Leaders of the Palestinian Authority have reached a new depth of obsession: they are now seeking to prevent the establishment of a new hospital for their people in the Gaza Strip. Pictured: The Erez border crossing in Israel, at the border with the Gaza Strip, near which Israel, Hamas, the United Nations, Qatar and Egypt have agreed to establish the new hospital to treat Gazan patients. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
It hardly counts as news that Palestinian Authority leaders are obsessed with US President Donald J. Trump and his administration. Yet, these leaders have actually reached a new depth of obsession: they are now seeking to prevent the establishment of a new hospital for their people in the Gaza Strip.
The new field hospital, consisting of 16 departments, is slated to be built near the Erez border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel. The hospital was approved by Israel as part of ceasefire understandings reached during the past few weeks with the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip under the auspices of the United Nations, Qatar and Egypt.
The 43,000-square foot hospital will rely on the infrastructure, expertise and resources of an international NGO named Friendship and is meant to ensure a significant improvement in medical services to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Bizarrely, while Israel has approved the project, Palestinian Authority officials are trying to foil it. Palestinian Authority Minister of Health Mai Kaila, during a meeting in her West Bank office in Ramallah, reportedly told the UN Deputy Special Coordinator for Middle East Peace Process Jimmy McGoldrick on July 31 that the field hospital was part of a plan to separate the West Bank from the Gaza Strip and that the Palestinian Authority government considers the plan to build a hospital a "part of the Deal of the Century."
"If the objective of establishing this hospital is humane, it would have been better to support and develop existing hospitals in the Gaza Strip," the Palestinian minister told the UN official. "This project wears the dress of humanity while concealing a dangerous political aspect."
Kaila asked the UN official to relay a message to all relevant parties: The Palestinian Authority government has effectively washed its hands of the new hospital.
One would expect Palestinian leaders to have welcomed a new hospital that would serve the two million residents of the Gaza Strip. These leaders, however, have no problem sacrificing the lives of Palestinian patients on the altar of their hatred of the peace plan.
Palestinian Authority officials have justified their opposition to the construction of the hospital by arguing that it is designed to "separate the West Bank from the Gaza Strip."
"The hospital that Israel and the US are seeking to establish on the northern border of the Gaza Strip," the Palestinian government had already stated on July 8, "is part of ongoing attempts to solidify the separation between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank under humanitarian pretexts."
This claim is totally baseless to the point of being surreal.
What does the construction of a modern hospital have to do with the "separation" of the West Bank from the Gaza Strip? The two entities have, in fact, been politically separated from each other ever since Hamas's violent overthrow of the Palestinian Authority regime in Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007. Since then, the Palestinians have had two distinct mini-states that have, in fact, always been culturally separate: one in the West Bank, previously a part of Jordan and now under the control of President Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority; and the other in the Gaza Strip, previously a part of Egypt, and now under the control of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
For the past two years, Abbas and other Palestinian Authority leaders have developed the habit of blaming everything they do not like on the Trump administration and its "Deal of the Century."
As far as the Palestinian Authority is concerned, even the economic portion of the Trump plan, which offers them billions of dollars to boost the Palestinian economy and improve their living conditions, is a "conspiracy" related to the "Deal of the Century."
The latest spin from the Palestinian Authority claims -- falsely – that the construction of the new hospital is also part of Trump's "Deal of the Century."
The Palestinian Authority government -- headed by Mohammed Shtayyeh, whom Abbas appointed as prime minister last month -- and in total disregard of the needs of its people in the Gaza Strip, was quick to reject the hospital project. Shtayyeh and his government do not take any decisions unless they are approved by Abbas. Those decisions are later endorsed by the Palestinian Authority leadership (including Abbas and his PLO and Fatah officials) which then publishes them in its official media outlets.
In the Palestinian Authority's campaign against the new hospital, one can see further proof of a conspiracy theory mindset that continues to plague Palestinian leaders. For the past two years, for instance, Palestinian leaders have been warning about a US-Israeli "conspiracy" to liquidate the Palestinian cause. By this, they appear to mean any peace proposal that does not comply with Palestinian national aspirations, such as an independent state with east Jerusalem as its capital, as well as forcing Israel to absorb millions of the descendants of Palestinian refugees from a war that Arabs (Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi forces and Iraq) initiated in 1948.
