On November 8, 2018, Muhammad Al-'Amadi, Qatar's envoy to Gaza, delivered three suitcases filled with $15 million in cash from Qatar to Hamas, as part of an arrangement with Israel brokered by Egypt and the UN. The money, which passed into Gaza with Israel's consent, is part of a plan promoted by Egypt to affect a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel and subsequently also reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. According to this plan, Qatar will deliver $90 million to Hamas in the next half year, in six monthly installments of $15 million, to pay the salaries of Hamas's civil servants. On November 9, 2018, the day after the delivery of the first installment, the Hamas authorities announced that the money was being transferred to the civil servants, and would also be used to fund temporary employment programs for Gaza's jobless.
The suitcases stuffed with cash (image: Facebook.com/officialfateh1965, November 8, 2018).
Reports have it that, following a meeting between Egyptian President 'Abd Al-Fatah Al-Sisi and Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas, the Palestinian Authority (PA) consented to the plan, on condition that the ceasefire be signed between it and Israel rather than between Israel and Hamas. The PA also received assurances that the plan would include efforts to promote the intra-Palestinian reconciliation with an eye to restoring the PA's control over Gaza.
Nevertheless, Qatar's delivery of the cash to Hamas sparked fury among PA and Fatah officials, which saw it as fostering the Hamas rule in Gaza and as a violation of past Qatari commitments to deliver aid to Gaza only via the PA institutions.PA officials said that, by funding Hamas, Qatar was strengthening its government in Gaza and deepening the intra-Palestinian rift, to the point where Gaza could become a political entity separate from the West Bank, which would serve the interests of Israel and the U.S. and the American "Deal of the Century." Some of them praised the Gazans who had thrown stones at the car of the Qatari envoy. Similar criticism of Qatar was also expressed in articles in the Palestinian press.
The following are excerpts from statements by PA officials and from Palestinian press articles criticizing the Qatari move.
PA Official: The Qatari Money Serves The "Deal Of The Century," Undermines The Palestinian National Enterprise
As stated, PA and Fatah officials were enraged by Qatar's financial aid to of Hamas. They claimed that this was not part of the Egyptian plan, but was a separate arrangement between Israel, Hamas and Qatar, which Egypt and the PA opposed since it strengthened Hamas's rule in Gaza and promoted its severing from the West Bank and therefore also the Deal of the Century. On November 11, the Al-Hayat daily reported, citing Palestinian officials, that 'Abbas had informed Qatari leaders that the PA and PLO opposed Qatar's move of providing funds directly to Hamas because this undermined the Palestinian reconciliation process, promoted the separation of Gaza from the West Bank, and paved the way to America's Deal of the Century.
Fatah official and PLO Executive Committee member 'Azzam Al-Ahmad said in an interview on Palestinian radio: "The issue of transferring funds to Gaza to pay salaries and buy fuel [for the power station] is an internal Palestinian matter... Whoever wants to help our people must do so via its legitimate government [i.e., the PA government] and via the PLO, not by causing a rift in the Palestinian position." Al-Ahmad added that the financial aid to Hamas was not part of the Egyptian plan but was an independent move by Qatar and the UN. In a harsher statement several days later, he said that Qatar was "fostering the [Palestinian] schism" and "had helped foment it before it occurred [in 2007]."
Another PLO Executive Committee member, Ahmad Majdalani, stressed that Qatar had acted without the PA's consent, and that it was encouraging Hamas to establish a separate entity in Gaza: "The claims made by some media outlets, that the Qatari move had been made with Mahmoud 'Abbas's consent, are all lies. Had the PA agreed to this, the money would not have been transferred in this manner, reminiscent of smugglers and the mafia, [namely] in suitcases, but would have gone through the Palestinian and Arab banks that operate in Gaza officially, not in this disgraceful way... This is an agreement between Hamas and Israel, financed by Qatar, whose primary goal is to strengthen Hamas's capabilities and encourage it to shift from a state of schism to a state of separation [from the West Bank], and to undermine the Egyptian efforts [to promote the intra-Palestinian reconciliation]... We believe that this conduct, on the part of both Qatar and Israel, encourages Hamas to reject every form of reconciliation, to perpetuate its control over Gaza and to establish a [separate] political entity, in preparation for joining the Deal of the Century." Majdalani told the Dubai-based Saudi daily Al-Hayat: "When Hamas is directly funded by Qatar, and is also funded by the PA, who finances the various government services in the Strip, what will motivate it to agree to cede power in Gaza to the official [PA] government?"
