In Gaza, Qatar's cash suitcases and the hope of relaxation


Three black suitcases on the back of a sedan. Inside: 15 million dollars (13 million euros) in cash and we hope to see the tensions returning to Gaza. The picture, broadcast on Thursday evening by Israeli public television, quickly became the symbol of the turning point in indirect negotiations between the Jewish state and Hamas, which began in mid-August under the auspices of Cairo. After months of military escalation, this is a tangible sign of the progress of the discussions for a truce, and the profile of a new political balance.

This money, distributed Friday morning at the post offices of the enclave where long queues have formed, is for the 22,000 officials of the Islamist movement. An injection of vital money into the Gaza Strip, on the verge of a serious humanitarian crisis, where the plethoric civil service – was divided among the loyalists of the idle Palestinian authorities (PA, or SULTA in Arabic) and employees of Hamas – it is the last economic pillar of the territory.


Especially since over a year, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has cut the salaries of SULTA put pressure on Hamas, whose armed groups should hand over the control of the blocked Israeli enclave, in order to restore a semblance of Palestinian unity. It is largely a question of putting an end to this financial tightening that Hamas (so ruthless that it can no longer pay its employees on a regular basis) has regained the "Return March" movement. Objective: make it an instrument of pressure on Israel to obtain a loosening of the blockade and send an alarm signal to the international community.

Qatar's effort to pay these salaries over the next six months ($ 90 million or € 77 million) was, in all likelihood, confirmed by the Hebrew that the two countries do not formally maintain diplomatic relations. Without being able to go through the traditional channels – that is, the PA or the UN – is the most rudimentary option that was chosen: send Mohammed al-Emadi, Qatari diplomat in charge of Palestinian Issues , with large cuts in its baggage through the Israeli crossing in Erez, in the north of Gaza. A method revealed by the Israeli media, and confirmed by AFP, that the authorities of the Jewish state have obviously refused to comment.

The Israeli press sees a "Ransom" in exchange for a decrease in the intensity of weekly meetings along the border barbed wire. of the "Cash for calm", while Hamas claims to want a ceasefire based on "Calm for calm" (no IDF raid, no rocket). This first financial gesture also marks the resignation of Mahmoud Abbas, isolated and weakened, to oppose any agreement between Israel and Hamas, the one who has still threatened there is little to cut the rest of the budget of the SULTA devolved to the coastal enclave if both parties, as well as Egypt of Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, continued to ignore it. According to the Saudi publication Al-Hayat, Abbas would eventually fold after a meeting on Saturday between the two rais (presidents), in Sharm el-Sheikh.


"This money from Qatar [soutien du Hamas, ndlr] validated by Israel and bypassing the official circuit, marks a new era in relations between Palestinians and Israelis and Palestinians, observes the Gaza economist Omar Shaban. It is a victory for Hamas, which eventually gets the fruits of the March, but at the price of Palestinian reconciliation, even less important ". In the afternoon, Al-Emadi went to the Malaka camp (east of Gaza), the Mecca of the "return march". According to witnesses, he was greeted by applause … and some stones. "Some factions believe that Netanyahu, through Qatar, has just offered peace for $ 15 million, explains a Palestinian journalist. A part of the population feels betrayed: while the Hamas employees receive their salary, a $ 100 help has been promised to the poorest families … In other words, nothing at all. "

For the Israeli Avi Issacharoff, da Times of Israel, the lesson to be learned from this episode is that, for the moment, "Israel keeps Hamas in power" he tweeted. Paradoxical that has its share of truth: lack of a long-term strategy for Gaza and reluctant to launch a new war despite its rhetorical blows to the chin, Benyamin Netanyahu's security cabinet has few alternatives.

Correspondent of Guillaume Gendron for Tel-aviv



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