West “Punishes” Hamas With Lamest Sanctions Ever
As a Westerner, I don’t understand the terrorist mindset. Blowing up buildings full of people as well as yourself—infidel status notwithstanding—seems incomprehensibly barbaric, not to mention a pointless waste of resources. The idea that refusing to acknowledge Israel as a nation achieves any sort of victory perplexes me.
But the behavior of Western nations perplexes me too. Consider, for example, the economic sanctions that were imposed on the Palestinian Authority when the terror group Hamas was elected to power by the Palestinian people. Since that time, the Palestinians have received a total of $318 million in international aid.
Consider, for a moment, the purpose of sanctions against the Palestinians. The idea is that until certain behavior stops—such as calls from terrorists serving as government officials for the destruction of Israel—the Palestinians will have to operate without much-needed international funding. That funding is substantial: Between the United States and the European Union, the Palestinian Authority lost $1 billion annually when Hamas gained control of the government—or so everyone thought. In reality, every party involved—even the Israeli government—has been actively working to undermine the sanctions. That is downright bewildering.
The Palestinian government has also done a fine job of undermining the sanctions. Although there has been much talk that government workers were not receiving any pay at all, the PA’s Hamas planning minister claims the 160,000 workers have received 69 percent of their salaries since the crisis began. Most of the money, he says, has come directly through President Mahmoud Abbas’s office, but $66 million was actually smuggled in by Hamas officials; two Hamas leaders crossed the border at Rafah on November 15 carrying $2 million each in cash. One week later, the PA foreign minister crossed the border carrying $20 million in cash. Today, Prime Minister Haniyeh attempted to cross the Egyptian border with $35 million in suitcases.
Money continues to flow outside of the government as well. As we reported in October, the sanctions never stopped the civilian population from receiving the benefits of the social-welfare network that continued to operate unabated, thanks to ongoing financial support received by Hamas-affiliated charities. That cash flow, well-intentioned though it may be, actually makes the Palestinians more reliant upon Hamas-funded social services—while increasing hatred for Israel and the West for what woes the Palestinians do suffer. Thus, Hamas, rather than losing support because of the sanctions, has been able to sustain its popularity among the Palestinian people.
Hamas also has the firm support of Iran, which committed $50 million when the crisis began. In his first visit abroad since taking power, PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh visited Iran last week. He emphasized the close relationship the Palestinian Authority—and more accurately, his terror group—has with the Iranian government: “They [Israelis] assume the Palestinian nation is alone. … This is an illusion. We have a strategic depth in the Islamic republic of Iran. This country [Iran] is our powerful, dynamic and stable depth.” The prime minister acknowledges that his strategy and the power of his people come from Iran, whose president wants to wipe Israel off the map. During that visit, Iran promised $250 million to the PA over the course of the next year or so, which, in the words of Arutz Sheva, turns “the PA into a form of Iranian dependency.”
Even Israel has provided assistance by backing the plan to transfer money directly to the Palestinian people and allowing shipments of food and medicine to cross the border.
And last Thursday, the United Nations committed itself to enfeebling the sanctions even further by launching a campaign to raise another $450 million for the Palestinian government. If the international community has its way, the Palestinian government may have as much money under the embargo as it had before.
And all this despite the fact that, as recently as last week, Prime Minister Haniyeh confirmed that Hamas will never recognize Israel’s right to exist. And all along, rocket attacks against Israel from Palestinian territory have continued unabated.
The motivation for the imposition of sanctions has not changed one iota. Terrorists still control the government. Whatever effect the sanctions were meant to have, the fact that they are filled with holes through which money is flowing has guaranteed their utter failure.
The perplexing thing is, in Western political circles economic sanctions are the last bastion of legitimate punitive action against an enemy. They are widely discussed as being an effective alternative to military action. It is clear that the Western appetite for warmaking is fading fast—but now it seems that many nations consider even sanctions to be too harsh to justify actually following through with them.
All this begs the question: Why bother? The initial idea behind the sanctions was to signal that the installation of a government committed to Israel’s destruction via terrorist tactics was simply not acceptable to the international community. The sanctions were intended to starve the new government of the funds it needs to function, thus forcing it to moderate—acknowledge Israel’s right to exist—or else bringing about its collapse. Fearing a humanitarian crisis though, the EU, the U.S. and Israel have looked for ways to get aid directly to the Palestinian people—and even to the government under sanction.
This reasoning brings back unpleasant memories of the oil-for-food scandal, the United Nations’ attempt to get humanitarian aid directly to the Iraqi people by giving billions of dollars directly to Saddam Hussein despite sanctions.
Like the oil-for-food program, the toothlessness of the sanctions on Hamas has effectively negated the incentive for the Palestinian people to remove the terrorist group from power.