Considers Cutting Aid to New Palestinian Hamas Government
American and European Union officials are considering what aid, if any, should
go to the Palestinian Authority government that is now under the control of the
Islamic militant group Hamas.
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Hamas won a surprising victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections in
late January. The group is unpopular in the West because it advocates the destruction
of the state of Israel and has taken responsibility for many terrorist attacks
and suicide bombings.
Although by law the Palestinian Authority is still headed by
an independently elected president, Mahmoud Abbas of the secular
Fatah Party, Abbas has asked Hamas to form a cabinet. That means
that Hamas, labeled a terrorist organization by Israel and the
West, is expected to dominate the government within weeks.
conditions for aid|
Late last month, senior representatives from the United States, United Nations,
European Union and Russia, the so-called
met in London and laid down conditions for continuing aid.
the next Palestinian government recognize Israel and commit itself to non-violence
and a two-state solution.
Even though Hamas has not agreed to any Western
conditions -- only saying they would consider a long term truce with Israel --
on Monday the European Union announced it was giving the Palestinian Authority
$144 million in emergency aid to tide it over until Hamas takes power.
said they were responding to concerns that stopping all payments could send the
region into more violence and chaos.
But critics of the plan feel that giving
Hamas any money makes the group seem legitimate and eliminates the incentive to
condition of the Palestinian Authority|
The Palestinian Authority is in a precarious financial situation.
year it gets $1.3 billion in outside funding. Of that money about 40 percent goes
to development, 30 percent to humanitarian aid and 30 percent to direct government
The money in question is the development and direct government
aid, which provides monthly salaries for 135, 000 government workers.
According to a UN report, about 942,000 Palestinians, or one
in four of those living in Gaza and the West Bank, are financially
dependent on someone who works for the Palestinian Authority.
there are regional experts who believe withholding money will force Hamas to change
politically, others believe that it will only strengthen the group.
not going to weaken Hamas by starving Palestinians and there's no way to starve
the Palestinian government as opposed to starving Hamas. Money is fungible,"
Amjad Atallah, a former advisor to the Palestinian Liberation Organization and
now president of Strategic Assessments, a law firm that deals in conflict resolution,
told the NewsHour.
long a U.S. ally, has asked the United States and other Western nations to suspend
all funding to the Palestinian government, although they have agreed to continue
humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.
"Do we want to show that
Palestinians who made a free choice for Hamas have repercussions and implications
of their choice?" asked Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington
Institute for Near East Policy.
"This is a choice the international
community need not subsidize. ... There's no entitlement that they have a claim
on the rest of the world to pay for a Hamas-led regime," Satloff said.
The Bush administration has asked president Abbas to return $50
million the United States provided the Palestinian Authority last
year for infrastructure improvements.
Abbas protested the demands.
should not be punished for the democratic choice, regardless of
the government. You can punish the government but how can you
punish the whole people for the position of this government? We
will have to face all these issues and we'll have to try and solve
the crisis," he said.
Hamas leaders have vowed they'll
turn to Iran and other Muslim nations for support if they're cut off by the West.
Earlier in February, Iran, a country with a repressive Islamic government,
pledged to help the Palestinian Authority if it needs money.
Compiled by Annie Schleicher for NewsHour Extra