debkafile Exclusive: Rice fails to persuade Saudi King Abdullah and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to stop funding Hamas
This was the main object of the US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice’s Middle East trip. With the promise of financial support from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf states and private Muslim donors, the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority government of Ismail Haniyeh is guaranteed at least half a billion dollars a year, or $40 million a month.
debkafile‘s Middle East sources: Saudi Arabian King Abdullah decided to pledge the financial support needed to prop up the Hamas-led PA government and maintain its ability to function. (During the first week of February, immediately after Hamas’s victory in the Palestinian elections, DEBKA-Net-Weekly 241, February 10, reported the failure of US attempts to dry up Hamas’s financial sources, as had Israel’s diplomatic efforts led by Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni). The king also decided that the Hamas should not be forced to recognize Israel, only to be more flexible in maintaining regular contacts with the Jewish states and honoring the agreements signed by the PA. The Hamas assented.
In maintaining Saudi support for Hamas, the king was guided by three main considerations:
1. To block Iran’s path to assuming financial responsibility for the PA. The Iranian offer was put forward by Ali-Akbar Mohtasahami-Pour, the head of the Iranian Aid Committee for the Palestinian Intifada, who traveled to Damascus for this purpose after the Palestinian election. His senior status indicates the great importance Iran attribute to its connection with Hamas.
2. As an extension of Saudi-Egyptian diplomatic-strategic collaboration on Syria and Lebanon
3. The plan Hamas leaders presented Saudi royal advisers for running the PA on a shoestring budget and eliminating graft. The nub of the Hamas plan is the elimination of 37,000 jobs in the security services and government apparatus. A thorough Hamas examination showed that those 37,000 jobs were fictitious and could be cut without massive dismissals, for a saving of approximately $400 million a year. This would pare the PA’s annual budget from $1.2 billion to $800 million.
Our intelligence sources further report that, as the preliminary to assuming financial responsibility for the PA, Abdullah pressured PA Chairman Abu Mazen to play ball with Hamas in setting up a unity government and prosecuting corrupt officials.
Abu Mazen instructed PA Attorney-General Ahmed el-Mourni to open investigations and conduct searches and arrests among Palestinians suspected of enriching themselves over the years by embezzling large sums of money the PA had received from the US, the Europeans, the Gulf states, and the United Nations.