Palestinian Government Meets in Gaza for First Time Since 2014

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (left) and Hamas leader Ismail Haniya (right) met in Gaza on October 3, 2017. Photo: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

The internationally-recognized government of Palestine held a cabinet meeting in Gaza for the first time in nearly three years as President Mahmoud Abbas seeks to take over administration of the area.

“We are here to turn the page on division, restore the national project to its correct direction and establish the state,” said Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah prior to Tuesday’s meeting.

Mr. Hamdallah chaired the cabinet meeting as part of the reconciliation process between Fatah and Hamas. Hamas agreed last month to dissolve its administration in Gaza and said it was ready for talks with Fatah to form a unity government.

The Palestinian Authority already controls the West Bank but Hamas has administered the Gaza strip for a decade. Hamas and the Fatah party split in June 2007, but are currently in talks mediated by Egypt.

Mr. Hamdallah said the PA is ready to take full control over Gaza, “without exceptions.” He added that negotiations over security and other matters will begin next week in Cairo.

To pressure Hamas, Mr. Abbas has reduced payments to government employees in the strip. In June, he ceased payments to Israel for electricity, leaving Gaza’s 2 million people without power for 20 hours a day.

Al Jazeera cited a Hamas spokesperson, Hazem Qassem, as saying the party entered negotiations to further the wishes of the people of Gaza.

“Hamas demanded that the people’s grievances be addressed in the meeting. This time both parties are serious about making the reconciliation project/unity government last,” Mr. Qassem said.

Nickolay E. Mladenov, the U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, tweeted: “After meeting Palestine PM Rami Hamdalla in Gaza I am encouraged by the firm commitment of the President and Government to return Gaza under the control of the legitimate Palestinian Authority. This is essential for resolving the humanitarian situation as soon as possible.”