Hamas Going Broke?

From the June 2006 Trumpet Print Edition

When Hamas installed its new cabinet in March following its success in the Palestinian elections earlier in the year, it came face to face with an unavoidable reality: Running a government costs a lot of money. And the Palestinian government is hugely dependent upon foreign aid.

After Hamas refused to renounce violence and recognize the Jewish State of Israel—both clearly unreasonable demands from any self-respecting terrorist’s perspective—the United States withdrew its $400 million a year of funding; similarly, the European Union withdrew its annual $600 million.

This $1 billion withdrawal amounts to over half of the Palestinian Authority’s annual budget.

Hamas’s desire to solve the financial disaster without sacrificing its greater ideology has exposed which nations are willing to come out in support of terror.

Iran’s position as chief terrorist-sponsoring nation should come as a surprise to no one. When the possibility arose that Europe and the United States might remove funding if Hamas did not renounce violence, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised to remove funding if it did. Now that the day of trouble is actually here, Tehran has promised $50 million to help make up the annual $1 billion shortfall. Iran ideologically, financially and even vocally supports the destruction of Israel.

The Palestinians have also found new financial support from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates in the form of $80 million. On the downside, that $80 million would only keep government workers paid for about three weeks.

The Palestinian government knows something has to be done soon. Unpaid Palestinian security forces have stormed pa buildings and blocked roads in protest. President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to dissolve the government, removing Hamas from its official authority altogether.

The United States and Europe are taking heart from what appears to be an implosion of a terrorist organization unequipped to handle the rigors of national governance. But it is naive to expect that present volatility will make for a more peaceful situation in the long term. The ideals that created Hamas and brought it to power are deeply held convictions. The Palestinian people are more likely to interpret the budget crisis as an American and European creation and respond with greater anger, than they are to suddenly turn against the widely popular Hamas movement. Not surprisingly, Hamas has already been working to drum up resentment among Palestinians against Europe and the U.S. for withholding pa funding.

The lack of money could even cause Hamas to return with greater vigor to its tried-and-true modus operandi: terrorism. The new Hamas-led Interior Ministry is actually making the case to its unpaid security officers that stepping up their attacks against Israel would be the quickest way out of the pa’s current budgetary problems, since it would inspire greater generosity from Iran and other havens of radicalism in the region (Middle East Newsline, April 18).

Ultimately, even if the pa collapses, Stratfor analysts believe Hamas could use the crisis as an excuse “to incite an explosion of anger in the territories and form the catalyst for another uprising …” (April 12). Israel, surely aware of this possibility and squeamish about what may emerge from the pa’s instability, appears willing to develop a working relationship with Hamas; albeit, at this stage, through back channels. Already, in April, Arab members of Israel’s parliament have met with senior Hamas officials in a move that has been tolerated, even if publicly condemned, by the Israeli government (ibid., April 27).

It is absolutely nonsensical to expect Hamas to behave peaceably in the long run. The organization was founded on the premise that Israel should not exist and has not backed away from its charter principles one iota. From its perspective, terrorism has been a successful strategy. If the Palestinian people did not support that strategy, Hamas would not be in office today.

If this latest situation gives the terrorist organization an opportunity to incite further violence against Israel and the West, then violence is in the cards.