With a deal for political reconciliation having been reached by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, attention should shift to the humanitarian impact of Mahmoud Abbas’s collective punishment of the people in the Gaza Strip. The punitive measures, blatantly visible, were primarily an exercise in deprivation for political gain.
On Wednesday, Wafa and Alray reported that re-establishing adequate electricity supply to Gaza is dependent on whether “the Palestinian Government of National Consensus can assume its duties and responsibilities in the Strip.” The statement is open to several interpretations, the most dangerous for Palestinian civilians being additional delays beyond the signing of the reconciliation agreement.
According to the Palestinian Energy Authority’s acting director, Thafer Milhem, electricity was one of the issues discussed during the reconciliation talks in Cairo. While describing the process through which electricity supply for Gaza would be restored gradually, Milhem asserted that there is no timeframe for implementation, thus once again demanding that the civilians should remain as pawns in the political game designed by Abbas. It should be recalled that the precondition imposed upon Hamas by Abbas in return for lifting the collective punishment was the dissolution of the administrative committee of Gaza; this was duly done by the Islamic Resistance Movement.
However, the initial requirement turned out to be the first step in bringing about a situation whereby Hamas would agree to relinquish control of Gaza in the name of political unity. It remains to be seen how much this gesture, which entails a considerable measure of compromise, will reflect upon both Hamas and the civilian population of the enclave.
It could be argued that necessity, on several levels, constituted a form of political, social and economic coercion. Gaza has navigated a fine line in attempting to retain the connection between the three sectors. Although different, each struggle reflected anti-colonial resistance. Necessity diluted this framework, and resistance was thwarted into survival, courtesy of collaborative efforts by Israel, the PA and the international community under various guises. For the people, it became a matter of successfully staying alive despite the harsh conditions.
Hamas, on the other hand, has fluctuated between resistance and diplomacy, the latter mired in a lack of clarity, particularly as the movement’s political statements appeared to be in conflict with its aims of liberation. This is not to say that the PA and Hamas have identical aims. However, it is the latter that has been required to compromise, despite the former’s irregular governance.
While the focus is now on the reconciliation agreement, there is a backdrop against which this is taking place; people who have suffered the humanitarian consequences of political contempt. For the PA to continue playing the bureaucratic game is unacceptable. By not providing a timeline for the resumption of adequate services with regard to electricity, or establishing access as a priority, Palestinians are once again expected to sacrifice health, education and life for a political gamble concocted by the PA. The least that could have been done was the immediate lifting of Abbas’s punitive measures, unless the plan is to expand authority in the name of reconciliation, with the aim of having better access to the exploitation of a precarious humanitarian situation.