The radical Palestinian Hamas this month established a government-in-exile promoted by Iran.
Tehran has insisted it be kept totally secret, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iranian sources report. If its existence is kept under wraps, the Iranians explained to the hardline Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, it will be in position to jump up at the right moment and derail US President Barack Obama's efforts to restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
That moment will occur if and when those negotiations start moving forward. The Hamas government-in-exile will then surface as the true and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and demand the dismissal of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayad.
To escape outside notice, members of the Hamas politburo operating out of Damascus and Beirut agreed to use the Damascus center as their supreme headquarters and start building government ministries on the quiet there. The first four portfolios have been assigned, according to our sources. They go to –
Prime Minister – Khaled Mashaal
Defense Minister – Mousa Abu Marzook
Foreign Minister – Osama Hamdan
Internal Security Minister – Imad Alami
The Hamas wing which rules the Gaza Strip is left out in the cold.
Neither Tehran nor Meshaal trusts Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh or Mahmud al-Zahar, who handles foreign relations. What has happened therefore is an internal coup in Hamas cutting Gaza government heads off from Damascus headquarters and Tehran. Without being told directly, the chiefs of the Palestinian organizations operating in Gaza – from the Islamic Jihad to the Army of Islam (linked to Al Qaeda and Hamas) – have been given to understand that if they want to stay in with Tehran, Hizballah and Damascus and continue to receive funds and military aid, they must go behind the backs of Haniyeh and Al-Zahar. Their new addresses are the two strongmen: Fathi Hamad, who has seized control of the enclave's intelligence agencies, and Ahmad al-Jabari, commander of the Izz e-Din Al-Qassam Brigades.
Rising Gaza border tension a side-effect of pro-Iran Hamas coup
One of the side-effects of this internal conflict has been a fresh outbreak of intense Palestinian missile and mortar fire against Israel in the last two weeks, exacerbating Hamas-Israel tension along the Gaza border.
Tehran and Damascus find cause for high expectations of eventually toppling the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and installing Hamas in the unbridled corruption riddling the Fayad administration.
The Obama administration, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in particular, pin their hopes of a negotiated peace and a Middle East breakthrough on Salem Fayad. They therefore assented to his request for the hundreds of millions of dollars the PA receives from outside donor nations to go straight to Palestinian towns and organizations as grants for development projects without being incorporated in the government budget and documented.
Some 1,500 Palestinian organizations operate on the West Bank. The monies they have received as donations are not recorded in any international documents.
Whereas, US assistance comes from a small number of sources, European donations are much larger and more diverse. Just this week, the European Union transferred $100 million to the PA, $60 million for its payroll and $40 million for development purposes. These sums are recorded on many pieces of paper, but some of them contradict others.
Billions of donated dollars sink into untraceable pockets
Several hundreds of millions of euros are also donated by individual European countries, provincial authorities, cities and non-governmental organizations (some of which are themselves EU-funded).
The finances of the Ramallah administration have reached such a level of chaos that no exact tally is possible of the amounts donated.
The World Bank in its interim report has come closest to an overall, general estimate of approximately $3.3 billion as the total volume of international donations to the Palestinian economy in 2008.. A partial tally for the years 2009-2010 comes close to $8 billion, less than half of which is accounted for in the official PA budget.
A new professional elite has sprung up In Ramallah, many of its members fluent English speakers, who specialize in creating documents and grant applications to donor organizations.
They make a good living as the contributions continue to roll in.
But hardly any of this largesse rubs off onto the ordinary Palestinian, who can often be heard asking why, if the Palestinian Authority has so many donors, why aren't he and his family sharing in the opulence of the villas, boutiques and high living so conspicuous in Ramallah.
Tehran, Damascus and the new Hamas government know exactly how much money the Palestinian Authority is receiving, spending and handing out. But they are not saying a word, certain that the larger the sums and the faster they disappear into untraceable pockets, the smoother their path to seizing power in Ramallah.