Iran: $250 Million to PA

Iran has promised a quarter of a billion dollars to the Hamas Authority, says Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, turning the PA into a form of Iranian dependency.

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 09:48

Haniyeh returned yesterday from a visit to Tehran, his first visit outside Israel since he took office nearly a year ago. He told a Hamas internet site that the promised aid includes the following:
  • $100 million during the course of 2007
  • $45 million for aid to terrorist prisoners and their families
  • $60 million for 100,000 unemployed for six months
  • $20 million to rebuild destroyed houses
  • $15 million for public libraries
  • employees' salaries in three PA government offices for the next six months
  • $4.5 million for an airplane, refurbishing two more, and the purchase of 300 cars
  • money to build three hospitals and ten health clinics in Judea, Samaria and Gaza over the next ten years.

The PA's annual budget is 6-8 times the above amount. Until Hamas came to power earlier this year, the European Union used to support the Palestinian Authority to the tune of $600 million, and the U.S. used to give $420 million. The two cut off the aid when Hamas refused to renounce terrorism or recognize Israel. However, they have given close to $400 million in humanitarian aid, routing it through UN agencies to prevent it from reaching the Hamas government.

Most of the relatively little money promised by Arab nations over the past several years to the Palestinian Authority has not arrived. Iran and Qatar have each promised in the past to give the PA $50 million, enough for about three weeks of PA salary needs. Qatar later upped its offer to $30 million a month.

A report by the Council of Foreign Relations asserts that "considering historical precedent, experts say" the aid is not likely to come." The CFR report says, "Members of the Arab League promised the PA $55 million per month in 2002, but Saudi Arabia is the only country that has paid its part of the commitment regularly. Kuwait and other Persian Gulf countries have paid, but not the entire amount they promised, and other Arab League nations like Algeria paid once or twice, or not at all. And experts say donations from other Muslim nations came with their own strings. Contributions from Arab countries 'weren't necessarily tied to need, but more about gaining influence and jockeying for position with other Arab leaders,' says Edward Sayre, an assistant professor of economics at Agnes Scott College and an expert on Palestinian labor markets. 'It had very little to do with PA needs and wants.'"

On the other hand, the PA's acting finance minister Samir Abu Aisha said last week that Arab governments had increased their direct payments to the government from $20 million a month before Hamas came to power to $45 million. The money is often smuggled in - with no official control over where it ultimately goes.

Last May, reports, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri was caught attempting to smuggle nearly $900,000 in cash across the border... Despite the smuggling attempts, many of which have no doubt gone unnoticed by authorities, the funds have yet to be used to pay salaries of the general population, most of which has struggled for nine months without pay. Rather than ending up in the hands of Palestinians, donations from Iran have reportedly been transferred to those close to Hamas and to strengthen the da'wa [outreach] mechanism of the Islamic Resistance Movement."

Neither do Arab nations support UNRWA - the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East - in a major way. UNRWA's largest donors in 2005 were the European Commission, the United States, Sweden and Norway. As of 31 October 2006, the Agency's largest contributors were the United States, the European Commission, Sweden, Norway the United Kingdom and Canada. UN chief Kofi Annan has issued a call for increased international funding for UNRWA.