Thursday, June 05, 2014
U.S. Funding for Hamas?
The 1988 Hamas Charter explicitly commits the Palestinian terror group to murdering Jews. Thanks to the formation this week of an interim government uniting Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, which the U.S. supports to the tune of more than $400 million a year, the American taxpayer may soon become an indirect party to that enterprise.
Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren on the State Department's decision to recognize and fund the new Fatah-Hamas coalition government. Photo credit: Associated Press.
"Today we declare the end of the split and regaining the unity of the homeland," PA President Mahmoud Abbas said in televised remarks Monday. The split he was referring to is the bloody conflict between Mr. Abbas's Fatah faction, which controls the West Bank, and Hamas, which in 2007 forcibly expelled Fatah from the Gaza Strip.
Previous attempts at reconciliation had failed in large part because Hamas had refused to subsume its armed wing to the PA. This time Mr. Abbas acquiesced to a partnership with a heavily armed terrorist group. The resulting relationship will likely resemble the one next door between the Lebanese government, with its negligible regular army, and the Shiite terror group Hezbollah, which like Hamas boasts an arsenal of Iranian-supplied missiles.
The question is whether the U.S. government will continue to fund the PA now that Mr. Abbas has cast his lot with a State Department-designated foreign terrorist organization. U.S. law prohibits dispensing taxpayer money to any Palestinian entity over which Hamas exercises "undue influence."
To hew as close as possible to the letter of U.S. law, the architects of the Hamas-backed interim government have assembled a cabinet of old PA holdovers and technocrats from Gaza with no obvious links to Hamas. The maneuver was good enough for the Obama State Department. "At this point, it appears that President Abbas has formed an interim technocratic government that does not include ministers affiliated with Hamas," spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters earlier this week. "Moving forward, we will be judging this government by its actions."
But that still leaves open the question of the PA's treaty obligations. The Oslo Accords and its progeny, including the 1998 Wye Memorandum, set very clear limits on the extent and potency of the PA arsenal. Under the Wye Memorandum, for example, the PA is required to "establish and vigorously and continuously implement a systematic program for the collection and appropriate handling of" illegal weapons.
Nobody should count on the aging and calculating Mr. Abbas to exercise meaningful control over Hamas's arsenal, much less its behavior. And nobody should count on the Obama Administration to apply meaningful penalties to the PA for joining forces with Hamas and flouting its obligations toward Israel. That leaves Congress, which can block funding to the Palestinians until they prove capable of governing themselves as something other than a terrorist enterprise.