Key lawmakers ready to defund Palestinian Authority over Hamas unity and terrorism

By Edwin Black/JNS.org

Click photo to download. Caption: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Credit: World Economic Forum.

A growing number of lawmakers in the United States, Great Britain, and the European Union are openly suggesting the billions of dollars, pounds, and euros that they and others have collectively bestowed upon the Palestinian Authority to promote peace and reconciliation with Israel have done the exact opposite.

The evidence is now too great to ignore, a growing number of lawmakers confess. Key legislators say abundant funding has only been financing the flames of confrontation, intransigence, and openly advertised institutional terrorism. The U.S. alone contributes between $400 million and $500 million annually to the PA. That sum is now threatened.

For many, as Al-Monitor reported in a headline, the Palestinian Fatah movement’s reunion with Hamas seems to be “the last straw.” Reunification will create what one lawmaker called “the single best financed terror structure in the world.”

The concerns are manifold. Hamas and its Gazan partners wage daily war against the Jewish State—10,000 rockets in recent years. Gaza can become a direct pipeline to Iranian, Syrian, and Hezbollah weaponry, creating a formidable terror nexus just a 20-minute drive from Tel Aviv. But the threat goes beyond just Israel.

Last month, a Cairo court officially declared Hamas a terrorist organization, banning all of its activities in Egypt. Cairo’s military has nearly sealed the Gaza border, has flooded its tunnels with sewage, and is now fencing off El Arish and the Sinai.

In Latin America, Hamas has been engaged in rampant narcoterrorism in a tri-border region centered near Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil. Hundreds of operatives from Hamas as well as Hezbollah, operating with millions of money-laundered dollars, have created a lawless domain that funnels money back to the Middle East, according to a 2010 report by the Crime and Narcotics Center of the Central Intelligence Agency. Moreover, the report cites information that “Hamas and other terrorist organizations use this region to plan their actions, to obtain supplies, and to live for a certain period of time before launching new attacks in other countries.”

Most of all, the new Hamas-Fatah entity could outshine al-Qaeda. Whereas al-Qaeda must walk in the shadows and dwell in caves, the reconstituted well-armed, well-financed Hamas-PA entity would walk the gilded corridors of government in seeming diplomatic trappings while continuing to threaten and implement terrorism, at high noon and in public parades, all with impunity and endless international taxpayer financing.

A growing clamor among recession-wracked parliamentarians here and abroad warns Palestinians that the gravy train may quickly dry up.

First, parliamentarians across the planet had to confront recent revelations that the PA was paying generous salaries to convicted terrorists in Israeli prisons. The more innocent civilians they killed, the greater was their monthly salary. A sliding scale was openly set forth in the Palestinian Law of the Prisoner, with more money and benefits going to those killing the most people, whether by bombing a bus or simply massacring infants sleeping in their beds. A well-endowed Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners ensures efficient payment of the monthly stipends. The word used in the law is “ratib”—Arabic for “salary.” It could not be denied.

Far from denying it, Palestinian officials regularly boast of the program. “These people are heroes and freedom fighters,” a Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners spokesman confirmed to skeptical Telegraph reporter Jake Wallis-Simons in London, trying to validate the program. The Ministry spokesman added, “We have nothing to hide, and all the laws that regulate these payments are published in newspapers and accessible for anyone who looks for them … There is no other issue in the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli occupation which gathers so much support among the Palestinian population.”

The monthly terrorist salaries total about $3 million to $7 million per month and consume approximately 6 percent of the PA budget, with similar terrorism compensation programs pushing the grand total to about 16 percent of the PA’s overall estimated $3.5 billion annual budget. With a continuous 28-33 percent deficit, the PA monthly payments are in essence funded by taxpayers in America, Europe, and elsewhere who make up the difference.

The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade, led by Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX), conducted a formal hearing on the topic in March 2014. An astonished Poe later penned an article for The Jerusalem Post entitled “Crime Pays for Palestinian Terrorists.” In London, The Telegraph reported, “Sir Gerald Howarth, a Conservative MP, has called for Britain to suspend all aid to the Palestinian Authority until payments to terrorists cease.” In Brussels, several members of the European Parliament, such as Poland’s Michal Kaminsky, demanded under Rule 117 that such funding be stopped. At the same time, a special report by the EU’s Court of Auditors discovered that more than 90 million euros in fuel subsidies have simply vanished.

When recently the PA suddenly revealed it has been secretly engineering reunification with Hamas, bright red lights immediately began flashing across Congress. Hamas has long been a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization [FTO], a status earned in part by launching some more than 8,000 rockets against Israel since the 2005 disengagement. Settled federal legislation prohibits funding FTOs.

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) who in 2006 authored the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, said of that legislation, “This law strictly prohibits U.S. money to flow to a Palestinian Authority that is controlled by, and includes amongst its ranks, members of the terrorist organization, Hamas.” Congresswoman Kate Granger said the Palestinian unity pact “puts in jeopardy future U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority.”

When PA President Mahmoud Abbas declined to back away from the union, and Hamas vituperatively proclaimed it would never abandon military actions or recognize Israel, various bipartisan groupings of Representatives and Senators across the spectrum began openly saying out loud what had previously only been mumbled. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) released a statement that he would immediately move to defund the PA if the new Hamas-PA entity did not agree to recognize Israel in five weeks. On April 29, Senate Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce (D-CA) said he would support halting all PA funding if incitement is not curtailed.

With talk of defunding the Palestinians mushrooming through Congress, two salient moves have now emerged. Plan A: If Fatah reunification with Hamas goes forward, federal law requires immediate defunding. Plan B: Even if the reunification effort fails, federal law requires immediate defunding unless the monthly prisoner salaries cease.

One congressional staff memo sums things up by citing the words of Secretary of State John Kerry last fall about the Syria crisis. “So the primary question,” said Kerry, “is really no longer ‘What do we know?’ The question is ‘what are we—we collectively—what are we in the world going to do about it?’”

Edwin Black

Edwin Black is the award-winning author of the international bestseller IBM and the Holocaust. This article is drawn from his just-released newsbook, Financing the Flames: How Tax-Exempt and Public Money Fuel a Culture of Confrontation and Terrorism in Israel.

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© Copyright 2014 Edwin Black
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Posted on April 30, 2014 and filed under Israel, Opinion, U.S..