Olmert: $53.2 million to Finance PA; Hamas: Oslo Null and Void

The government of Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has approved the transfer of $53.2 million to Finance the PA, despite concerns that the Hamas will use the money to finance terror against Israel.

Scott Shiloh , | updated: 3:24 PM

A government committee chaired by Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has approved the transfer of NIS 250 million ($53.2 million) to the Palestinian Authority, after a five-day delay.

The panel of senior ministers and representatives of the country’s security establishment decided to transfer the money, mainly duties collected on imports to the PA, despite worries that the Hamas may use the money to fund a terror campaign against the Jewish state.

Panel members, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Foreign Minister and Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni, IDF Chief-of-staff, Dan Halutz, Shin Bet chief, Yuval Diskin, and National Security Advisor, Dov Wiesglass, agreed unanimously to approve the transfer on the grounds that the Hamas has yet to take formal control of the PA government.

MK Gidon Sa’ar (Likud) said the government’s decision was tantamount to “giving a prize to terror and providing rewards for Hamas policy.” He added, “When terrorism strikes Israel in the north, south, and center of the country, Olmert gives kosher certification to the Hamas, and promotes political and security blindness.”

MK Zvulun Orlev, chairman of the National Religious Party said the government’s decision was like “oiling the terror wheels of the Hamas.”

The Hamas, which won a landslide victory in the PA election two weeks ago, is expected to form a new government by the end of the month. A Hamas official said at a press conference on Saturday that PA chief Mahmoud Abbas of the ruling Fatah party has agreed to turn over part of the PA’s security forces to the Hamas after it forms a government.

Hamas leader, Khaled Mashal, said in Syria following the group’s victory that Hamas will never recognize Israel’s right to exist. Mashal’s position has been reiterated by the organization’s leaders in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.

The PA is largely dependent on a monthly transfer of import duties by Israel to remain financially solvent. The PA uses the money to pay the salaries of 135,000 employees many of whom serve in the military. A number of Israeli officials expressed concern that failure to make the monthly payment could precipitate a collapse of the PA.

Government legal experts said that Israel had no right under the Oslo accords to withhold the money, so long as the PA is ruled by the Fatah party. The Olso accords were based on legal recognition by the PLO, led by the Fatah, of the State of Israel.

The accords also preclude parties that do not recognize Israel from running in PA elections. The PA flouted that provision by allowing the Hamas to run in the election. After winning the PA election, the Hamas repudiated the Oslo accords, calling them null and void.

The government panel decided that further transfers of money to the PA will be made on a case-by-case basis, in order to make sure that a Hamas-led government does not use the money to finance terror against Israel.

Ze’ev Boim (Kadima), Minisiter of Housing, said on Sunday that “this payment is the last one that gets transferred to the PA in this fashion. If the Hamas forms a government, not a single shekel will be transferred to them.”

The PA also receives substantial subsidies from the European Community and the United States. The U.S. has announced that it will not authorize the transfer of additional funds to the PA until the Hamas recognizes Israel’s right to exist.

Commentator Michael Freund noted that the transfer of funds "only serves to undermine the case that Israel has been trying to make in recent weeks both to Washington and Europe. After pushing the international community to isolate the newly-elected Hamas regime, how can Israel now justify keeping such a regime afloat?"

Since winning the parliamentary election, the Hamas has made an effort to cement closer financial and political ties with Iran, one of the terror group’s primary backers.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Mashal in Syria just before the PA election. Ahmadinejad promised Mashal to provide financial support to the Hamas and its military wing, Iz A-Din Al-Kassam.