A growing number of lawmakers in the United States, Great Britain and the European Union are openly suggesting the billions of dollars 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 United States alone contributes between $400 million and $500 million annually to the P.A. That sum is now threatened.
For many, as Al-Monitor reported in a headline, the proposed P.A. 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.
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-P.A. entity could outshine al-Qaida. Whereas al-Qaida must walk in the shadows and dwell in caves, the reconstituted well-armed, well-financed Hamas-P.A. 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 Palestinian Authority 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 Arabic word used in the law is ratib — Arabic for “salary.” It could not be denied.
When the P.A. 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 – including scores this year. Settled federal legislation prohibits funding FTOs.
“At this point, the law is clear, their actions are clear, and the path forward is clear,” Rep. Nita Lowey (R-N.Y.) told JTA immediately after news of the Hamas union became known. Lowey is the ranking Democrat on the State, foreign operations, and related programs subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee. JTA added her view that “the only thing that would stop her from the defunding path would be if Abbas were to reverse course on the agreement with Hamas”
When P.A. 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 P.A. if the new Hamas-P.A. entity did not agree to recognize Israel in five weeks. Numerous other legislators have signaled their readiness to vote for similar legislation now being formulated with competing wording.
Even if the Hamas unity is canceled, some 20 House members have insisted they are ready to completely defund the P.A. unless the monthly terrorist salaries cease.
On April 28, Granger and Lowey, the top two House appropriators, dispatched a joint urgent written warning to Abbas about reunification with Hamas. “We have been strong supporters of aid to the Palestinian Authority in the hopes of ensuring prosperity, stability, and peace for the Palestinian people and all people in the region,” they wrote. “However, our ability to support current and future aid would be severely threatened if you abandon direct negotiations with Israel and continue with your current efforts.”
With Palestinian talk of defunding legislation mushrooming through Congress, two salient moves have now emerged. Plan A: If the reunification with Hamas goes forward, federal law requires immediate defunding. Legislators may be forced to comply. Plan B: Even if the reunification is scrapped, federal law requires immediate defunding unless the monthly prisoner salaries cease. Legislators may be forced to comply.
Edwin Black is the author of IBM and the Holocaust. This article is drawn from his new book, Financing the Flames: How Tax-Exempt and Public Money Fuel a Culture of Confrontation and Terrorism in Israel.