Although no such "conspiracy" has surfaced so far, Palestinian leaders simply consider anything the Israelis or Americans offer them a "conspiracy."
When, in February, the US convened a Middle East conference in Warsaw to try to thwart Iranian aggression, the Palestinian leadership again alleged that the gathering was a "conspiracy" against Arabs. Again, no damage was caused to the Palestinians as a result of the conference; the Palestinian talk about a "conspiracy" looked irrelevant, if not ridiculous.
Some Palestinians have even gone as far as to claim that the continued rivalry between Abbas's ruling Fatah faction and Hamas is the result of a US-Israeli "conspiracy." The charge is based on the assumption that Israel and the US do not want to see the Palestinians united. This claim, of course, is also baseless: neither Israel nor the US has anything to do with the Fatah-Hamas dispute. Recurring attempts by some Arab states to end the dispute have failed only because of the unwillingness of Fatah and Hamas to make concessions to each other.
The Palestinian leaders' abhorrence of Trump and the US administration has reached a fever pitch, especially as the Americans are proceeding with their peace plan in spite of strong Palestinian opposition. The Palestinian leaders see how the Trump administration is moving forward with its plan in cooperation with some Arab states, an act Palestinian leaders view as turning their back on their Palestinian brothers.
For the past several years, the residents of the Gaza Strip have been complaining about lack of medicine and medical equipment.
If the hospital is not built, the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip will have been denied – by their own leaders – an invaluable resource.
In addition, earlier this year, the Palestinian Authority government announced that it was halting medical referrals for Palestinians to Israeli hospitals. The catastrophic move hurt only the Palestinian people.
The Palestinian Authority government illogically tried to justify its decision by saying that it had been taken in response to the sums Israel deducted from tax revenues. Israel openly states it does this in response to the payments the Palestinian government makes to families of Palestinian terrorists, "security prisoners" and suicide bombers who believe they will enter Paradise as martyrs or shahids and who were killed while carrying out attacks against Israel
The Palestinian Authority, by halting medical referrals to Israeli hospitals and depriving their people of access to excellent medical treatment in Israel, has placed the lives of thousands of their citizens at risk. Several Palestinians have denounced the decision as a "mistake," "hasty," and "uncalculated."
The Palestinian Authority leadership is right about one thing: one party in this conflict is indeed using the dispute for its own ends – but it is not the Trump administration. The only party that deserves blame is Abbas and his associates. They are rejecting a desperately needed medical facility solely in order to be able to continue to lay the blame for the suffering of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip at the doorstep of Israel. Abbas seems to fear that a new hospital -- which has received Israeli approval – would strip him of his claim that Israel is responsible for Palestinian misery.
Abbas holds Israel responsible for the economic and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, all the while hiding the fact that for the past two years he has been imposing harsh sanctions on the residents of the Gaza Strip. His sanctions include his own suspension of the salaries of thousands of employees and social welfare assistance to many needy Palestinian families.
Also, Abbas apparently does not want to see any improvement in the living conditions of his people if they are living under the rule of Hamas. He seems to be hoping that if the situation in the Gaza Strip gets worse, the Palestinians there will eventually revolt against his rivals in Hamas and remove them from power. As Hamas remains in full control in Gaza, however, this hope seems far-fetched. There are no signs of any major challenge to its regime, except possibly from Iran. Unsurprisingly, Iran's mullahs have been using Hamas as yet another of their regional proxies, which now include the Houthis in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Finally, the Palestinian Authority has rejected the new hospital for a sad, old reason: it seems to want all international projects to be funneled exclusively under its auspices, doubtless the better to get its hands on nice chunks of money and transfer them to its leaders' personal coffers.
The Palestinian Authority is probably the only government in the world that views establishing a modern hospital as a "conspiracy." It now remains to be seen whether the international community will cave in to Abbas's campaign and ditch the hospital project, or decide actually to help the Palestinian people, whose leaders know only how to help themselves.
Bassam Tawil is an Arab Muslim based in the Middle East.