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The West Bank and Gaza are already being separated

Palestinian Authority (PA) employees demonstrated in Gaza City against salary cuts on 8th April 2017. [Mohammad Asad/Middle East Monitor]
Palestinian Authority (PA) employees demonstrate against salary cuts on 8th April 2017 [Mohammad Asad/Middle East Monitor]

After Palestinian Authority (PA) employees in the Gaza Strip discovered that their salaries had been cut by a minimum of 30 per cent, experts and analysts said that this is likely a first step towards the full separation of the occupied West bank and the besieged coastal enclave.

Employees noticed the cut in pay when they went to the bank to withdraw their salaries; they had been given no prior warning. Those who contacted the PA and Fatah offices in the occupied West Bank were told the decision was final and made by Fatah, the PLO and PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

During an official meeting of the Fatah Central Committee held on Saturday in Ramallah, Abbas stressed that the salary cut was a final decision. When Fatah officials from Gaza asked him to review the issue, fearing that this would cause a problem for them upon their return, Abbas blamed Hamas for the cuts and proposed a five-member committee with a five-point plan to sort out the issue with Hamas.

Read: Dahlan attacks Abbas over Gaza salary cuts

Immediately, after the news was revealed by the Fatah official from Gaza, Dalal Salameh, senior Hamas official in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, distanced his movement from the salary crisis. "It is not our issue and we have nothing to do with it at all," he said, calling on Abbas "not to mix cards".

Salameh said Abbas' five-point plan calls for Hamas to end its administration of Gaza, hand over crossings to the Fatah-led national unity government, commit to the Qatari Reconciliation Initiative, carry out presidential and parliamentary elections within three months and cancel all parliamentary resolutions and laws taken during Hamas' reign.

Dean of the Journalism Department at Al-Omah University in Gaza, Adnan Abu-Amer, said that this plan is "no more than a manoeuvre", noting that Abbas "believes that Hamas had enough time in Gaza to reinforce its position and establish its security apparatuses."

Therefore, in light of regional and international action to eradicate everything Islamic, including Hamas, he [Abbas] believes this is an historical opportunity to get rid of Hamas.

Abu-Amer stressed that Abbas "understands very well" that the regional and international powers are supporting his efforts to launch a "direct and open war" on Hamas. "Therefore, he decided to tighten the punishment of the Gaza residents, including his followers, hoping they would explode in the face of Hamas."

Political studies lecturer at An-Najah National University in the occupied West Bank, Abdul Sattar Qasim, went further, saying:

Abbas is leading a proxy war on Hamas… It is not his own war, but it is the US and Israel's war on Hamas where Abbas is no more than a tool.

Qasim insisted that the decision about the salary cut was not taken by Abbas. "Abbas only passed the decision to the government which implemented it," he told MEMO. "Abbas is carrying out an American-Israel plan which is annexing the occupied West Bank and carrying out a Palestinian state in Gaza and parts of Sinai."

He reiterated that cutting the salaries of the PA employees in Gaza is part of the "Israeli plan to paralyse the Palestinian resistance in Gaza as the salaries are the main source of cash money there." As he was speaking to MEMO he stressed that "if there had been no resistance in Gaza, there would have been no siege on it."

Qasim called for the resistance not to lay down its arms because the Palestinians had a "very bad experience with such issues," giving Fatah as an example.

We have been suffering continuous Israeli oppression without any gains since the time when Fatah gave up its arms.

Resisting the occupation is guaranteed by all international laws and conventions, he stressed.

On Sunday, Israeli army radio reported the Coordinator of the Israel Government Activities in the Palestinian Territories, Major General Yoav Mordechai, saying that Abbas has been refusing to solve the severe Gaza crises.

According to the station, Abbas has been refusing to double the amount of drinking water supplied by Israel to Gaza from 10 million cubic metres to 20 million. In addition to this, Abbas has been reusing to connect a high-voltage electricity line supplying an extra 100 megawatts from Israel to Gaza to help solve the electricity crisis and said that he also has been refusing to allow a gas pipeline to be laid down to supply the necessary gas for the electricity plant in Gaza.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Brussels, Belgium on March 27, 2017. ( Dursun Aydemir – Anadolu Agency )

These remarks came in the context of Israeli warning of an increasing crisis in Gaza as Mordechai said that 96 per cent of Gaza's water is undrinkable. However, he blamed Hamas for the Gaza crises, but he acknowledged that Abbas has been refusing to let Israel contribute to solving Gaza's chronic problems.

Abbas' policy in dealing with the electricity and gas crises in Gaza proves that he is part of the Israeli siege on it, expert on Israeli issues Saleh Al-Naami said, confirming Mordechai's remarks about Abbas.

Israeli military and security institutions are not currently seeing any strategic benefit from a potential war with Gaza, which could be ensued if Israel tightened the siege on it or does not interfere to solve some of its problems.

Political analyst Dr Usama Al-Attar wrote on Facebook that Abbas' measure regarding the salaries of PA employees in Gaza was originally the EU policy which was approved in February. "Abbas is leaving the whole of the Gaza Strip step by step," he insisted.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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