposing the project Mohammed al-Emadi, the head of Qatar's Gaza Strip Reconstruction Committee, clearly stated Qatar’s goal. This aid was to help the Palestinians of Gaza but it was not a freebee, Qatar hoped to recoup at least part of the $80 million.

He said, "We will fund this project but I want to make sure I have control of the electricity so I can get my money back  . . . We need to find a solution for these 2 million people — this is our aim and goal. Not just to deliver money because Israel wants quiet or Hamas wants money." 

Now the situation gets a little complicated.

Israel has been preventing the Qatari aid from entering Gaza. But after a long discussion in the Israeli Knesset’s security committee, Jerusalem announced that they had the approval of Prime Minister Netanyahu for $15 million out of the $80 million total to enter Gaza and ease the humanitarian crisis.

According to Qatar, this $15 million is to be divided into several sections. $5 million is to be used for salaries and caring for the needy and $10 million to pay overdue energy bills, specifically for the diesel fuel that is used to run Gaza’s electricity power stations.

Once Israel approved the transfer of these essential Qatari funds, Hamas announced that they will not accept them. Hamas spokesman Khalil al-Hayya explained the reasons for Hamas’ rejection of Qatar’s aid package saying: “Al-Emadi understood why we decided to reject the funds rather than accept them under the terms decided by Israel. Gaza will not be subject to extortion by Israeli election theater.”

Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face — or in this case, causing pain to your own constituents out of a lack of understanding of your enemy’s priorities. Hamas is really convinced that Israel’s initial reservations and their subsequent acquiescence are motivated by a desire to gain electoral votes in their own upcoming national election, scheduled for April 9.

This is not naïve, it’s totally wrong.

Israel’s reservations were based on their security concerns. How would the money would be used and would it be used, as monies given to Hamas often are, to fund terror. When they ascertained that Qatar was indeed making certain that the aid package would be used for the stated purpose and the stated purpose only, Israel recalibrated and permitted the transfer of the money.

If it's not obvious, Qatar is not giving Gaza $150 million purely out of international altruism or a sense of pan-Arab unity. It’s business and they want to make some money back. More significantly, they want to rehabilitate their status as a leading Arab country.

Qatar’s reputation has been severely damaged by their conflict with Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States. By providing aid and support to Gaza they are hoping that the Arab world will see them as the regional power that steps forward when Arabs are in need.

It’s a long shot. Qatar’s plan, at least for now, is stalled.

It’s hard to be seen as a savior when your outstretched arm is rejected.

For now, Hamas is holding strong.

Hamas leadership has still not seen the light of reason and accepted the offer from Qatar, and the residents of Gaza are still left to flounder around in the dark.

Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. To read more of this reports — Click Here Now.

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If it's not obvious, Qatar is not giving Gaza $150 million purely out of international altruism or a sense of pan-Arab unity. It’s business and they want to make some money back. More significantly, they want to rehabilitate their status as a leading Arab country.
gulf, palestinians, states
Friday, 25 January 2019 02:53 PM
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