Palestinian Unity Govt: Fairness? Or factions?

The Palestinians Unity Government has stumbled through its first week, with many still wondering what ministries and ministers there are – and aren’t. The Ministry of Detainees was the first casualty, being disestablished in favour of a ‘committee’ under the PLO – but a groundswell of popular outrage quickly saw it ‘re-established’ as a ministry without either a ministry or a minister, the portfolio then assigned by Abbas to PM Hamdallah – who quickly tossed it on like the hot potato it is to Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Social Affairs Shawqi al-Ayasa, where it still smoulders.

The new government might do well to remember that it is there to represent ALL Palestinians, not just Fatah and Hamas. That is there to promote the Palestinian cause, not personal or factional agendas – and especially not those of foreign interests.

That it is there, first and foremost, to administer the country with justice and fairness to all.

Including Palestinian prisoners. Including Palestinian workers.

The question to ask was not “Will the US, EU, Israel accept a unity government with a Ministry of Detainees in the midst of a hunger strike?” but “Is it fair to Palestinian detainees and their families to disestablish the Ministry of Detainees, the only body charged with protecting and promoting their rights, BEFORE setting up an alternative committee – in the midst of a hunger strike?”

The second trip at the hurdle was the salaries fiasco, where the new government paid the salaries of Palestinian Authority employees – thousands of whom in Gaza have been receiving salaries for seven years without working – but failed to pay the salaries of the government sector in Gaza, who have been working on half pay or less for many months. The Gaza employees include supporters of all factions, and none.

It is not a matter of Fatah and Hamas. It is a matter of justice, and fairness.

The question for the government to ask itself was pretty obvious – “Who should we pay?” The answer even more so -“Everyone to whom there is a contractual obligation.”

To do otherwise is at best a clumsy exercise in very bad faith – and at worst, a slap in the face for all of those workers in Gaza who actually earned their salaries.

If the unity government does not have enough money to pay everyone the full amount, pay everyone some – or pay no-one. Whatever you pay, whoever you pay, pay it fairly, with justice.

Not with partisanship.

It is to the great credit of the PEOPLE of Palestine that both of these governmental fiascos have been tolerated in the interest of unity.

It remains to be seen whether this government will find its feet, and stride forwards into a future with justice and fairness to all Palestinians.

They deserve no less.

NOTE
The Ministerial line-up sworn in on 2 June (subsequent changes in brackets):
Rami Hamdallah – prime minister and minister of interior (following a groundswell of outrage, the ‘dissolved’ detainees portfolio was re-established and assigned to Hamdallah by Abbas, but quickly tossed on to Shawqi al-Ayasa)
Ziad Abu Amr -deputy prime minister and minister of culture
Muhammad Mustafa – deputy prime minister and minister of national economy
Shukri Bishara – minister of finance and planning
Riyad al-Maliki – minister of foreign affairs
Salim al-Saqqa – minister of justice
Adnan al-Husseini – minister of Jerusalem affairs
Rula Maya – minister of tourism and antiquities
Jawad Awad – minister of health.
Khawlah Shakhshir – minister of education and higher education
Mufeed al-Hasayna – minister of public works and housing
Allam Mousa – minister of telecommunications and transportation
Shawqi al-Ayasa – minister of agriculture and social affairs (later caught the hot potato of detainees through an unclear process)
Hayfaa al-Agha – minister for women
Mamoun Abu Shahla – minister of labour
Nayif Abu Khalaf – minister of local governance
Yousif Ideis – minister of endowment.

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