Israel Green-lights ‘Mafia-like’ Transfer Of Qatari Funds Into Gaza
Some government ministers slam the move as a capitulation to ‘terrorism’ and short-sighted solution to long-term problem
Israeli officials sparred over the security cabinet’s decision to allow Qatari funds into the Gaza Strip in hopes of easing tensions there. The move has raised concerns that Jerusalem is capitulating to Hamas—the terrorist group that controls the Palestinian enclave—by opting for short-sighted solutions to months of unrest along the border.
On Friday, several suitcases containing $15 million in Qatari hard currency entered Gaza from the Israeli-controlled border crossing. It was the first of six monthly installments totaling $90 million that Doha has committed to injecting into the blockaded territory.
Amid fierce criticism, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu defended the move as a necessary measure to “prevent a humanitarian crisis” in Gaza, adding that the decision was backed by Israel’s military brass after consideration of possible alternative measures.
“Israel is trying to alleviate the situation in Gaza without compromising it,” Yoram Schweitzer, head of the Program on Terrorism and Low Intensity Conflict at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies, told The Media Line.
When asked if the move would embolden Hamas, he responded that “this cash will go to paying the salaries of employees, not for financing rocket purchases. It will allow Hamas to survive [for a short while during which] Israel should devise a strategy in the south.
“This is just a temporary gesture that does not solve the issue in a permanent way,” concluded Schweitzer.
Indeed, the money will be used in part to pay civil servants whose salaries were cut-off by the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) in a bid to force Hamas to cede control of Gaza. Accordingly, Ramallah vehemently denounced this weekend’s development which, in turn, came on the heels to the PA’s opposition to an Israeli-approved plan for Qatar to finance fuel shipments to help relieve the enclave’s energy shortage.
Ahmed Majdalani, a high-ranking official deemed close to Palestinian chief Mahmoud Abbas, expressed anger that the PA was effectively sidelined. “The PLO—[recognized as the official voice of the Palestinian people and which dominates the PA]—did not agree to the deal facilitating the money to Hamas that way,” he conveyed to AFP.
Majdalani thereafter referred to Mohammad al-Emadi, the Qatari envoy who delivered the cash to Gaza, as a “gangster” and “smuggler.”
Analysts view the cash injection, along with Israel’s reported agreement to ease restrictions on Gaza, as part of an emerging cease-fire deal with Hamas that would end more than six months of violent protests along the border that have resulted in over 150 Palestinians dead.
Nevertheless, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman slammed the decision as a “capitulation to terrorism,” alleging that he alone rejected the move in the security cabinet. In response, Education Minister Naftali Bennett accused Liberman of lying, proclaiming that, “You may be buying quiet for a short time, but you are getting the other side used to being able to use violence to advance its interests.”
According to Brig. Gen. (res.) Nitzan Nuriel, former director of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau at the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and prior to that deputy commander of the army’s Gaza Division, such political infighting is irrelevant and the issue is a moot point.
“It doesn’t matter if you say the cash came because of the Hamas-sponsored violence or not,” he contended to The Media Line. “The people in Gaza see they got the money from Qatar and not because of anything Hamas did.” And anyways, Nuriel concluded, “we should try to see if we can build trust, or if not, then mutual understanding, to help the people in Gaza.”
In 2007, Hamas, which calls for Israel’s destruction, seized control of Gaza from Abbas’ Fatah faction in an internecine war. Ever since, Israel and Egypt have for the most part sealed off their borders with the enclave to prevent the flow of arms to Hamas fighters.
This has not, however, prevented the two sides from fighting three major conflicts over the past decade.