Olmert gives Hamas more than $40 millionEarlier this evening, I reported that eventually resigning Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert had decided to transfer NIS 170 million in cash to Gaza so that Fatah could pay 'salaries' to its employees there. Foreign minister Tzipora Livni and defense minister Ehud Barak - both of whom are running for election on Tuesday - objected to the transfer because they fear that the money will end up in the hands of Hamas.
Here's more on Olmert's transfer of NIS 170 million - more than $40 million - to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Just hours after a top Hamas official was caught by Egyptian authorities trying to smuggle millions of dollars and euros into the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave permission for the Palestinian Authority to transfer NIS 170 million from the West Bank to Gaza to pay government officials there.Haaretz (which has the amount at NIS 175 million) has more.
It's the first such transfer since the end of Operation Cast Lead.
The Prime Minister's Office said it agreed to transfer the funds in accordance with a request by PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad.
The officials to be paid are mostly Fatah members.
Israel Radio reported that Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni opposed the move, and told Olmert that they feared the money would make its way into the hands of Hamas members.
The report further stated that Olmert defended the transfer, saying that the funds were tax money which Israel had collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, and it was theirs to distribute.
Olmert agreed to Fayad's request following pressure from the United States, Israel Radio further stated.
The money is earmarked for paying the January salaries of Palestinian Authority employees in the coastal territory.YNet adds:
There are more than 70,000 clerks and security officials affiliated with Fatah, the movement headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas that was violently ousted from Gaza by Hamas in 2007.
The officials receive the money from the PA in order not to turn up for work and collaborate with Hamas by doing so. [I wish someone would pay ME not to work. CiJ]
Even though the money will not come from Israel, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak opposed the decision. They argued that the cash is likely to end up in the coffers of Hamas, against which Israel recently waged a 22-day offensive in Gaza.
Barak himself approved a similar transfer in December last year, after Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer appealed to him to help ease the cash shortages in Gaza.
The funds, to be transferred immediately, are intended to be pay the salaries of Palestinian Authority workers in the Gaza Strip. However, since the region is controlled by Hamas, political and security forces believe that it is likely the funds will end up in the hands of Hamas or other terror organizations.I have a number of comments.
The Palestinian Authority has bank accounts in Israel, whose contents are generated from taxes. Employees – identified by name, identity number and bank account – are paid from these sums.
Due to the situation in Gaza, PA workers have not been able to cash their salaries in Gaza and, thus, requested a transfer of funds in cash, from Israel.
Livni and Barak, during a three-way meeting with Olmert, expressed their disapproval for his decision. The two noted that while the Israel-PLO Economic Agreement, signed in Paris in 1994, requires Israel to transfer tax-generated funds to the PA, it is not the appropriate time to transfer money to workers in Gaza because of the likelihood of a Hamas appropriation.
"This is (the PA's) money and they have the right to decide how to spend it. The money belongs to (Palestinian Prime Minister Salam) Fayyad and his employees in Gaza," read a statement from the Prime Minister's Office.
"The Palestinians have also appealed to the United States and they have international backing for their request, because it is anchored in accords," the statement continued.
Two months ago, Barak garnered criticism for transferring NIS 100 million (about $25 million) from West Bank banks to Gaza banks, at Fayyad's request, due to the fact that banks were closing in the Gaza Strip. The funds went to pay the salaries of some 70,000 PA workers.
Fayyad said at the time that the funds transferred were insufficient, because "it's a very small sum that does not cover the salaries." He said that a sum of NIS 100 million was necessary every month in order to cover PA salaries.
First, since the 'Palestinians' initiated the Oslo War in September 2000, it has frequently been the case that Israel did not transfer 'tax money' to the 'Palestinians.' Israel did not transfer the money any time the 'Palestinians' might use it for weapons and ammunition. Further, the Oslo accords - which have effectively been abrogated by the 'Palestinians' anyway - never required Israel to transfer money in cash and never required money to be transferred specifically to Gaza. Israel would fulfill any remaining obligations under those discredited pieces of paper by wire transferring money to a 'Palestinian' bank account just about anywhere in the world.
Second, we have seen this story about paying 'Palestinian' salaries before. And it's no secret that the moneys have gone to pay Hamas salaries and not just Fatah salaries. They also pay Islamic Jihad salaries, but that's a separate issue. Past experience dictates that this money will not end up only in the hands of employees of Fatah. Moreover, given that Hamas collects its own taxes in Gaza (like on the smuggling tunnels), it is inevitable that at least some of this money will wind up in Hamas' coffers. Probably more of it than the $9 million plus 2 million euros (worth about $2.75 million) that Ayman Taha tried to smuggle into Gaza earlier today.
Third, I repeat my offer for anyone who wants to pay me NOT to work.
So let's cut to the chase: Why is Olmert really doing this? Olmert is doing this because he is doing everything he can to make sure that Livni and Barak don't win the election. That's not because of an ideological disagreement with them: He is furious with them because they maneuvered him into a position where he would have to resign. So he is doing everything he can to bring them down. When Mrs. Cohen in Hadera hears that 'the government' is giving $40 million to Hamas, she decides to vote for Hopenchange. She decides to vote for right wing parties in the hope that Binyamin Netanyahu will be Prime Minister and will be forced to form a right-wing coalition.
Maybe the money isn't such a bad idea after all.