Does the Palestinian prime minister’s visit to Gaza mark the end of internal divisions?

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Hamas' former Gaza prime minister and leader, Ismail Haniya (2ndR) welcomes Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah at his house in Gaza City on October 9, 2014. (Photo: AFP-Said Khatib)

By: Hani Ibrahim

Published Friday, October 10, 2014

While many of its residents are still displaced, Gaza welcomed Palestinian Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah and ministers from his cabinet who came through the Erez crossing in coordination with the Israeli occupation.

Gaza – Large crowds warmly greeted the prime minister of the Palestinian unity government, Rami al-Hamdallah, and cabinet ministers as people wondered about the purpose of eight years of internal division if their fate is to “be together to end the occupation,” as Hamdallah himself put it. Despite the warm welcome, people noted the arrival of the Palestinian government after coordinating with the Israeli occupation and the Israeli coordination officers as they came through the Erez crossing.

It was interesting to see pictures of bearded Hamas policemen with members of a small force from the presidential guard with their distinct appearance and uniform accompanying Hamdallah. Hamas speakers tried to remind the prime minister that the security deployment which secured the entry of cabinet ministers was overseen by forces that have not been paid for six months. All of this, however, did not eclipse the great popular welcome that the delegation received, especially in Beit Hanoun in the north and al-Shujayeh neighborhood in the east.

After this tour, the unity government held its first meeting in the house of the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Mahmoud Abbas, in Gaza, which was turned a day before the visit into a temporary headquarters for the premiership. The meeting lasted for two hours only before the ministers went to the house of the former prime minister of the Gaza government, Ismail Haniyah, to meet with him and members of the Hamas political bureau in addition to a number of security agency leaders in the Gaza Strip.

The deputy prime minister, Mohammed Mustafa, placed the visit in a context that “will reassure donor nations that the reconstruction process” is going well. He told Al-Akhbar in an interview that the aim behind the series of successive meetings in Gaza is for “the government to continue its work in the Strip to the fullest extent and to work on creating the right atmosphere to hold the elections.”

Hussein al-Sheikh revealed that building materials will enter Gaza early next week, stressing in an interview with Al-Akhbar that the government will take over the two crossings of Karam Abu Salem and Beit Hanoun so the crossings would be opened officially by the end of next week.

Justice Minister Salim al-Saqqa, who is from Gaza, said that money for the salaries of civil servants affiliated with the former Gaza government was transferred from Doha to New York. He added that they are waiting for procedures to arrange the transfer of $30 million to pay employees before the end of this month.

As far as Hamas is concerned, Haniya expressed his belief that this visit represents “hope for a new future.” He stressed during his meeting with Hamdallah the need to start implementing government tasks, “and foremost among them are the issues of employee salaries and reconstruction.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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