Monday, February 20, 2006


From Yahoo News:
Israel on Sunday halted a monthly transfer of funds to the Palestinians but did not adopt a tougher package of restrictions proposed by some Israeli security officials. The Cabinet decided to stop the transfer of the roughly $55 million a month it collects in taxes and tariffs on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. The order did not specify when the payments would stop, but government spokesman Asaf Shariv said the next payment, scheduled for early March, "won't take place."

Army Radio quoted Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz saying the cutoff would be reviewed each month.

Israel and Western countries have demanded that Hamas renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist, but Hamas has resisted pressure to moderate. The group took control of the Palestinian legislature when the new parliament was sworn in Saturday.

"The PA (Palestinian Authority) is — in practice — becoming a terrorist authority," acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told his Cabinet on Sunday. "Israel will not hold contacts with a government in which Hamas takes part."

The cash-strapped Palestinian Authority relies on monthly transfers to help pay the salaries of roughly 140,000 government employees, including about 57,000 in the security forces.

In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp., Haniya said he was "deeply sorry" that Israel had labeled Hamas a terrorist group.

"The West is always using its donations to apply pressure on the Palestinian people," he said.
Really? For years EU aid went into the financial black hole otherwise known as Arafat's Pocket and until recently that didn't seem to be a problem.
Haniya said the Palestinians had "lots of alternatives."

"We have other Arab and Islamic countries and members of the international community who are ready to stand next to the Palestinian people," he said.
Ah yes, all those Arab and Islamic countries who have stood next to the Palestinian people for so long. All that oil money being pumped into the Palestinian economy and funding social welfare projects. Excuse me for being skeptical but Saddam offering to pay the families of suicide bombers doesn't really count as "standing next to" in my book.

One major downer is that this measure will cut funds to some 57000 Palestinian security forces. As Yahoo's impartial reporter Ibrahim Barzak puts it:
Should the government, the Palestinians' largest employer, be forced to lay off tens of thousands of workers, it would lead to increased chaos and poverty in Palestinian towns throughout the West Bank and Gaza.
True. Of course, a lot of that money would be going to ex-terrorists who are now freelancing as Palestinian security forces. According to this BBC report, those that have yet to be employed by the Palestinian Authority have already been causing quite a bit of chaos of their own. So no change there then.

(ASIDE: Ibrahim Barzak appears to be universally reviled for his shoddy reporting. See here and here for opposing examples. Make up your own mind as to how much salt to pinch with this one.)

Were Hamas to accept Israel's right to exist, Israel would be forced to release these funds. Do all those who voted for Hamas hold its charter so dear that they would endure additional hardships for the cause? I doubt it.

Much has been made of Hamas's election strategy of talking up the failings of Fatah and not focusing on its own rather dubious charter. If Palestine is like anywhere else, most people are not extremists at heart and thus did not vote for Hamas to push Israel into the sea, whatever the goals of their charter.

Indeed, as this article in the Telegraph suggests (via Clive Davis; the original link appears to be dead), many Palestinians probably voted for Hamas as a protest against the ruling Fatah party's incompetence and corruption.
"I voted Hamas so that my own Fatah Party would be shocked and change its ways," he said, giving his name only as Mohamed, in the Palmeira cafe in Gaza City. "I thought Hamas would come second.

"But this is a game that went too far. Nobody thought Hamas would win - even them. I know lots of people who voted Hamas, who regret it now. If I could vote again, I would vote for Fatah."
You know something's up when a Fatah activist votes for Hamas. Neo-neocon has more, following her earlier article, including this from the Boston Globe:

Muayad Abu Ghazaleh, 36, is the ultimate Palestinian swing voter. A lifelong backer of Yasser Arafat's Fatah party, he grew so disgusted with its cronyism and corruption that in parliamentary elections on Jan. 25 he cast his ballot for Hamas, never suspecting the militant group would actually win.

What he wants from Hamas now, he said, is good government, plus something that the group's charter says it can never deliver -- a peace deal with Israel.

Swing voters such as Abu Ghazaleh -- who doesn't share Hamas's vision of Islamic rule and unending war with Israel -- handed Hamas its surprise victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections. Now those voters are confronting the confusing reality of the day after.
The best that those who voted for Hamas can hope for is that they are incapable of forming a government forcing everyone to the polls again in a month's time. Who they'd vote for is another question.

But for now, Israel is having to dangle a carrot on a stick. Witholding funds may seem harsh, but then would you pay money to someone who wants to see you destroyed?

Apparently you ought to, if you read between the lines of Ibrahim Barzak's copy. Here's the opening paragraph again:
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - A moderate Gaza lawmaker was set to become the first Palestinian prime minister from the Islamic militant group Hamas, as Israel cut off vital funds and branded the new regime a "terrorist authority."
Moderate? By whose standards? Does Haniyeh reckon the bit in the charter about a world-wide freemasons conspiracy is a tad far-fetched? The next paragraph explains all:
Ismail Haniyeh, a relative moderate in the hierarchy of the violent movement that has sent dozens of suicide bombers into Israel.
A-ha, a relative moderate, although Barzak makes no effort to substantiate this claim.

But he's not the only one referring to Haniyeh as a moderate: the New York Times is at it too, describing him as "pragmatic" (Hat-tip: Spotted at neo-neocon whilst re-reading her other posts I've linked to).

Perhaps some in the media think that if they repeat the word "moderate" enough times in conjunction with Hamas, eventually it will become so?

Back in the real world, Shimon Peres sums up Israel's predicament:
"We must see to it that not a single shekel reaches Hamas and terrorism, and that not a single innocent Palestinian suffers from an economic boycott."
Enforcing the former is relatively simple. I wonder how they intend to ensure the latter?


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