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February 7, 2007
Playing Keep-Away With Hamas Costs A Lot

When the Palestinians elected the terrorist group Hamas to lead the proto-state government, the Western nations all agreed to suspend all aid payments to the Palestinian Authority to keep from funding terrorists. Eventually, frightened of domestic public opinion about the collapsing PA economy, the European Union initiated a program of direct payments to Palestinians through bank transfers, intending to play keep-away with the money to ensure that Hamas could not get it. However, the only people getting rich on this program is the bank itself, which has racked up over three million euros in the months that the program has operated:

More than €3m (£2m) of EU aid for Palestinians was spent on bank charges last year in an effort to bypass the Hamas-run government, Oxfam said yesterday. The money was spent between August and December under the temporary international mechanism, a system run by the European commission that delivers directly to Palestinians and avoids supporting the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.

Oxfam described the mechanism as an "aid fiasco" and said it should be scrapped. But the EC said it was the "most direct and most efficient" means of delivery.

In those five months, about €110m was delivered directly into the bank accounts of 140,000 Palestinians and another €40m was spent on supplying fuel. The money was intended to tackle a growing economic crisis brought about in large part by the decision of Israel to freeze $60m (£30m) of monthly tax revenues it usually passes to the Palestinians.

Oxfam said the money was passed through the HSBC bank every month at a charge of €8 for each transfer.

Oxfam wants the program ended and direct aid to the Palestinian Authority restarted. That's unlikely to happen under any circumstances in which Hamas can control the money. The group conducts terrorist attacks, including the abduction of Gilad Shalit that started a war with Israel in Gaza and still has Shalit as a hostage to Hamas' demands.

The US and Israel would adamantly oppose any such restart for financing, especially now. The PA has dissolved into a civil war, exposing the two factions with any power at all as competing terrorist groups. The West prefers Fatah as they are slightly less lunatic and somewhat less Islamist, but in truth neither group will ever make peace with Israel, let alone each other. Once aid starts flowing directly to the PA again, it will end up in the hands of one or both gangs and will only fuel the war between the two.

The EU would be better advised to stop sending any money at all. A termination of aid to either side, and a blockade of any support from Iran or Syria, would send a stern message to the Palestinians that Western patience with their endemic love affair with death has finally expired. This group of leaders from either side have no interest in peace, either with Israel or with each other, and funding them in any way only perpetuates their blood-drenched grip on power. That goes double for American efforts to fund Mahmoud Abbas' presidential guard, which has been implicated in several attacks over the last few weeks themselves.

Only HSBC will regret the end of the money transfers. The money is nothing more than gasoline on the fire in the territories at this point, and we need to step back and let the flames run their course.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 7, 2007 4:42 AM

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