Should the US provide funds to the new Hamas government of the Palestinian Authority?
There are no good answers.
The PA legislature is controlled by a party committed to a single Islamic state in historic Palestine. Hamas appointed a virulent militant as Minister of the Interior. Party leaders praised the recent suicide attack in Israel. Yet Hamas has observed a hudna, a truce against Israel for nearly a year.
On the other hand, the Presidency of the PA is occupied by the most rational, pragmatic leader the Palestinians have ever enjoyed, Mahmoud Abbas. He has demanded an end to violence against Israel for the simple reason that it has done nothing good for the Palestinians. He wants desperately to negotiate directly with the Israeli government for a permanent two state solution. Yet member of his own coalition, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and his own party, Fatah, have committed all the terrorist attacks within Israel in the past year.
One side talks like terrorists and remains peaceful. The other side talks like respectable peace-makers and cravenly attacks unarmed civilians. Some choice.
Perhaps we should fund the PA. We might achieve several goals. We might prevent a further deterioration of the Palestinian standard of living and reverse the increasing anti-Israel, anti-US, and anti-Western sentiment among a population that sees its health, its jobs, its education, and its future slip away with each passing unfunded week.
By funding the PA, we might reveal that Hamas is no better able to provide services to the Palestinians than the PLO was. Hamas might wrestle unsuccessfully with the same endemic corruption that crippled Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinians might then vote out Hamas in the next election, and perhaps even turn to some third party, of which there are many in Palestinian politics.
Perhaps we should not fund the PA. Hamas leaders provide ample reason to believe that at any moment, Hamas may call off the hudna and divert all PA funds into a vicious terrorist campaign against Israel. There may never be another election conducted by the PA if Hamas fully implements its plan for an Islamic theocracy. We may simply produce another militant despotic government committed to the destruction of the Israeli people.
A complicating issue is that terrorists against Israel do not depend upon PA funding. Some official PA money is siphoned off to militants. However, anti-Israeli terrorists in Palestine have never lacked for funds as most of it is provided by outside governments and organizations. (Of note, a substantial amount of terrorist funding derives from American dollars spent to import Middle Eastern oil. But we knew that already.)
What will we absolutely achieve if we refuse to fund the Hamas-dominated PA? We certainly will increase the daily suffering of the Palestinian people. We will certainly increase anti-Israel and anti-American sentiment pari passu with that suffering. We will certainly provide Hamas with a credible excuse for all its future failures to govern and improve the lot of the Palestinian people. And the remainder of the Arab nations will certainly note that we rejected the results of one of the few democratically conducted elections ever held in the Middle East.
What do we risk if we fund the Hamas-dominated PA? We may possibly end up financing an organization that turns that money into terrorism, but that is not certain. We may possibly enable the Hamas government to function so efficiently that Palestinian support for the party grows, but that is not certain. We may possibly enable the Hamas party to extend its power to the point that Palestinians elections are never held again, but that is not certain.
Contrasting the certain destruction that withholding funds will cause with the possible but uncertain catastrophe that providing funds will cause, the least dangerous route would appear to favor funding.
Such a program might lead to Hamas-sponsored terrorism, in which case Hamas loses all international credibility. And we cease all funds. Hamas may use the funds to consolidate power and establish a theocracy. Again international credibility is lost, as well as the support of the Palestinian people.
It is also conceivable that Hamas may use the funds as intended, to provide for the Palestinian people. It is possible that Hamas may want to retain this funding and consider (only consider, mind you) modifying its public stance. Even with continued virulent rhetoric, Hamas may enjoy being a fully funded government to the point that its behind the scenes actions might promote economic cooperation with the US rather than political opposition.
We have much to lose whether we fund Hamas or not. We increase the chances of gaining something by funding them.
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