Fatah spokesman Osama Al-Qawasmeh said that the transfer of the Qatari cash to Gaza was made "on the instructions of the U.S. and with Israel's consent, [with the goal of] implementing the Deal of the Century aimed at destroying the [Palestinian] national enterprise." The secretary of Fatah's Revolutionary Council, Majed Al-Fityani, also warned that the Qatari move served the interests of the Israeli occupation, and that Hamas had revealed its true face when it agreed to sell the martyr's blood for "a handful of dollars."
Some Fatah officials praised the Gazans who had thrown stones as the car of the Qatari envoy Muhammad Al-'Amadi on November 10. They also commended Palestinian factions in Gaza such as the Democratic Front and the Popular Front which refused to participate in the meeting with Al-'Amadi on the grounds that Qatar was playing a central role in normalizing relations with Israel, and demanded instead to promote the intra-Palestinian reconciliation and avoid the establishment of a Palestinian state in Gaza only. Fatah spokesman 'Atef Abu Sayf commended the factions for their position and called on Qatar to change its policy, saying: "If your goals correspond to those of the enemy [i.e., Israel and the U.S.] – you must examine yourself."
Fatah Deputy Chairman Mahmoud Al-'Aloul also drew a link between the Qatari move and efforts to sever Gaza from the Palestinian homeland, stressing that the U.S. welcomed this move. He too praised the Gazans who had thrown stones at the Qatari envoy, saying: "Bravo to our people, the children and youths of Gaza, who threw stones at Al-'Amadi's car, which had been used to bring cash into the [Gaza] Strip.
Palestinian Columnists: Qatar Is Perpetuating The Schism And Will Bring About The Elimination Of The Palestinian Cause
Articles in the Palestinian press likewise accused Qatar of trying to cement Hamas's control of Gaza, of perpetuating the separation of Gaza from the West Bank in order to promote the Deal of the Century, and even of helping to eliminate the Palestinian cause.
Columnist Rajab Abu Sariya: Qatar Is Fostering The Schism; Its Envoy Behaves Like He's The Governor Of Gaza And Is Promoting The 'Deal Of Century'
Rajab Abu Sariya, a columnist for the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam, wrote that Qatar was implementing American and Israeli plans to spark revolutions against Arab regimes by means of organizations affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). In the case of Palestine, he said, it supported Hamas's coup against the PA in 2007 and is now perpetuating the Palestinian schism and cementing Gaza as a separate Hamas-controlled political entity. He wrote: "Nobody remembers Qatar playing any role in the Palestinian issue before 2007, not after the outbreak of the Palestinian armed rebellion and not earlier, when the PLO was founded... Nobody remembers Qatar playing any particular role in supporting the PA, financially or politically, when it was founded in 1994. [Qatar took no particular interest in Palestine] until Hamas emerged as a rival to Fatah and made its way... by taking up arms and staging a despicable coup [in Gaza] in 2007...
"After 2011, Qatar's interest in Hamas's Gaza grew... Qatar has bet on its alliance with Muslim Brotherhood [MB] organizations in more than one country in its bid to spark revolutions against their regimes and implement the international plan of primary [importance] that is led by the U.S. and in which Israel has a stake... [Qatar] aspires to transform [itself] from a small country with a small number of inhabitants into a regionally [influential] country...
"Although the Arab League chose Egypt to represent it as the sponsor of the internal [Palestinian] reconciliation [between Fatah and Hamas], Qatar's interference [already] began several years ago... And after [Egypt's] June 30 revolution ousted the MBs regime, which had been Qatar's ally... [Qatar's interference in the Palestinian issue] became an aim in itself, inter alia... in order to undermine Egypt's regional role and status. While Egypt's goal in sponsoring [the intra-Palestinian reconciliation] is to end the conflict among the Palestinians, Qatar's goal is to perpetuate the conflict and push Gaza to be severed [from the West Bank] as long as Hamas cannot take over the entire [Palestinian] Authority and the West Bank.
"Muhammad Al-'Amadi, [Qatar's envoy to Gaza], continued to enter and leave [Gaza] through the Israeli border-crossing, as though he is Gaza's representative or its behind-the-scenes governor whose role is to keep Hamas from succumbing [and meeting] its commitment to end the schism [with Fatah]. Every time popular and national pressure caused Hamas to come close to doing so, Qatar rushed to [prevent this]: it did its utmost to pressure the [Hamas] organization to resist the move and persist in its refusal to let the PA regain control of Gaza. At the same time, Qatar – by means of its representative Al-'Amadi – hurried to quell any tension that emerged between Hamas and Israel...
