Khaled Abu Toameh, THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 6, 2006
Hamas officials have managed to smuggle more than $66 million in cash
through the Rafah border crossing in the past eight
months, a member of the Hamas-led government revealed Wednesday.
Meanwhile, sources close to the Hamas-led government claimed that Hamas
representatives recently held talks with officials from the US Democratic
Party at a secret location.
The sources told the Bethlehem-based Maan News Agency that Hamas
representatives have also been holding secret talks with European government
officials, including Britain and France.
Palestinian Authority Planning Minister Samir Abu Aisheh of Hamas said the
cash that was brought by Hamas officials was handed over to the PA Finance
Ministry. He also revealed that the Hamas-led government has managed to pay
69% of the salaries to the PA's 160,000 civil servants during the same
Altogether, the Palestinians have received $318 million in international aid
since Hamas took over despite international sanctions imposed on the
Palestinians, the minister said, noting that most of the money was channeled
through the office of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
This is the first time that a senior Hamas official reveals the total sum of
money that has been smuggled into the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border
crossing. Several Hamas ministers, legislators and officials have managed to
suitcases full of millions of dollars through the border crossing.
The most recent case occurred last week, when PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud
Zahar returned from a 14-day Arab and Islamic tour carrying $20 million in
cash. A week earlier, two Hamas legislators arrived at the Rafah border
crossing each carrying $2 million in cash.
The report about contacts between Hamas and American and European officials
comes in the wake of the breakdown of negotiations between Hamas and Abbas's
Fatah party over the formation of a Palestinian unity government.
According to the report, Hamas has succeeded in convincing European
officials to accept the Islamist movement's plan for a long-term hudna
[truce] with Israel as a substitute for recognizing Israel's right to exist.
The report quoted sources close to Hamas as saying that the Europeans have
bought the idea of solving the Israeli-Arab conflict on the basis of a hudna
rather than the principle of land for peace.
The sources claimed that many European governments have shown interest in
"flexible" statements by some Hamas leaders lately, including remarks by
Syria-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to the effect that his movement was
prepared to offer Israel a hudna in return for the establishment of an
independent Palestinian state on the entire West Bank, Gaza Strip and east
In another development, Abbas appears to have retracted his threat to
dismiss the Hamas-led government and call early elections. Only days after
he announced that the talks with Hamas over the formation of a unity
government had reached a
dead end, Abbas sent a message to Hamas expressing his desire to pursue his
efforts to establish a new coalition.
PA Deputy Prime Minister Nasser Eddin Shaer said Wednesday that Abbas's
message was relayed to Hamas through the director of the PA chairman's
bureau, Rafik Husseini.
Shaer said Hamas was prepared to resume the talks with Abbas from the point
where they stopped. "We don't want to go back to square one," he said. "We
want to move forward with the talks, not 10 steps backward. All what's left
now is to name the members of the new government."
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