Fatah Will Use Int'l Money to Fund Terror, Israeli Minister Says

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Israel is thinking about giving weapons and funds to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his newly installed government to boost his standing, reports said on Friday. But one Israeli minister said that Abbas' Fatah faction would use the money to fund terror, not fight it.

The Israeli Defense Ministry is drawing up recommendations on how to strengthen Abbas and is expected to present those recommendations to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister early next week, radio reports said on Friday.

The recommendations are expected to include the transfer of weapons and ammunition to the P.A. Security Forces on the West Bank, the removal of checkpoints and the gradual transfer of tax revenues to the P.A.

Olmert also is planning to ask his cabinet on Sunday to release some $600 million in frozen tax revenues to the P.A. The funds are collected by Israel and passed on to the P.A. but were frozen following the Hamas' election victory last year.

Olmert's spokeswoman Miri Eisen would not confirm media reports about what steps Israel might take to strengthen Abbas, although she admitted that there are risks involved.

"All sorts of options are being checked," Eisen said by telephone.

Addressing an international Jewish audience in Haifa on Thursday, Olmert said that he preferred to see "not only the dangers but also the chances."

Olmert is scheduled to meet with Abbas, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Hussein in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday in a conference intended to strengthen Abbas and isolate Hamas. He met with President Bush earlier this week and both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Olmert admitted that there are "difficulties" but said he was looking to see what "new roads" might open up for better cooperation and understanding with Palestinians who live outside of the Gaza Strip.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman warned against transferring funds and weapons to Fatah.

The past has already shown that transferring money and weapons to Abbas' Fatah faction, which controls the P.A. security services, will be used to fund terror and not to fight it, Lieberman was quoted as saying.

Even if Israel provides Abbas with weapons he still doesn't have a chance, said Lieberman, who leads the right-wing Israel Beitenu party.

Israel transferred $100 million to Abbas earlier this year following an Olmert-Abbas meeting, with the stipulation that it be used for humanitarian needs and not to pay the salaries of security forces. In the end, much of the money reportedly was used to pay partial salaries of 150,000 P.A. employees, including thousands of Hamas supporters.

Israeli Reserve Maj.-Gen. Jacob Amidror, former commander of the Israeli Army's National Defense College, said in an earlier interview that supporting Abbas' security forces might be a good idea but it would be naive to think that his forces would fight only Hamas and refuse to fight Israel.

The P.A. security forces were created in 1994 as a result of the Oslo Accords, signed between Israel and the PLO. Those forces received training and equipment from Israel and various international players purportedly to fight terrorism. But instead, the security forces used the weapons and training to fight alongside terrorists intent on destroying Israel.

Just last week, Hamas reportedly confiscated jeeps, mortar shells and bulletproof vests previously transferred to Fatah by Israel. Hamas also reportedly seized 50,000 assault rifles and scores of combat vehicles funded by the U.S. and supplied by Egypt and Jordan to the P.A.

Even on the humanitarian front the situation could get tricky. The U.S. pledged $40 million earlier this week to the United Nations Relief Works Agency, the U.N. body responsible for Palestinian refugees' social and humanitarian needs, to help alleviate the hardships in the Gaza Strip.

A majority of UNRWA workers are Hamas supporters, and UNRWA feeds some 800,000 of the 1.4 million Gazans, many of whom also are presumably Hamas supporters.

Meanwhile, Israel and international aid organizations are trying to avert a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

The International Committee of the Red Cross sent a surgeon and an anesthetist to Gaza to help treat those wounded in last week's inter-Palestinian fighting. More than 500 people have been receiving treatment in Gaza hospitals as a result of the clashes, the ICRC said in a statement.

A number of the most critical cases have been transferred to Israel for treatment, including four on Friday.

According to the ICRC, there is enough food in Gaza stores to last for several weeks but perishables like meat and dairy products are in short supply.

On Friday, Israel facilitated the transfer of 10 truck trailers of goods, including two with medical equipment provided by USAID, five with milk, and three with animal food, said Shadi Yassin, spokesman for the Israeli civil administration in the Gaza Strip.

On Thursday, more than 400 tons of basic food stuffs and medicine moved through the Kerem Shalom crossing - used only for humanitarian, not commercial, transfers. Fuel supplies also moved through the crossing.

But Christoph Harnisch, head of the ICRC's delegation for Israel and the Palestinian territories, said it would take more than humanitarian aid to help Gaza.

"Long-term economic aid and commercial exchanges are the only sustainable ways of helping the people of Gaza," he said.

But commercial traffic is on hold for the time being. The Karni crossing, the main goods crossing into and out of the Gaza Strip, has been shut down for the last two weeks because of violent clashes between the Hamas and Fatah factions in the Gaza Strip.

By agreement, Abbas' Presidential Guard operates the crossing with Israel. But with the abrupt departure of Abbas' forces, Israel has no one to receive the goods or coordinate security on the other side.

Normally, between 200-250 truckloads of goods pass through the crossing in one direction or the other every day - about $2.5 million worth of business, said Yassin.

The Israeli Defense Ministry is considering many options for getting food into the Gaza Strip, including parachuting it in or sending tanks and troops to take over the Palestinian side of Karni, the Jerusalem Post reported on Friday.

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