"Despite this, the PA was very tolerant of Qatar, since it is an Arab country, and because [the PA] did not want to direct its focus away from the Israeli enemy. In fact, it was supremely restrained [in its relations] with Hamas itself, [but when] some relatively moderate leaders emerged within Hamas, Qatar acted behind the scenes to strengthen the Hamas radicals...
"After the Palestinian people thwarted the initiative of [UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process] Nickolay Mladenov to push the Gaza [authorities] to bypass the central government [i.e., the PA], Qatar, working under the table, completed the petrol deal [with Israel], which was likewise thwarted by our [Palestinian] people. But the one behind the initiative [i.e., Qatar] did not cease its attempts, and continued to [pursue its goal] by renewing the policy of the money-filled suitcases, which, during the chaos of the MB [rule] in Egypt used to be brought into [Gaza] through the tunnels. Now this is being done through the Israeli channel."
"After the U.S. failed to create an opportunity for implementing Trump's Deal of the Century by means of Mladenov, Muhammad Al-'Amadi sought to achieve this by means of his suitcases, loaded with $15M [in cash], which he brought into Gaza last Thursday [on November 8, 2018]...
"Qatar is no doubt acting behind the scenes while relying on a particular branch within Hamas... All this is aimed at pitching the Egyptian sponsor out of the arena of the Palestinian reconciliation, and ensuring that the outcome of the reconciliation will [only] lead to [more] division..."
Columnist Muhannad 'Abd Al-Hamid: The Arrangement Between Hamas And Israel, Funded By Qatar, Will Eliminate The Palestinian Cause
Another Al-Ayyam columnist, Muhannad 'Abd Al-Hamid, wrote in a similar vein that Qatar's provision of funds to Gaza would help Israel carry out its policy of "economic peace" that eliminates the national rights of the Palestinian people and severs Gaza from the West Bank, thus precluding the establishment of an independent Palestinian state: "[According to a recent] report, 'Netanyahu says that bringing the Qatari funds into Gaza is a correct move and is necessary in order to restore quiet in the south.' Another report [reads]: 'An Israeli source discloses that the Qatari funds were brought into Gaza with the consent of all the sides, in order to pay the salaries of Hamas employees'... These reports are in harmony with one another... They speak of understandings that go beyond a [mere] lull [in the fighting] and have considerable political significance. These are political understandings that impinge on [our] national cause. This is the 'economic peace' that Netanyahu spoke about and has long been pursuing...
"These are [indirect] negotiations [between Israel and Hamas], with the involvement of [other] countries in the region and the world and with the blessing of the Trump administration. This means that the current talks are connected to the so-called 'Deal of the Century,' which is forcefully pushing to dismantle and eliminate the [Palestinian] national cause. [This Deal] has recently focused on Gaza as the weakest link, while exploiting the difficult living conditions there and Hamas's ambition to stay in power at any cost...
"The most important point is that this action ensures the severing of Gaza from the West Bank and from all the components of the Palestinian cause and of the Palestinian people... This means the certain elimination of the [Palestinians'] national rights, their right of self-determination and their human rights. In this situation, the economic incentive which motivates this policy will bring no economic prosperity to most of the people..."
 Reports indicate that, in arranging this aid to Hamas, Qatar is not negotiating directly with Egypt but is acting vis-à-vis Israel in coordination with the UN. See e.g., Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (November), November 8, 2018.
 Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), Al-Quds (Jerusalem), November 2, 2018; Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), November 10, 11, 2018.
 According to the arrangement with Israel, in addition to paying the civil servants' salaries Qatar will also provide $60 million in the next six months to fuel the Gaza power plant. Palinfo.com, November 7, 2018; Filastin (Gaza), November 9, 2018.
 Al-Hayat (Dubai), November 4, 9, 2018.
 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), July 3, 2018. See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1414, Hamas Officials, Pro-Hamas Writers Legitimize Indirect Negotiations With Israel, Explain The Benefits Of A Deal With It, September 4, 2018.
 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), November 11, 2018.
 Al-Hayat (Dubai), November 11, 2018.
 Samanews.ps, November 6, 2018.
 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (November), November 8, 2018.
 Palsawa.com, November 12, 2018.
 Palsawa.com, November 10, 2018.
 Al-Hayat (Dubai), November 9, 2018.
 Alwatanvoice.com, November 10, 2018.
 Palsawa.com, November 11, 2018.
 Alwatanvoice.com, November 9, 2018; Samanews.ps, palsawa.com, November 10, 2018.
 Palsawa.com, November 11, 2018.
 Al-Ayyam (PA), November 13, 2018.
 Al-Ayyam (PA), November 13, 2018.