Financing the Flames -- Key Lawmakers Ready to Defund Palestinians Over Hamas Unity and Terrorism

A growing clamor among recession-wracked parliamentarians here and abroad warns Palestinians that the gravy train may quickly dry up.
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A growing number of lawmakers in the United States, Great Britain, and the European Union are openly suggesting the billions of dollars, pounds, and euros that they and others have collectively bestowed upon the Palestinian Authority to promote peace and reconciliation with Israel have done the exact opposite. The evidence is now too great to ignore, a growing number of lawmakers confess. Key legislators say abundant funding has only been financing the flames of confrontation, intransigence, and openly-advertised institutional terrorism. The United States alone contributes between $400 million and $500 million annually to the PA. That sum is now threatened.

For many, as Al-Monitor reported in a headline, reunion with Hamas seems to be "the last straw." Reunification will create what one lawmaker called "the single best financed terror structure in the world."

The concerns are manifold. Hamas and its Gazan partners wage daily war against the Jewish State -- 10,000 rockets in recent years. Gaza can become a direct pipeline to Iranian, Syrian, and Hezbollah weaponry, creating a formidable terror nexus just a 20-minute drive from Tel Aviv. But the threat goes beyond just Israel.

Last month, a Cairo court officially declared Hamas a terrorist organization, banning all of its activities in Egypt. Cairo's military has nearly sealed the Gaza border, has flooded its tunnels with sewage, and is now fencing off El Arish and the Sinai.

In Latin America, Hamas has been engaged in rampant narcoterrorism in a tri-border region centered near Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil. Hundreds of operatives from Hamas as well as Hezbollah, operating with millions of money-laundered dollars, have created a lawless domain that funnels money back to the Middle East, according to a 2010 report by the Crime and Narcotics Center of the Central Intelligence Agency. Moreover, the report cites information that "Hamas and other terrorist organizations use this region to plan their actions, to obtain supplies, and to live for a certain period of time before launching new attacks in other countries."

Most of all, the new Hamas-PA entity could outshine al-Qaeda. Whereas al-Qaeda must walk in the shadows and dwell in caves, the reconstituted well-armed, well-financed Hamas-PA entity would walk the gilded corridors of government in seeming diplomatic trappings while continuing to threaten and implement terrorism, at high noon and in public parades, all with impunity and endless international taxpayer financing.

A growing clamor among recession-wracked parliamentarians here and abroad warns Palestinians that the gravy train may quickly dry up.

First, parliamentarians across the planet had to confront recent revelations that the Palestinian Authority was paying generous salaries to convicted terrorists in Israeli prisons. The more innocent civilians they killed, the greater was their monthly salary. A sliding scale was openly set forth in the Palestinian Law of the Prisoner, with more money and benefits going to those killing the most people, whether by bombing a bus or simply massacring infants sleeping in their beds. A well-endowed Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners ensures efficient payment of the monthly stipends. The Arabic word used in the law is ratib -- Arabic for "salary." It could not be denied.

Far from denying it, Palestinian officials regularly boast of the program. "These people are heroes and freedom fighters," a Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners spokesman confirmed to skeptical Telegraph reporter Jake Wallis-Simons in London, trying to validate the program. The Ministry spokesman added, "We have nothing to hide, and all the laws that regulate these payments are published in newspapers and accessible for anyone who looks for them ... There is no other issue in the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli occupation which gathers so much support among the Palestinian population."

The monthly terrorist salaries total about $3 million to $7 million per month and consume approximately 6 percent of the PA budget, with similar terrorism compensation programs pushing the grand total to about 16 percent of the PA's overall estimated $3.5 billion annual budget. With a continuous 28 to 33 percent deficit, the PA monthly payments are in essence funded by taxpayers in America, Europe, and elsewhere, who make up the difference.

The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade, led by Congressman Ted Poe (R-Texas), conducted a formal hearing on the topic in March 2014. An astonished Rep. Poe later penned an article for the Jerusalem Post entitled "Crime Pays -- for Palestinian Terrorists" detailing the undeniable discovery. In London, The Telegraph reported, "Sir Gerald Howarth, a Conservative MP, has called for Britain to suspend all aid to the Palestinian Authority until payments to terrorists cease." In Brussels, several members of the European Parliament, such as Poland's Michal Kaminsky, demanded under Rule 117 that such funding be stopped. At the same time, a special report by the EU's Court of Auditors discovered that more than 90 million euros in fuel subsidies have simply vanished. Moreover, the EU report concluded, Europe is paying salaries for approximately 61,000 civil servants and members of the security forces -- who do not even report to work. In one office, the National Audit Institute of Palestine, a check confirmed that 90 staffers out of 125 could not be located.

When days ago the PA suddenly revealed it has been secretly engineering reunification with Hamas, bright red lights immediately began flashing across Congress. Hamas has long been a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization [FTO], a status earned in part by launching some more than 8,000 rockets against Israel since the 2005 disengagement -- including scores this year. Settled federal legislation prohibits funding FTOs. "At this point, the law is clear, their actions are clear, and the path forward is clear," Rep. Nita Lowey (R-NY) told the JTA news service immediately after news of the Hamas union became known. Lowey is the ranking Democrat on the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee. The JTA added her view that "the only thing that would stop her from the defunding path would be if Abbas were to reverse course on the agreement with Hamas." Subcommittee chairperson Kate Granger (R-TX) echoed Lowey's statements. Representatives Granger and Lowey, in many ways, control the purse strings.

When PA president Mahmoud Abbas declined to back away from the union, and Hamas vituperatively proclaimed it would never abandon military actions or recognize Israel, various bipartisan groupings of Representatives and Senators across the spectrum began openly saying out loud what had previously only been mumbled. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) released a statement that he would immediately move to defund the PA if the new Hamas-PA entity did not agree to recognize Israel in five weeks. Numerous other legislators have signaled their readiness to vote for similar legislation now being formulated with competing wording. Late April 29, 2014, Senate Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce (D-CA) told a Jewish group assembled in the committee's Rayburn Building chamber that he would also support halting all PA funding if incitement is not curtailed. Even if the Hamas unity is cancelled, some 20 House members have insisted they are ready to completely defund the PA unless the monthly terrorist salaries cease.

April 28, 2014, Granger and Lowey, the top two House appropriators, dispatched a joint urgent written warning to Abbas about reunification with Hamas. "We have been strong supporters of aid to the Palestinian Authority in the hopes of ensuring prosperity, stability, and peace for the Palestinian people and all people in the region," they wrote. "However, our ability to support current and future aid would be severely threatened if you abandon direct negotiations with Israel and continue with your current efforts."

With Palestinian talk of defunding legislation mushrooming through Congress, two salient moves have now emerged. Plan A: If the reunification with Hamas goes forward, federal law requires immediate defunding. Legislators may be forced to comply. Plan B: Even if the reunification is scrapped, federal law requires immediate defunding unless the monthly prisoner salaries cease. Legislators may be forced to comply.

In summing up, one Congressional staff memo cited the recent words of Secretary of State John Kerry when speaking last fall about another Mideast crisis, this one in Syria. "So the primary question," said Kerry, "is really no longer 'What do we know?' The question is 'what are we - we collectively -- what are we in the world going to do about it?'"

Edwin Black is the award-winning author of the international bestseller IBM and the Holocaust. This article is drawn from his just-released newsbook, Financing the Flames: How Tax-Exempt and Public Money Fuel a Culture of Confrontation and Terrorism in Israel.

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