For the second time in two months, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has approved the transfer of millions of dollars in cash to banks under the Hamas regime in Gaza. Kibbutz activists are attempting to prevent the cash infusion, while a legal forum observes that Netanyahu had previously opposed the very same policy by the Olmert government.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu instructed officials to authorize the transfer of 54 million shekels (12 million U.S.
Kibbutz activists said they would do what they could to block physical access to Gaza.
dollars) from banks in the Judea and Samaria half of the Palestinian Authority to banks in the Hamas-controlled PA in Gaza. The authorization was issued just after talks between the Prime Minister and Tony Blair, the lead envoy of the Quartet (the U.S., the European Union, Russia and the United Nations).
The ostensible purpose of the monies to be sent to Gaza banks is to help pay the salaries of PA employees in the region. However, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' spokespersons say that the sum covers only a quarter of the needed monthly payments.
Kibbutz Movement and Land of Israel Forum Oppose
In reaction to the decision to send money into institutions under the Hamas regime, activists from the Kibbutz movement blocked Erez Crossing into Gaza on Thursday. Kibbutz activists said they would do what they could to block physical access to Gaza, in the hopes of preventing the influx of cash. Their primary demand is that Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held captive and incommunicado by Hamas since 2006, be given treatment equal to that accorded PA prisoners in Israeli jails before any further money ends up in Hamas-controlled territory.
The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, meanwhile, has requested that the Israeli government halt the money transfer altogether. "All the cash which enters the Gaza Strip adds up to the cash balance of the branches of the banks, which absorb the money," said Nachi Eyal, the Legal Forum's General Director. "The cash finds its way to the whole banking system in Gaza, including the National Islamic Bank which Hamas opened last month."
This means, Eyal continued, "that the government of Israel is lending a hand to the strengthening of Hamas, and is aiding the terrorist organization which seeks [Israel's] destruction by, amongst other things, providing salaries to the Hamas personnel." Of more concern is that "the cash is used to pay for the goods smuggled through the tunnels of the Philadelphi line, and perhaps even for the weapons which will return to Israel, mostly to Sderot, Ashkelon and the belt around Gaza, in the form of Kassam rockets."
Not the First Time
The Legal Forum director added that Netanyahu, who had previously opposed such transfers, received a mandate from the public to lead the government in a different direction than that espoused in the previous administration, "in which Israel subsidized Hamas."
But this month's planned cash transfer to the Hamas regime is not Netanyahu's first. In April, the government authorized the transfer of an identical sum of 12 million dollars to Gaza's banks. That transfer also received its final approval from Netanyahu following a meeting with Blair at which the PA's need for back salaries was outlined.