An idea on the negotiating table in Cairo that tax money collected by Israel for the Palestinian Authority would end up in the pockets of Hamas in exchange in exchange for a supposed truce was debunked Tuesday by key coalition government partner Naftali Bennett, who said the scheme is nothing short of extortion.
The Minister of the Economy and chairman of the Jewish Home Party, the third largest in the coalition, said the idea is one of “Pay us – we’ll shoot at your later; don’t pay us – we’ll shoot at you now.”
Israel previously has insisted that all money it transfers to the Palestinian Authority cannot reach Hamas, which is a fiction because the Palestinian Authority ends up paying for salaries of Hamas government “workers,” which includes “civil servants” with machine guns.
The government in the past also has used the tax money to pay off a huge debt owed to Israel Electric Corp.(IEC) by the electric company in the Palestinian Authority.
Most of the “news” on negotiations in Cairo between Hamas and Israel, mediated by Egypt in order to maintain the illusion that Israel and Hamas do not recognize each other, is based on the usual Hamas hyperbole and threats, and on more substantiated reports.
The guts of a proposed agreement reportedly would extend the 72-hour ceasefire due to expire on midnight Wednesday.
Israel would perform a very poor trick of magic by handing over the money to Hamas through a third party to fool itself that it is not paying Hamas directly.
That idea sent Bennett through the ceiling. “Extortion” and “dangerous” were only two of the unflattering adjectives he expressed. He warned that the money will be used by terrorists “who are digging under our feet… It’s a ‘calm for money to terrorists formula.’ You don’t pay Hamas, you defeat them.”
Bennett said he will fight the proposal if it comes to the Cabinet for a vote.
Israel reportedly is willing to ease the blockade without removing it completely, and Egypt would do the same at the border in the divided city of Rafah. Israel also is seriously considering extending the permitted fishing zone to six nautical miles and to allow, once again, construction materials to move into Gaza under supervision.
As with previous ceasefire agreements and concessions on the blockade, supervisory measures are questionable.
Hamas exploited Israel’s previous agreement to allow cement and other “dual-use” materials into Gaza and used them to build tunnels for terrorists, among other activities that were at the expense of building houses and schools. Even then, Hamas has used schools and homes, as well as mosques and hospitals, as rocket launching pads, so all “dual purpose” materials ultimately had only one purpose – terror.
Officially, “no progress” has been made in the talks. This is expected because Hamas always likes to keep everyone in suspense until the last minute, or even after the last minute.
For good measure, it has publicly threatened that any extended ceasefire would simply be a temporary measure until the next war. That can be dismissed as rhetoric in the short-term, but in the long-term, Hamas means what it says. Its existence depends on attacking Israel. If it does not, it risks losing its power to rival terrorist groups who would be happy to take over the task.
One of the most dangerous elements of a possible longer-term agreement for a truce is allowing security forces from the Palestinian Authority, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, to supervise the “Philadlphi” smuggling route at and near Rafah.
Abbas and Hamas have accepted each other as peace partners in a new unity government, which has carefully placed “technocrats” in the government, a camouflage for the grip over Gaza by Hamas and its full-fledged army.