Qatar Aims to Rescue Economies of West Bank, Gaza Strip
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani directs allocation of half a billion dollars to Palestinian people living under PA, Hamas
Qatar has allocated a total of $480 million in the form of grants and loans to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank, and to Hamas, the armed Islamic group that rules the Gaza Strip. Some $300 million is earmarked to help alleviate the PA’s deepening financial crisis, while the rest of the funds will go toward humanitarian projects, primarily in the Gaza Strip.
Qatar’s Foreign Ministry announced that the emir of the state, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, had authorized the transfer. In a statement posted on its website on Monday, the ministry explained that the financial support was meant to “assist the Palestinian people in obtaining their necessary life needs in the difficult circumstances imposed by the Israeli occupation forces.”
Moreover, the statement pointed out the decline in international humanitarian support provided to the Palestinians.
“The State of Qatar has allocated $300 million to support the budget of the health and education sectors of the Palestinian Authority,” the statement continued, “and $180 million to provide urgent relief and humanitarian support in addition to supporting the United Nations programs in Palestine.” To that end, the ministry clarified that it would focus on fixing electric services, especially during the holy month of Ramadan, “to prepare for the summer season, where electricity is increasingly needed.”
Moeen al-Taher, a Jordanian political analyst and expert on Palestinian affairs, explained to The Media Line that Qatar most likely initiated the project to fulfil unmet commitments regarding the repair of an electric plant.
“The government of Rami al-Hamdallah [the former Palestinian prime minister] had refused the Qatari project,” Taher elaborated. “It’s more of a settlement between Qatar and the PA.”
Taher stated that in light of Israel’s refusal to hand over tax money owed to the Palestinian Authority as a way of protesting against the PA’s policy of funding the families of Palestinian prisoners and others who have attacked Israelis, PA President Mahmoud Abbas had asked Arab countries for loans to save his economy from collapsing.
Last week, the World Bank called for an urgent solution to the Palestinian economic crisis, which it blamed in large part on Israel’s withholding of tax and tariff revenues. Israel has withheld these funds in the past, more or less for the same reasons, inflicting a severe blow to the PA’s public finances.
When reached by The Media Line, the Palestinian Ministry of Economy refused to comment on the Qatari funds, explaining that they came through direct coordination with Abbas’s office.
Saleh Ghareeb, a Qatari analyst, told The Media Line that Qatar was always quick to “help with the daily life of the Palestinians” and that it was especially important right now to assist with a “difficult situation” in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Regarding the funding, Hamas political chief Ismael Haniyeh wrote in a statement: “This honorable decision is a continuation of the unwavering Qatari stances that support the Palestinian people politically and financially, in addition to defending Palestinian rights on international platforms.”
Doha’s announcement follows the most serious military confrontation between Israel and Gaza-based Palestinian groups since the 50-day war in the summer of 2014. During 48 hours of fierce fighting, the Israeli military struck over 300 targets in the blockaded enclave, from which Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired about 700 rockets at Israel. International mediators have managed to restore a tentative calm with a reported cease-fire.
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs refused to comment to The Media Line on the Qatari money transfers and whether they would be allowed to go through.