Israel-Qatar Deal to Transfer Funds to Hamas Officials Underway, Gaza Reports Say

The agreement was made possible after Israel negotiated with Qatar and received guarantees that the money will be transferred only for salary payments

Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar and Ismail Haniyeh, October 2011.
Adel Hana / AP

Israel has agreed to allow Qatar to transfer funds to the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip to pay the salaries of its civil servants, media outlets in Gaza reported Wednesday.

According to the reports, this was made possible after Israel negotiated with Qatar and received guarantees that the money will be transferred only for the stated purpose. It remains unclear whether Israel has agreed in principle only or whether the details have been finalized and an overall agreement signed.

A senior diplomatic source told reporters this week that Israel is interested in promoting the Qatari fund transfer to Hamas in order to prevent a humanitarian collapse "that will end up exploding in our faces."

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Hamas' Finance Ministry in Gaza will reportedly use the Qatari funding to pay the salaries over the next two weeks.

According to the reports, Gaza's Finance Ministry has prepared the list of officials who will receive the payments, as requested by the Qataris. It is still unknown whether security officials in the police and the security forces will also receive their salaries from the Qatari money.

Hamas has been demanding for years that the Palestinian Authority pay the salaries of public-sector workers whom Hamas hired since it took power of the Strip in 2007. Ramallah insists that it first be given full control of all government activities in Gaza, including tax collection and payments.  PA President Mahmoud Abbas has used the salary payment issue as a punitive measure against Hamas for establishing an independent administrative council for Gaza.

The proposal that Qatar would pay Hamas officials' salaries had been on the table in the past as part of the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation talks mediated by Qatar and Egypt. Hamas has insisted that the payment of salaries will be part of the agreement with the PA.

Abbas has been making it difficult to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza by opposing, for example, the entry of fuel trucks financed by Qatar. 

After Hamas seized control of Gaza, PA President Mahmoud Abbas ordered his officials employed in Gaza not to work under the Hamas government. The decision affected 65,000 civil servants and security staff. The PA promised to continue to pay their salaries even if they weren’t working, while Hamas pressed at least some, mainly in the health system, to return to work. It also hired 45,000 civil servants to fill the void. They were paid from tax proceeds collected by Hamas.