|US Secretary of State Kerry speaks to media in yesterday's|
unannounced visit to Lebanon [Image Source]
U.S. Funding for Hamas? The State Department winks at the Palestinian merger with the terror group.
June 4, 2014 4:17 p.m. ET [Wall Street Journal]
The 1988 Hamas Charter explicitly commits the Palestinian terror group to murdering Jews. Thanks to the formation this week of an interim government uniting Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, which the U.S. supports to the tune of more than $400 million a year, the American taxpayer may soon become an indirect party to that enterprise.Eminent Israeli strategic adviser and commentator, Ehud Yaari, writing in Times of Israel yesterday as well, says there are straightforward reasons why Hamas decided to get into a relationship with the Palestinian Authority, stemming from an internal review
"Today we declare the end of the split and regaining the unity of the homeland," PA President Mahmoud Abbas said in televised remarks Monday. The split he was referring to is the bloody conflict between Mr. Abbas's Fatah faction, which controls the West Bank, and Hamas, which in 2007 forcibly expelled Fatah from the Gaza Strip.
Previous attempts at reconciliation had failed in large part because Hamas had refused to subsume its armed wing to the PA. This time Mr. Abbas acquiesced to a partnership with a heavily armed terrorist group. The resulting relationship will likely resemble the one next door between the Lebanese government, with its negligible regular army, and the Shiite terror group Hezbollah, which like Hamas boasts an arsenal of Iranian-supplied missiles.
The question is whether the U.S. government will continue to fund the PA now that Mr. Abbas has cast his lot with a State Department-designated foreign terrorist organization. U.S. law prohibits dispensing taxpayer money to any Palestinian entity over which Hamas exercises "undue influence."
To hew as close as possible to the letter of U.S. law, the architects of the Hamas-backed interim government have assembled a cabinet of old PA holdovers and technocrats from Gaza with no obvious links to Hamas. The maneuver was good enough for the Obama State Department. "At this point, it appears that President Abbas has formed an interim technocratic government that does not include ministers affiliated with Hamas," spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters earlier this week. "Moving forward, we will be judging this government by its actions."
But that still leaves open the question of the PA's treaty obligations. The Oslo Accords and its progeny, including the 1998 Wye Memorandum, set very clear limits on the extent and potency of the PA arsenal. Under the Wye Memorandum, for example, the PA is required to "establish and vigorously and continuously implement a systematic program for the collection and appropriate handling of" illegal weapons.
Nobody should count on the aging and calculating Mr. Abbas to exercise meaningful control over Hamas's arsenal, much less its behavior. And nobody should count on the Obama Administration to apply meaningful penalties to the PA for joining forces with Hamas and flouting its obligations toward Israel. That leaves Congress, which can block funding to the Palestinians until they prove capable of governing themselves as something other than a terrorist enterprise.
spurred by several recent setbacks: the loss of a friendly Muslim Brotherhood regime in neighboring Egypt, the cessation of weapons smuggling through the Sinai Peninsula, the decline of financial subsidies from Iran and Qatar, and the growing resentment of Gaza inhabitants due to rising unemployment, economic hardship, and constant repression...In practical terms, to what does this translate in the Palestinian Arab context? Paraphrasing Yaari's comments:
- Hamas is likely to seek to integrate itself as fast as possible into all PA institutions in the hope of taking over some of them.
- Hamas will not disband its intelligence organs. They give it the ability to maintain de facto control of Gaza much like Hezbollah controls southern Beirut, southern Lebanon, and the Beqa Valley.
- Some PA units are going to be introduced into Gaza. But the role they play will be limited to manning the border terminals with Egypt and Israel. Their presence will not change the overall situation on the ground.
- Hamas leaders are comfortable with having no ministers in this week's reshuffled "technocratic" cabinet of PA prime minister Rami Hamdallah. The real focus of Hamas in not there, but on elections six months from now.
- The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is getting a new “Leadership Body” and Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are inside for the first time.
- Yaari writes that "Hamas leaders are skeptical that they can win the presidency or a Legislative Council majority, mainly because Abbas unilaterally modified the elections law to suit Fatah candidates better than the previous law, which was in force when Hamas won the 2006 elections. At the same time, they have indicated their ambition to take over important ministerial portfolios — as Hezbollah did in Lebanon — and influence parliamentary motions."
- Already, without fanfare, the PA has removed the ban on Hamas political activities in the West Bank, and Hamas has stepped into the open door, holding public rallies and campaign meetings. "This revival of open Hamas activities is affecting the PA’s security organs: despite their standing orders to foil terrorist activity, many mid-level officers and their subordinates are no longer certain if and when to intervene in Hamas gatherings. For example, Hamas-sponsored Quran reading sessions have often been a cover for recruitment into underground terrorist cells."
- No less significantly, Hamas workshops in Gaza will continue production of the M-75 missiles that can reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Abbas previously said he accepted the principle of a demilitarized Palestinian state, but that's of no interest to anyone now.
- The Hamas resurgence in the West Bank is especially clear in the refugee camps outside the main cities. "PA security forces rarely risk entering these camps, leaving room for local youths to organize into lightly armed militias capable of challenging the PA. Hamas will obviously be more tempted to link to these groups, convert them to its doctrine, and supply them with financing and, when possible, better arms."
- "By this time next year, Hamas could have not only an intact military force and terrorist agenda in Gaza, but also a solid foothold in the West Bank and at least a say in — if not veto power over — PA and PLO decisions. In that case, a new system would take shape in the Palestinian territories in which an armed-to-the-teeth political party gradually overshadows the central government and begins to take over numerous institutions."
- "Western countries quick to endorse the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation should be aware of what is really happening here: Instead of the PA regaining its “southern provinces” in Gaza, it is in fact Hamas reentering the “northern provinces” in the West Bank."
"Just as Hezbollah maintains armed forces far superior to the Lebanese army and various secret services, so does Hamas intend to expand its independent military units, which are already far larger and better equipped than the PA’s National Security Forces."People here frequently say how disturbing it would be to wake up one day and find ourselves living in the anarchic, bloody quagmire of a second Lebanon. Lebanon happens to be where John Kerry made an unannounced visit yesterday: see "Kerry in Beirut on Wednesday", Lebanon Daily Star, Wednesday June 4, 2014.
There are many here in Israel now saying that another Lebanon is just what the US government seems to be delivering up.