Daily Israel Report

Israel Rushing to Prepare for Hamas Gov´t This Week

The Hamas terrorist organization assumes official control of the PA legislature on Saturday. Israel deliberates how to react.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 2/16/2006, 1:24 PM / Last Update: 2/16/2006, 10:04 AM

The newly-elected PA legislature will convene for the first time at the end of this week, with Hamas members occupying a clear majority - 72 out of 132 - of its seats.

Ismail Haniye, who has been tapped by Hamas to be the next Palestinian Authority Prime Minister, says he hopes to form the new government by the beginning of March. Israel's elections are scheduled for March 28.

A top government official quoted by the Hebrew news site NFC says Israel will begin relating to the PA as an enemy entity as early as this Sunday, and will not wait for the government to be formed. Ideas that have been proposed by the defense establishment include banning travel between Gaza and Judea/Samaria, and not allowing Gaza workers to cross into Israel.

Likud MK Yuval Shteinitz recommends that Hamas leaders be prevented from traveling freely, and to thus thwart the planned convening of the legislature. "We put a siege on Arafat," Shteinitz said, "so we can do the same thing with A-Zahar and Haniyeh. The world will accept it. The main thing is that we shouldn't waffle."

Foreign Minister Tzippy Livny convened a meeting of top government officials Wednesday night to discuss Israel's approach towards the new terrorist government. It was decided that, contrary to the transfer earlier this month of tax monies to the PA, no further monies will be forwarded, at least for now. Israel will not protest international contributions to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, however, if such monies are given only for humanitarian purposes.

The Defense Ministry will hold another consultation on the matter today (Thursday), and Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will run yet another meeting on Friday, at which the final decisions are to be made.

A diplomatic source told Ynet earlier this week that the pressure of making such critical decisions so late in the game is liable to lead to poorly-considered moves, without the ability to take national and international developments into account.

It is widely assumed that a complete cessation of donations is liable to cause a humanitarian collapse in the PA. The PA requires a monthly influx of some $116 million to pay the salaries of its 135,000 employees, many of whom serve in the military.

It is not clear how Israel will ascertain or enforce that the money is in fact headed only for welfare purposes, however.

See commentator Michael Freund's remarks on this issue.

National Security Council Chairman Gen. (ret.) Giora Eiland, who participated in the Livny meeting, said that it would be very difficult to relay money only to the Arab population and not the Hamas government. He explained that most of the workers in the social organizations are Hamas members.

Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Gilad, head of the Political-Military Bureau at the Ministry of Defense, was asked today if Iranian money might fill the void left by Israel's withholding of tax monies. He responded that Iran already gives money to Hamas, "but there is a great difference between funding a terrorist organization and funding an entire diplomatic entity. It won't be so simple for Iran to make up the loss."

It was reported this morning that Israel has released a Hamas terrorist who was elected to the Palestinian Authority parliament. The freed terrorist-to-become-legislator is Ahmed Al-Hajri, who was elected on the Hamas list from the Shechem (Nablus) district in last month's PA election. Information on Al-Hajri is scarce, and some reports say he had been held under administrative detention.