Home inContext Abbas Questions Hamas’s Unity Deal

Abbas Questions Hamas’s Unity Deal

Michael Johnson

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas chastised Hamas over the weekend, saying the terrorist organization refuses to let the PA operate in Gaza. Abbas also threatened to end the unity government, to which both sides agreed in April.

On Saturday, the Palestinian news agency WAFA reported that the Palestinian President criticized Hamas’s “shadow government that consists of 27 deputy ministers” who run Gaza, saying they “rendered helpless” a unified Palestinian front. Before speaking at an Arab League meeting of Foreign Ministers, he also accused the militant group of committing more than 30 extra-judicial executions in August during the war with Israel.

Abbas at a meeting of the Arab League. (Photo: Reuters)

“Abbas’ statements against Hamas…are unjustified,” retorted Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri in a statement. Gaza’s rulers would meet “soon” with their Fatah counterparts to recommit to a single government across the Palestinian Territories said Zuhri.

Hamas and Fatah worked together at ceasefire talks in Cairo during Operation Protective Edge, which led to an open-ended ceasefire with Israel on August 26th. But with the end of the fighting, long running divisions between the two competing factions emerged.

Most notably, the argument over how to pay Hamas civil servants in Gaza remains unresolved. Since forming the unity government, Hamas has demanded that the PA pay 45,000 employees, 27,000 of whom are civil servants, who work for the government in Gaza. However, the PA has balked at the idea, worrying that paying rival Hamas officials could jeopardize millions of dollars in aid given to given to Ramallah each year. Large Western donors, including European governments, who contribute a sizable portion of the PA’s budget, consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

Ultimately, Abbas seeks to improve his standing with the international community, particularly with the Arab world. During the war between Israel and Hamas, he criticized what he saw as Israeli heavy handedness. However, his refusal to endorse Hamas’s brutal tactics now make him the preferred interlocutor between the Palestinians and Israel, the U.S., and EU.