Palestinian Authority Backtracks: 6,000 Gazan Employees Won’t Be Forced to Retire Early

After saying it would impose early retirement on masses of its employees in the Strip, including doctors and teachers, PA retracts the pressure tactic on Hamas

Palestinian schoolchildren and teachers stand outside their classrooms on the first day of the school year at a UN-run school in Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip, August 23, 2017.
IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/REUTERS

The Palestinian government in the West Bank rescinded its decision to send 6,145 public workers in the Gaza Strip, whose salaries it pays, into early retirement.

The move was announced on Saturday by Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, who spoke at the dedication of new departments in the public hospital in Hebron. According to Palestinian news agencies including the official Palestinian Authority agency Wafa, Hamdallah said the decision was made with the approval of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

In July, the government in Ramallah announced its intention to impose early retirement on around half of the PA employees working in the Strip. It was one of a number of measures meant to punish the Hamas government for establishing an independent administrative council for Gaza. In his remarks at the dedication ceremony, Hamdallah again called on Hamas to dissolve the council and allow the “consensus government” to resume.

As of last week, when the new school year began in the Gaza Strip, the names of the candidates for early retirement had not been published, causing great confusion and anxiety among teachers and health employees. The punitive measure against Hamas, whose efficacy was in any case in doubt, further undermined the image of the PA and of Abbas in the eyes of a generally supportive part of the community.

Additional punitive steps against Hamas have included reducing the amount of electricity purchased from Israel for the Strip, suspending payments to 277 prisoners released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange who are identified with Hamas, and stopping payment of salaries of Hamas members elected in 2006 to the now-paralyzed parliament who live in the West Bank.

In the past month, officials from Abbas’ Fatah movement have held talks with representatives of Hamas over the proposed early retirements. In addition, Hamdallah met in the West Bank with Hamas representatives. That followed a courtesy meeting held by Abbas with Hamas legislators after he underwent tests at a West Bank hospital on July 29. In the wake of the meeting, payments were restored to around one-fourth of the prisoners.