By David Daoud
Switzerland has put together a plan to reconstruct the Gaza Strip which includes paying the salaries of Hamas operatives, according to Palestinian officials interviewed by Israel’s NRG website. The plan would also reestablish the status of the Hamas terrorist organization as the only authority in the Gaza Strip.
In recent months, according to the report, Hamas has been faced with the danger of collapsing in Gaza, and turned to Swiss officials for help. Its relations with Egypt are at their worst ever, and funds intended to rehabilitate the coastal enclave after Israel’s Operation Protective Edge last summer have run out. Thousands of Hamas officials have not received their salaries for months, leading to weakening of Hamas’ legitimacy in Gaza, and raising the specter of protests against Hamas’ rule.
The Palestinian sources told NRG that the Swiss jumped into the fray and promised to pay the salaries of thousands of Hamas officials.
The issue of salary payments for Gaza based government employees has been the source of tensions between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas for some time.
The terms of the new Swiss program also reportedly include a resolution to this long-standing crisis between Hamas and the PA. Just last Sunday, a Swiss delegation arrived in the Gaza Strip with the goal of reconciling the parties.
Switzerland’s relations with Hamas have been warming for a number of years. In 2009, the Swiss government initiated an Israeli-Palestinian conference, which was attended by former Israeli parliamentarian Yossi Beilin and members of Hamas, in order to discuss the possibility of renewing the peace process. That same year, Switzerland hosted a Hamas delegation lead by co-founder Mahmoud Al-Zahar on its own territory. Micheline Calmy-Rey, the Swiss Foreign Minister at the time, explained her country’s decision, saying “Hamas is an important player in the Middle East conflict, and cannot be ignored.”
Diplomatic sources have noted that Switzerland’s policy towards Hamas is very forgiving, unlike the much sterner policy of EU-member States which consider it a terrorist organization and are forbidden from maintaining contacts with Hamas.
The Algemeiner Journal