The US State Department sent a message to Gaza’s Hamas leaders on Thursday that it would withdraw some $100 million it is spending in Gaza on health care, agriculture and water infrastructure if they did not back off a demand to audit the books of American-financed charities operating there, the New York Times reports.
The threat, delivered via an intermediary, came after Hamas officials suspended the operation of the International Medical Corps on Sunday for its refusal to submit to a Hamas audit at the charity’s site.
For American organizations direct contact with Hamas, labeled a terrorist group by the State Department, is proscribed by law. As a result, on-site audits by Hamas officials would lead to suspension of aid, American officials said. US charities distribute a large share of the money that foreign governments spend on humanitarian assistance in Gaza.
American and some other foreign governments do not consider Hamas the legitimate government in Gaza. Although Hamas won Palestinian Authority parliamentary elections in 2006, the Palestinian Authority, dominated by Fatah, is still viewed by many abroad as the legitimate government in Gaza and PA enclaves in Judea and Samaria.
Most foreign charities submit their own audits to the Fatah-run Interior Ministry in Ramallah in Samaria, under their interpretation of PA law. They also publish reports on their sources and activities and believe that should suffice for Hamas.
Thursday's threat is not the first targeting PA aid dollars. Both houses of the US legislature have passed non-binding resolutions urging the Obama administration to cut all funds to the PA if it pursues its unilateral bid for statehood at the UN in September.
Earlier this week, a senior Western diplomat said that a PA decision to go ahead withthat bid will “make it harder for the US to have relations with the Palestinian Authority."
According to the diplomat, who requested anonymity, those relations now include both US budgetary support to the PA and the training of PA security forces.