Palestinian cleaners protest to demand their salaries in Gaza City.
Palestinian cleaners protest to demand their salaries in Gaza City.
Danny Rubinstein

TEL AVIV — In recent days we have been witnessing growing discontent among Hamas public employees in Gaza who have not been paid their salaries. The situation endangers the coalition government between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, and it is without exaggeration to say that the non-payment by the government in Ramallah could restart the rocket fire from Gaza.

Last Thursday, after more than three months of waiting in vain for salaries to come from Ramallah, Hamas decided to pay its workers in Gaza from its own reserves a minimum wage of 1000 shekels ($275). This is blatant proof of a deepening crisis between the two Palestinian camps.

Looking back, it is obvious now that it was a major budgetary crisis inside the Hamas government last spring that made them accept a coalition government.

Can Qatar help?

Last week, Rami Hamdallah, the Palestinian Authority’s prime minister, said that his government has not been able to operate from its offices in Gaza since Hamas officers are not cooperating. "The banks are not willing to transfer money to Hamas out of fear of being boycotted," said Hamdallah. "Even my government is threatening not to send money to Hamas employees."

Leaders from Qatar have promised to transfer money for the salaries, but since Hamas is considered a terrorist organization, whoever might transfer the money risks an international boycott.

Apparently, the salary issue was discussed in a meeting held in Doha, Qatar’s capital, between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and and Hamas chief Khaled Mashal.

Excerpts of the meeting were published in Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar:

Mashal: "Abbas, you must take matters into your own hands and order your government to pay the employees (of Hamas in Gaza)."

Abbas: "It is a tough issue, and it’s on our agenda."

Mashal: "How is it possible that people are not being paid?"

Abbas: "What are you, a beggar?" (Meaning, don’t you have money to pay them?)

Mashal: "You have to solve that problem immediately, let the people live."

Abbas: "I have no way of doing that."

It does not look like Mashal’s demands are being fulfilled. The government in Ramallah has enough difficulties paying its own 150,000 employees, of which 70,000 are in Gaza. There is no way they can add another 45,000 salaries.

All of this leaves the coalition government of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority extremely fragile, and does not allow it to operate normally. A collapse of the coalition could come next, and the crisis that would follow could reignite the missile fire from Gaza.

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Society

How The Top Collector Of Chinese Art Evades Censors In New Hong Kong Museum

Swiss businessman Uli Sigg is the most important collector of Chinese contemporary art. In 2012, he gave away most of his collection to the M+ in Hong Kong. Now the museum has opened as the Communist Party is cracking down hard on freedom of expression. So how do you run a museum in the face of widespread censorship from Beijing?

''Rouge 1992'' by Li Shan at the M+ museum

Maximilian Kalkhof

The first test has been passed, Uli Sigg thinks. So far, everything has gone well. His new exhibition has opened, visitors like to come, and — this is the most important thing for the Swiss businessman — everything is on display. He has not had to take an exhibit off the list of works.

The M+ in Hong Kong is a new museum that wants to compete with the established ones. It wants to surpass the MoMa in New York and Centre Pompidou in Paris. Sigg, a rather down-to-earth man, says: “There is no better museum in the whole world.” That is very much self-praise, since Sigg’s own collection is central to the museum.

The only problem is: great art is often political; it questions the rulers. Since the Chinese Communist Party has been cracking down on critics and freedom in Hong Kong, the metropolis is a bad place for politics and art. So how did the collection get there?

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