Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has decided to bankroll Hamas’ bid for Palestinian government and its operating capital.
One of the direct results revealed her by DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence and counter-terror sources, is an investigation launched against 45 officials and ex-officials of the Palestinian Authority on suspicion of the misappropriation of billions of dollars of public funds.
The top names are published here for the first time:
The list is headed by Ahmed Qureia, prime minister, Ramzi Khouri, the late Yasser Arafat’s personal secretary, Mohammad Dahlan, minister for civil affairs, Jamil Tarifi, former justice minister, Rashid Abu Shbak, head of the national security service and Zaihoday Kadoura, PLO ambassador in Cairo.
Our sources report that King Abdullah has agreed to fork out $800 million a year, or $66 m a month, to cover the maintenance of the Palestinian Authority under Hamas rule. Riyadh is a longstanding benefactor of the Palestinian Islamic terrorists. In some years, Hamas received $50 million in Saudi cash to fund its operations.
Besides the crackdown on corrupt officials, the Saudi monarch attached few strings to the appropriation, a lot less than stipulations by Washington, the Middle East Quartet and the European Union. He is not asking Hamas to recognize Israel before being awarded its petrodollar allowance, but would like the movement sworn to destroy the Jewish state “to do more to meet Israeli halfway”, set up contacts with Israeli officials and honor the accords former Palestinian administrations signed with Jerusalem.
Three considerations led the Saudi monarch to support a Hamas-led administration:
1. He saw Iran racing to defray the costs of the new Palestinian government and put in an urgent oar. The offer was put before Hamas leaders by Iranian terror master Ali-Akbar Mohashami-Pour who was sent to Damascus expressly for this purpose in the first week of February (as reported in DEBKA-Net-Weekly 240 of Feb. 2, 2006).
The Saudi king came round when Hamas representatives in Riyadh and Gaza told him they had turned the Iranians proposition down because they did not see themselves in Iran’s Middle East orbit.
2. Abdullah has an interest in working closely with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on the Palestinian issue as an adjunct to their strategic cooperation on the Syrian and Lebanese questions. He was gratified by Mubarak’s success in persuading US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to incorporate the call for a Middle East free of WMD and their means of delivery in the IAEA resolution referring Iran’s nuclear misdeeds to the UN Security Council. That add-on was directed mainly against Israel’s arsenal of nuclear weapons and it long-range missiles.
3. The king was impressed by the Hamas plan for administering the Palestinian government with a cut-rate budget and downsized staff, which left no slack for robbing the till. The blueprint appears to cut 37,000 civil service jobs. But those jobs are in fact non-existent. The Palestinian civil service is inflated by that number of phony job-holders with fictitious names, whose “wages” line the pockets of corrupt officials.
Cutting the phony wage-earners would represent a saving of $400 million a year. This would pare the Palestinian Authority’s annual $1.2 billion annual budget down to $800, the sum Riyadh has agreed to advance.
Abu Mazen is made to order prosecution of thieving officials
Our intelligence sources add that, before assuming fiscal responsibility for the Palestinian government, the Saudi king pressured PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas to help Hamas cut down on the massive misappropriation of funds and corruption in his government as a matter of top urgency – ahead even of dealing with Hamas’ participation in the Palestinian government.
Abbas came through with an order to the Palestinian prosecutor general, Ahmad al-Moreni to launch investigations, conduct searches and make arrests of officials suspected of getting rich by helping themselves to fat slices of foreign donations from the United States, the Europeans, the Gulf emirates and the United Nations over many years.
One estimate reaching DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Palestinian sources cites $12 billion as the total sum diverted by corrupt officials in ten years.
The Palestinian prosecutor went into action and launched investigations against the 45 top officials headed by the prime minister in person.
Our sources offer just a few concrete examples of make-believe projects that attracted large foreign investments which vanished as soon as they arrived:
The Middle East Pipe Factory, in which $140 million of mostly Italian capital was invested, according to Palestinian accounts.
The Arabian Sea Institute, which attracted $150 million from British and other European sources.
An organization called Sahara, in which $100 million was sunk.
No Palestinian official has ever heard of this organization or knows what the investment was meant for.
Many more millions were spent to set up necessary Palestinian utilities, such as a national forensic medicine center and a governmental vehicle licensing bureau. None of those projects ever grew out of promising blueprints. Therefore, according to an educated estimate, out of the $12 billion donated to the Palestinian Authority in recent years by well-meaning foreign contributors and investors, roughly $3-4 billion was purloined by rip-off merchants in government.
Hamas is eager to catch them and bring them to justice, because most are top Fatah officials who ruled the roost until their party’s crushing defeat in last month’s elections.
But Abu Mazen had to swallow hard before bowing to the royal Saudi demand. Although the lion’s share of the stolen money was diverted to financing Palestinian terror on Yasser Arafat’s orders – especially the suicidal Fatah-Tanzim and al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, plenty is still creamed off to maintain his own Fatah movement.
Denied of its lifeblood, Fatah will collapse and so too his own power base, further strengthening the Hamas grip on power.