On the 6th of September 2021, Qatar announced the official resumption of funding aid, through the UN and the Palestinian Authority, to families in need and civil servants living in the Gaza Strip. Qatar plans to transfer the funds to 100,000 poor families and around 27,700 civil servants, through Palestinian banks under the supervision of the Palestinian Monetary Fund. Since 2014 Qatar has sent over 1 billion dollars in aid to Gaza, for humanitarian assistance, rebuilding infrastructure, and economic relief. With more than half of Palestinians living in poverty, Qatari aid has become a major source of relief on which Palestinian lives depend. However, in May 2021, as violence between Israel and occupied Palestine peaked, Israel blocked funds coming from Qatar in fear that payments would reach Hamas leaders. On the 19th of August 2021, Israel and Qatar officially reached an agreement resuming aid to Gaza, with a new method intending to bypass Hamas in monetary transactions.
According to ABC News, the Israeli Prime Minister stated in August, “I have been in contact with Qatari officials to establish a mechanism that ensures the money reaches those in need while maintaining Israel’s security needs.” Qatar’s aid envoy, Mohammed al-Emadi stated that the UN-backed deal entails “opening the Gaza crossings to establish a state of calm and stability.”
To ensure the provision of aid, whilst considering Hamas’ potential military advancements through these payments, the deal intends for money to be sent through “one address — The Palestinian National Authority”; as Prime Minister of the PNA Mohammad Shtayyeh stated. In assuring that Hamas leaders have no access to transactional processes, the deal outlines that money transferred from Qatar must be in the form of voucher cards instead of cash. According to The Times of Israel, it was agreed upon that Israel will supervise the voucher cards until they are used to withdraw cash, at which point Israel will no longer be able to trace the money.
Whilst this deal was supposed to be in motion by the first week of September, just two days ago the Palestinian Authority withdrew from the deal, objecting to transfer funds to civil servants in Gaza. Even though Qatar has announced that the transfer of payments to Gaza has already begun, this decision means that the 27,700 civil servants will no longer be recipients of the aid. However, aid will still be provided to 100,000 Gazan families in need.
According to the Jerusalem Post, al-Emadi stated that “The Palestinian Authority has withdrawn from the agreement recently concluded between it and the Qatari Committee regarding the disbursement of the grant for employees.” The PA has stated that this decision came out of fear that legal attacks on banks would occur, with claims that they are supporting “terrorism.” While Hamas was quick to release a statement saying that this was simply the PA’s intention to worsen the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Qatari officials were quick to refocus their attention on providing funding to these civil servants through another method. According to the Jerusalem Post, envoy al-Emadi stated, “the Qatari committee is currently working to solve the problem and find an alternative way to disburse the grant.” However, until then, the payments sent from Qatar to Gaza during this time are those for families in need.
Following a series of meetings in the past month, the deal has gained support from Israel, Egypt, the UN, the Palestinian Authority, and after initial hesitancy, Hamas officials. According to the Jerusalem Post, Qatari envoy al-Emadi stated, “these meetings achieved positive results that will serve as the basis for all issues related to improving the living conditions of the residents of the Gaza Strip, in full coordination with the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority, and agreement with all parties.”
For the first time in a long time, negotiations have found a common ground that puts Palestinian lives first. With over 2 million Palestinians living in Gaza, and around 75% of Gazans dependent on aid, according to the UN, the humanitarian crisis can no longer withstand the prioritization of political agendas. This deal, and its commitment to communication and negotiation, indicate significant ease in tensions following the violence of May 2021. While it is a long way out of economic and humanitarian crises for Gaza, Palestinians can only hope that this marks a new beginning where their demands for basic human rights are heard, despite their political leaders’ agendas.
Ultimately, tensions between Israel and occupied Palestine remain high. While the new Qatar deal signifies a change in relations, violence will continue to occur and the humanitarian crisis will only deepen if political leaders don’t commit to increasing peace talks. In the past month, there have been increased communication mending ties between the PA and Israel. However, a reconstruction of Gaza and a decrease in poverty will only occur with internationally-backed objectives for peace resolution. The deal with Qatar not only means aid for thousands of families in need, but it shows an agreement amid hostility, and whilst far from ensuring peace, a definite step towards regional stability has occurred.
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