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February 5, 2006
Israel Pays The Danegeld

The Israelis have decided to rely on the technicality that Hamas has not yet taken over the government of the Palestinian Authority to make its payment of tax revenues to the PA, an amount that comes to $54 million. Israel had held the money for a week while deciding whether to allow one of its intractable enemies access to funds that will likely go to financing more attacks on its citizens:

Israel agreed to make a crucial payment of $54 million in tax and customs revenues to the Palestinians, but officials said future transfers will be halted once Hamas militants form the next Palestinian government.

The decision was taken shortly after a flare-up of violence. Israeli forces pounded the northern Gaza Strip with missiles and artillery fire, killing three Palestinian militants. Hours later, a Palestinian assailant killed one woman and wounded four other people in what police called a politically motivated stabbing in central Israel.

Israel collects millions of dollars in taxes and customs duties for the Palestinians, transferring the funds to the Palestinian Authority each month. Israel delayed the most recent payment last week to protest Hamas' victory in Palestinian legislative elections, deepening a financial crisis for the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority.

Putting money in the hands of terrorists is a mistake no matter what the circumstances are. In this case, it will not do anything to convince the Hamas lunatics to moderate; all it will do is emphasize the weakness of the West, which does not want confrontation and will believe almost anything as long as it allows them to maintain the appearance of the status quo.

The excuse that Hamas has not yet formed a government provides an excellent example of this tendency. Hamas may not have formed a government, but the Palestinians gave them a majority in their Parliament, which means that they will not find it difficult to accomplish. The money given to the PA will have to go through Hamas under any circumstances, a group that refuses to even consider rethinking its public goal of the annihilation of Israel.

Israel wants to appear reasonable by paying this month's tax collections. However, they wind up appearing as weak as a parent who keeps threatening dire consequences to their children for misbehavior but then hands them candy at the same time. The child learns not to take the parent seriously, and Hamas understands that Israel wants international approval much more than Hamas does. It's a lesson that requires twice as much effort to undo than that required to simply withhold the money the first time.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 5, 2006 2:18 PM

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