Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Hamas Settles In

Hamas has been asked by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to form the next Palestinian government at the same that Israel has announced it will cease transferring collected tax revenues of about $50 a month to the Palestinians. Interestingly, Israeli Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has chosen this moment to declare that Hamas does not pose a strategic threat to Israel.

I read Olmert's comments are paving the way for Israel to give Hamas some space to decide what kind of government it wants to create. By declaring that Hamas does not threaten the existence of Israel, Olmert is likely preparing Israel for the possibilities of dealing with a Hamas-led Palestinian government. A wise decision, I believe.

However, the decision to withhold the Palestinian tax revenue is unwise and threatens to force Hamas' hand. Hamas has already looked towards Iran to make up for the lost cash flow, and strangling the Palestinian people can only ramp up support for new violent attacks. Israel should resume the payments to the PA immediately, predicating the flow on the continued absence of terrorist attacks against Israel (and of course, threatening wide-scale military responses as well as continued separation). This would give Hamas both the incentive and the time to decide how it wants to deal with Israel. Note there has not been a resumption of suicide attacks, or any other uses of violence, by Hamas or Fatah since the election. Now is not the time for Israel to antagonize the situation. If Hamas is truly not a strategic threat as Olmert claims and I believe, then why not give Hamas the money until it screws up?


stefan moluf said...

I'd agree that the dangers of Israel inadvertantly funding terror against itself are outweighed by the danger of allowing Iran another way to influence the region.

I see regional Iranian hegemony and influence as one of the two most potentially dangerous destabilizing forces in the Middle East. The other being a civil war in Saudi Arabia.

nicolnichcov said...

How about a seriously destabalizing event in Iraq? Check out this mess.