Europe on Slippery Slope to Recognizing Hamas-ruled Palestinian Government
After a series of muddled statements and zigzags, wishful thinking prevailed in London and Brussels after all. The European Union, led by the Middle East Quartet, agreed to release financial aid to a Palestinian government taken over by a terrorist organization.
“We give them three months to assess the situation. We don’t want chaos and we want to go on with the peace process,” said EU foreign executive, Javier Solana at the end of the foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels Monday, 30 Jan.
Hamas, which is responsible for at least 60 bombing attacks on Israelis and countless deaths, did not have to fight too hard or too long for a reversal of the short-lived boycott on funding, sparked by its election victory over Fatah with 74 seats in the 132 Palestinian Legislative Council.
The Islamist terrorists were not required to give up a single principle for the sake of Western aid.
After the Quartet’s decision, US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice left Europe for Kabul. At first, she tried urging the EU to stand by its pledge to withhold aid from the Palestinians until Hamas renounces terrorism. A few hours later, like her European colleages, she was saying two opposite things at once: The administration, she said, would follow through on aid promised to the current, US-backed Palestinian government led by President Mahmoud Abbas. But then, Rice went on to rule out any US financial assistance to an organization that advocates the destruction of Israel, advocates violence and refuses its obligations under an international framework for eventual Mideast peace.
The inference here is that Abbas, supported from Washington and Jerusalem, was responsible for Hamas’s participation in the Jan 25 election. So it was up to him to arrange things so as to enable West to send financial aid to the Palestinian people without violating its own laws and principles against terrorist organizations.
The stakes are high. The EU gave the PA $615 million last year. The US had budgeted $234 for 2006.
The West and Israel too are clearly clinging to Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah was trounced in the Palestinian election last week, as a fig leaf to cover the true shape of the new Palestinian government until everyone can catch their breath and come up with a coherent new policy.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh played along with this stratagem by appealing to the Americans and Europeans to keep the aid funds flowing because, he said, they were not destined for Hamas but for Palestinian president Abu Mazen.
The only clear statement came from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the next EU president, Monday in Jerusalem:
A Palestinian Authority that included Hamas cannot be directly supported by EU money as long as the group refuses to give up violence and refuses to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, she said. This meant that Berlin ties financial aid to the Hamas changing at least one of its stripes – relinquishing terrorism.
However as a collective, European foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, including her own subordinate, sang a different tune.
Hamas provided the European powers with some helpful keys for unlocking Western aid for zero concessions:
1. Hamas does not intend heading or even participating in the next Palestinian government. That administration will therefore not match the strict definition of a Hamas government. This magicked away one major obstacle holding up the flow of aid funds from Europe.
2. Hamas does not oppose the new Palestinian government meeting its obligations under international frameworks. That is no problem either. Hamas has no trouble voting for the peace principle so long as its conditions are met, namely Israel must disappear.
3. A new government can be voted in by Fatah’s 44 votes plus the smaller factions. Hamas lawmakers will abstain. The new government is free to adopt the principle of peaceful negotiation or any other guideline it wishes. In any case, Hamas will dictate government policies and actions by remote control. Yasser Arafat provided a precedent. He freely pledged to refrain from sponsoring terrorism, which did not stop him at the same time plotting, orchestrating, pinpointing and funding terrorist operations. That example will serve Hamas in good stead.
4. Aid funds may be transferred to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority through a third party, whether international or an Islamic charity.
None of these options was ruled out in Western stipulations for continued aid to the Palestinians. Quite the contrary, they were seized on to ease the decision to go forward.
The Israeli position is as two-faced as the Europeans’. On the one hand, acting prime minister Ehud Olmert announced the NIS200 million ($44 million) of revenues due to the Palestinians will be frozen so that they do not reach the hands of murderous terrorists determined to destroy Israel. But then he went on to say: “At this stage, we are studying the situation and following developments.”
In other words, Israel is withholding funds for a brief period, after which Jerusalem will decide what happens next in consultation with the Americans and Europeans.
debkafile‘s Islamic experts warn that these transparent maneuvers will be seen by the Islamic terrorists group as a sign of weakness and they will therefore blow back in the faces of their authors. Hamas will maintain its seemingly reasonable posture and hold its fire, while using the chance to go forward without interference towards its long-term religious-territorial goals