It was reported today that Salam Fayyad the Palestinian Prime Minister will be unable to pay the salaries of Palestinian Authority workers (viewed here) at their full wage for this month. This is a result of Israel’s withholding of Palestinian taxes due to them under the conditions of Olso and can be viewed here. As the article explains this covers two-thirds of Palestinian Authority salaries and the justification Israel has given is that they do not want any money going to Hamas. This is a hollow argument for a couple reasons, the first being this money is the Palestinian’s and it is their choice how to spend it. Second the majority of PA officials are of the security forces who are trained to fight Hamas. Third if you start to punish the people paid to fight another organization they will be more susceptible to that organization they are trying to fight.
Hamas got to where it is today by funding the marginalized sectors of society through its social services wing. So Israel’s answer is to put more people into that camp as it sees a potential of Hamas getting money? Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the two main groups in Gaza have agreed to abide by the truce they have with Israel even after the reconciliation deal. Now say what you wish but Hamas and Islamic Jihad are actually rather good at upholding truces they have with Israel, as it is usually Israel that breaks the truce. Instead of trying to allow a moderation of Hamas by including it in negotiations and a unity government Israel is pulling the zero-sum game card like clockwork. If the US had not forced Israel to accept the PLO in the late 80s and early 90s the PLO would be a different organization today. Hamas (pending you believe in the peace process, of which I do not) can follow a similar role but Israel is not allowing it and insisting on pre-conditions for Hamas while issuing nothing similar to Hamas. Israel is not offering to stop settlements, stop extra-judicial arrests, free prisoners, etc but insisting on Hamas recognize Israel and former agreements by the PLO.
As is stated as part of the Oslo Accords
The Palestinians will also be able, according to the protocol, to establish independent direct tax levels and to collect the taxes. They are much more bound when it comes to indirect taxation such as tariffs and the VAT, as will be explained below. But whereas in the past indirect tax revenues were channeled to the Israeli government, according to the protocol they will be transferred to the PNA and partly collected by it.”
If Israel wishes to lessen the animosity directed at it by Palestinian factions, it should instead of withholding the money owed to the Palestinians, pay it and even give other incentives to get Hamas to sign agreements. Israel is going to have to deal with Hamas sooner or later (as it did with the PLO) if nothing else to try and get Gilad Shalit out of Gaza so this extreme reaction will only delay this more and create even more animosity. In addition the potential alienation of the Palestinian Authority and its security forces is cause for a huge concern. As Raja Khalidi states
“The emphasis on the Palestinian reform, institutional building, development expenditures and showcasing has provided the security component, especially the successful partnering with US military trainers and the Israeli army in securing a “calm” in the West Bank since 2007, presumably bringing down the military burden and cost of occupation in the process. Also, after all these years of unsuccessful struggle, modernization, transition to some kind of normalcy, peace and normal life is very appealing and persuasive, while PA jobs sustain a hard core of at least a third of the employed — that’s quite a constituency for persuasion” (his whole interview can be viewed here)
The Palestinian Authority has been built up by Israel as a way to shift the occupation and if they withhold their money all their work (as malevolent and malicious as it is) will be all gone. In a game of power politics it seems Israel is trying too hard to exert its power in the wrong way if it wishes to maintain the status quo which given its 18 year track record it seems to be doing.