Daily Israel Report

Shalit Supporters to Call: Block Money to Gaza

In a protest on Friday, protesters will call on the Israeli government to stop transferring money to Hamas as long as Gilad Shalit is held captive.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 6/7/2011, 4:07 AM / Last Update: 6/7/2011, 4:46 AM

A demonstration is expected to be held on Friday near Israel’s border with Gaza, during which protesters will call on the Israeli government to stop transferring funds to the Hamas leadership in Gaza.

The demonstration is being organized by Orna Shimoni, a founder of the Four Mothers movement that helped bring about the IDF's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000. She explained during an interview on Monday with Arutz Sheva’s Hebrew website what led her to organize the protest.

Shimoni explained that the main purpose of her struggle is to stop the transfer of funds into Gaza, since these funds enable the Hamas leadership to purchase weapons that can then be used against Israelis. She noted that in the past, these weapons were purchased and smuggled into the Strip through the underground tunnels, but that today it is much easier for Hamas to bring the weapons into Gaza openly (through the recently reopened Rafiah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt).

She reminded that every month, Israel allows for the entry of $13.5 million into the Gaza Strip, and that the money comes out of accounts belonging to the Bank of Israel.

“Eighty percent of the dollars transferred to Gaza are used to smuggle weapons which then return to us in the form of missiles fired at buses and towns, and twenty percent of the funds are used to pay the wages for Hamas leaders, including the captors of Gilad Shalit,” said Shimoni, adding that no one disputes these figures. “At least until the day Gilad Shalit is released, we should not transfer money to Gaza through the State of Israel.”

She said she does not accept the official claim that the money, which sometimes comes from countries belonging to the European Union and sometimes comes from the Palestinian Authority itself, belongs to the PA Arab residents of Gaza. She added that she sees this as a matter of principle, just as Israel would not enable the transfer of money to a Nazi organization or to the Hizbullah terror group. She emphasized that the funds are not intended to benefit local residents and that the residents do not see any of the money. “The money goes to the Hamas leadership in Gaza and is streamlined towards salaries and weapons, and we must stop this money from going through, even if we are only used as a pipeline.”

Shimoni said that the original idea was to hold the demonstration in front of the home of Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, as he is the one responsible for transfers of funds from the Bank of Israel. She added, however, that the plan was dropped at the request of Gilad’s father, Noam Shalit, who believes that the focus of the pressure to release his son should be the decision-makers, i.e. the Prime Minister, government ministers, and other members of Knesset. As such, the location of the protest was changed, though she said she herself believes Fischer, as the one who pressured Israel to transfer the funds to Gaza, should also stand up to public pressure to cancel the move.

Shimoni noted that she believes the motive behind Fishcher’s move may have been his longtime friendship with PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. The two had met when both had worked for the World Bank. She also brought up the possibility that Fischer wanted to please the European Union and the World Bank and for this reason decided to push for money to be transferred to Hamas. She said, however, that despite her deep appreciation for Fischer, his move cannot be accepted when it leads to attacks on Israel’s security.

According to Shimoni, if Hamas knows that Israel is serious and would actually stop the transfer of funds, it will be frightened and will drop the price it is requesting for Shalit’s release.

“Without the money, there is no Hamas,” she said, adding that during Friday’s demonstration she plans to bring up the issue in public and thus interrupt the silence over the transfer of funds to Gaza.

Meanwhile, Shalit’s parents were in France Monday to file a lawsuit in a Paris court regarding their son being held hostage. They say he may have “suffered acts of torture or of barbarism.”

Shalit is a French citizen and the legal action is intended to put more pressure on the French government to work for his release.

Last week, French first lady Carla Bruni responded to a personal letter from Sara Netanyahu on the subject of Shalit, with a note of her own in which she said that France was sparing no effort in its attempts to mediate Shalit’s release.

“Like you, I wish with all my heart that this episode will be over soon,” Bruni wrote.

The issue of the price that Israel should pay for Shalit’s release has been one of controversy in the country. Hamas has demanded that Israel release thousands of Arab prisoners being held in Israeli prisons, some of whom were involved in deadly suicide terror attacks and are behind the deaths of hundreds of innocent Israeli civilians.

Some groups, mostly from the left, are saying Israel should pay any price for Shalit, including releasing potentially dangerous terrorists. Those who oppose such deals are saying that Israel cannot release prisoners who are likely to go back to terror, and thus endanger the lives of hundreds of more Israelis.

Click here to view one such debate, which took place this week between Meir Indor of the Almagor Terror Victims Association and Shimshon Liebman, Chairman of the Gilad Shalit Action Committee.