Gaza Asharq Al-Awsat – For the first time since the 2007 division between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, following the bloody confrontation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority [PA] and Hamas’s subsequent takeover of the Gaza Strip, the Hamas government is seeking to appoint diplomats. This is a move that many believe is an indication that Hamas intends to announce an independent state in the Gaza Strip.
Dr. Ghazi Hamad, Deputy Foreign Minister for Hamas in Gaza, confirmed that the Hamas government is seeking to establish a diplomatic corps. He did not rule out Hamas diplomats working abroad, if such opportunities become available, and strongly denied that Hamas appointing diplomats is an indication that the Gaza government is seeking to entrench the Palestinian division.
Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, the Hamas government deputy foreign minister revealed that the Gaza government is in the process of choosing candidates for its diplomatic corps. He stressed that these diplomats will work within the Gaza Foreign Ministry and will be responsible for developing relations with the international community. He also did not rule out Hamas diplomats operating from abroad, should circumstances permit.
Hamad revealed that Hamas is taking this step and appointing diplomats based on the 2005 Diplomatic Corps law issued by the PA which organizes operations in the diplomatic corps in terms of selection criteria and tasks and duties. He added that Hamas initially sought to select prospective diplomats solely from amongst the staff of the Gaza Foreign Ministry, but the selection process has been expanded to include staff working at other Gaza ministries.
He revealed that each ministry was asked to put forward candidates to compete for the diplomatic corps positions in order to ensure that the best candidates are chosen. Hamad informed Asharq Al-Awsat that diplomatic candidates have to meet certain criteria, including possessing at least a bachelor’s degree, as well as being fluent in a foreign language. The Hamas Deputy Foreign Minister revealed that he is heading the committee to choose the diplomats, adding that this committee is comprised of academics and former diplomats. He also revealed that the committee has developed specific criteria to identify and select the best possible candidates.
Hamad informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the committee has already interviewed candidates, selecting the first batch of diplomats to work within the ministry. He also revealed that new diplomatic appointments have been temporarily frozen following the Hamas cabinet reshuffle, with former Foreign Minister Mohamed Awad being replaced by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who will serve as acting Foreign Minister, in addition to his duties as head of the Gaza government.
The Hamas Deputy Foreign Minister revealed that the Hamas diplomatic corps will include the posts of senior counselor, counselor, senior secretary and secretary. He added that there will be a process of gradual advancement within the diplomatic corps, and that the most senior rank will be that of attaché. Hamad said that he will be preparing diplomatic training courses at home and abroad in order to prepare candidates for work in the diplomatic sector.
Hamad strongly denied that these forthcoming diplomatic appointments were an indication that the Gaza government is seeking to entrench the Palestinian divide. He stressed that these new diplomats will initially be working from within the Hamas government foreign ministry, adding this is due to the ministry’s need to strengthen communications with the outside world. He also expressed his hope for an end to Palestinian inter-division and the success of the reconciliation process, saying this would allow the Palestinian people to benefit from the talent and capabilities in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Palestinian diaspora.