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Egypt Says Money to Hamas Must Continue to Flow

The United States is having trouble convincing the Arab world to agree to its stop-funding-Hamas policy - and even one of Pres. Bush's predecessors does not agree.

By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 2/22/2006, 7:10 PM / Last Update: 2/22/2006, 9:51 AM

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has begun a four-leg trip to the Middle East - to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and United Arab Emirates - to try to convince these countries to agree to withhold aid to the new Hamas Authority. The American policy, as spelled out roughly by President Bush aboard Air Force One on Tuesday, is, "So long as Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist, my view is we don't have a partner in peace and therefore shouldn't fund [Hamas]... Our policy is two states living side by side in peace, and therefore it's hard to have a state living side by side in peace when your stated objective is the destruction of one of the states,"

Rice has not had much success in promoting this view, however. At a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Gheit in Cairo on Tuesday, Gheit said straight out that he does not agree with the U.S. plan. He said that funds to the new PA government should continue for an indefinite period, to give Hamas "time to develop their own ideas." Egypt gives little or no money to the PA, but has significant influence in the Arab world.

The recent Hamas victory in the Palestinian Authority election and its imminent takeover of the government marks the first time that an extremist Islamic movement with a terrorist wing has democratically assumed power. Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel, and has murdered hundreds of Israelis over the past five years.

Not only Egypt refuses to toe the Bush Administration line. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has written an op-ed in the Washington Post, entitled, "Don't Punish the Palestinians." Making his case in media appearances around the country as well, Carter wrote,
"During this time of fluidity in the formation of the new government, it is important that Israel and the United States play positive roles. Any tacit or formal collusion between the two powers to disrupt the process by punishing the Palestinian people could be counterproductive and have devastating consequences."

Carter also wrote that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has "announced that he will not choose a prime minister who does not recognize Israel or adhere to the basic principles of the Road Map." However, last night, less than two days after Carter's article was published, Abbas appointed Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas as the next prime minister - but Haniyeh refuses to accept previous PA commitments. Haniyeh said only, “We will study [Abbas' positions], and Allah willing, we will answer soon to Abu Mazen, Allah willing."

Contrary to Carter, Israel and the U.S. feel that withholding money could pressure Hamas to recognize Israel or support a two-state peace plan. Some in Israel feel that money should be withheld, but not as a form of pressure, which they feel is hopeless. Prof. Dan Shiftan, the Deputy Head of the National Security Research Center at Haifa University, told Arutz-7 this week that there is no chance that Hamas will become more moderate.

"We also thought that the PLO had became more moderate," Shiftan said, "but even now it still negates the existence of the State of Israel and sees terrorism as a legitimate tool. There are Israelis who just want Hamas to fool them, and they also fool themselves; the option of a more moderate Hamas simply does not exist."