Leaders of the Palestinian Authority are opposed to the construction of a new hospital in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Why? Because the PA hates its rivals in Hamas to the point that it is prepared to punish the Palestinians in Gaza. 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)
As Israel continues to study ways of improving the living conditions of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the leaders of the Palestinian Authority (PA) continue to sabotage the interests of their own people.
These leaders are opposed to the construction of a new hospital in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. They are also opposed to an Israeli initiative to construct an artificial port off the coast of the Gaza Strip. The PA, in other words, is opposed to any move aimed at alleviating the suffering of its people.
Why? Because the PA hates its rivals in Hamas to the point that it is prepared to punish the Palestinians by imposing economic sanctions on the Gaza Strip. These include cutting off payments to thousands of public employees and needy families.
Another reason: the PA is strongly opposed to any plan in which Israel and the US are involved to help the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip. As far as the PA is concerned, anything good coming from Israel or the US is actually bad, simply part of a larger "conspiracy" against the Palestinians.
The new field hospital in the Gaza Strip is currently being built with the help of Friendship, a US NGO, as well as partial funding from Qatar. The hospital, which is being constructed near the Gaza-Israel border, will provide medical services to thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The construction of the hospital is believed to be in the result of ceasefire understandings reached between Israel and Hamas earlier this year under the auspices of Egypt and the United Nations.
The PA, however, has come out against the construction of the new hospital. Some of its leaders claim that it is part of an Israeli-US "conspiracy" to have the Palestinians pass President Donald J. Trump's yet-to-be-announced plan for peace in the Middle East, also known as the Deal of the Century. Needless to say, the PA is not offering any alternative to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, who are desperate for decent medical care.
Fatah, the ruling Palestinian faction in West Bank and headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, claimed in a statement that the hospital was actually a US "military base."
Fatah said that Hamas was "committing a crime against the Palestinian cause and people" by agreeing to the hospital's construction. Fatah further claimed that the hospital was part of Trump's Deal of the Century, which, they allege, "aims to eliminate the Palestinian cause." According to Abbas's faction, Hamas is "prepared to do anything to win recognition from Israel and the US."
The PA Minister of Health, Mai Alkaila, described the hospital as a "suspicious project linked to a [US] political program, specifically the Deal of the Century, which is rejected by all Palestinians." She added: "If US politicians want to help our people in the Gaza Strip, they need to stop the war on the Gaza Strip and support the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)." UNRWA, of course, has been cited for helping Hamas to fire rockets at Israel.
Mahmoud al-Habbash, a senior advisor to Abbas, also weighed in on the hospital project in the Gaza Strip. He said that the "US hospital in the northern Gaza Strip cannot be innocent and is not motivated by humanitarian concerns." The Palestinians, he added, "cannot believe that the US, which supplies weapons to Israel and has recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, suddenly wants to treat Palestinian patients in the Gaza Strip." Habbash, too, alleged that the hospital will serve as an Israeli-American base.
Senior PLO official Ahmed Majdalani claimed that the hospital is part of an Israeli-American policy to "establish a separate Palestinian political entity in the Gaza Strip after detaching it from the West Bank." Hamas, he said, is not entitled to negotiate or sign agreements with any foreign country. "The Palestinian Authority and the PLO are the only parties authorized to represent the Palestinians," Majdalani said.
Jamal Nasr, a representative of the Palestinian Democratic Union (FIDA) party went as far as claiming that the new hospital will serve as a center for spying on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. "This is a suspicious project," Nasr said. "It can't have any humanitarian purposes. It's actually a base for intelligence gathering."
Last week, Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett reportedly instructed the Israel Defense Forces to conduct a security feasibility study for the construction of an artificial island project off the coast of the Gaza Strip. According to Israel's Channel 12 News, Bennett and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi met this week and agreed to promote the island project, and to examine establishing an internationally funded airport in the Gaza Strip.
As with the hospital, the PA leadership has also come out against the proposed artificial island port, which aims to improve the situation in the Gaza Strip. This is the same PA that has been repeatedly condemning Israel for imposing a "blockade" on the Gaza Strip.
Instead of welcoming the Israeli initiative, PA officials are denouncing it as another "conspiracy" against the Palestinians. Hussein al-Sheikh, head of the PA General Authority for Civilian Affairs, commented:
"The recent statements of the Israeli ministers about the port of the Gaza Strip is a continuation of the separation project that leads to the establishment of the State of Gaza to kill the project of the Palestinian state."
Last year, Palestinians demonstrated in the West Bank to protest PA sanctions imposed on the Gaza Strip. The protesters, who accused the PA leadership of aggravating the humanitarian and economic crisis in the Gaza Strip, were violently dispersed by the PA security forces.
The PA sanctions include cutting salaries to thousands of employees and impoverished families, refusing to pay for electricity supplied by Israel to the Gaza Strip and denying Palestinian patients medical treatment in Israeli and Egyptian hospitals.
The sanctions, first announced by Abbas in 2017, are apparently part of a PA plan to undermine Hamas's rule over the Gaza Strip. Abbas and the PA leaders were hoping that the sanctions would spur the Palestinians to revolt against Hamas. That wish, however, seems to have failed to materialize.
The strong opposition to the field hospital and the proposed artificial island port show that the PA is also determined to prevent other parties from helping the two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Moreover, it demonstrates that Abbas and his senior officials are seeking to prolong the suffering of their people in the Gaza Strip so they can continue to blame Israel alone for the crisis there. By calling the hospital a "spying center," they are also endangering the lives of the volunteers and medical staff, whose sole "crime" is providing medical treatment to Palestinians. Not for the first time -- and likely not for the last time -- PA leaders would rather lie about Israel and the US than give them an ounce of the credit they deserve for their continual attempts to help the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The next time anyone talks about the harsh conditions in the Gaza Strip, the world needs to realize that those who are trying to block aid to their people are the Palestinian leaders.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.