Handing out Qatari money in Gaza

Hamas' poker face

Analysis: Playing a game of nerves with Benjamin Netanyahu until the bitter end, Hamas has the ability to tip the whole table over, and knock its opponents off balance.

Let us deviate for a moment beyond the boundaries of the Israeli discourse, and take a look at recent events in Gaza from the Hamas perspective: The third tranche of desperately needed Qatari money was delayed for more than two weeks, even while they showed restraint and politely explained to Egypt politely that the provocations on the Gaza-Israel border were the work of Islamic Jihad, and they refrained from responding with rocket fire despite the fact that a person had been killed in the Gaza Strip.



Hamas leaders live alongside their own people, and Gaza is at the moment a pressure cooker of civil servants who last received a salary in August, those expecting a $100 payout from the Qatari money, the bitter sourpusses who are not on any list for a handout, and the ideologues who think the whole business is a fire sale of Palestine and accuse Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Yahya Sinwar of turning into replicas of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.


Waiting for money from the Qatari funds in Gaza
Waiting for money from the Qatari funds in Gaza


This money-transfer arrangement with Hamas is a responsible one intended to prevent another round of fighting in Gaza in which Israel has no interest. The problem is in the execution. The negotiations with Hamas were conducted amateurishly, and the startling agreements reached at the beginning (the cash dollars, the salaries for Hamas activists, the failure to insist on an absolute cessation of violence) are difficult to alter now. The Qataris are now far less enthusiastic about the mobile ATM they have set up — even if tens of millions here and there do not bother them much, they are beginning to understand that Gaza is a bottomless pit, especially when it comes to electricity.


What is more, transferring the cash directly to Hamas puts the Qararis at risk of finding themselves on blacklists for supporters of terrorism. And in return for all of this, they are on the receiving of end of abuse on social media from ordinary, unappreciative Palestinians who accuse them of collaborating with Israel.


Protests on the Gaza-Israel border fence  (Photo: EPA)
Protests on the Gaza-Israel border fence (Photo: EPA)


Netanyahu has elections looming and Sinwar knows that he could work this to his advantage. But Hamas also has its own public opinion to worry about, and some of its members did not like the Qatari arrangement. These disgruntled activists cut the leadership some slack, however, especially since some of them got to benefit from the money.


The new delays and conditions imposed on Gaza by Israel were interpreted as humiliating. The "March of Return," which began about 10 months ago, was a move born out of desperation but with a much greater goal - to break the siege on the Gaza Strip once and for all, and, in the eyes of Hamas, to significantly improve the economic situation.


Salaries, electricity, development projects and medicines all need money and the Hamas leadership does not want to stand with their hands out month after month for a meager $15 million grant, which is a drop in the ocean when it comes to Gazans' urgent needs.


For now, Hamas is playing its hand close to its chest, and the question now is — will Israel fold first?  


פרסום ראשון: 01.27.19, 11:40
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