(photo credit: Associated Press)
Israel will find ways to block the flow of Iranian money into the West Bank if Teheran delivers on its promise to give a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority $250 million, a senior diplomatic official said Tuesday.
The official was responding to a report that appeared in the London-based Dar al-Hiyat newspaper that Iran would allocate $250 million to the Palestinian Authority to replace the funding withheld by Israel and the United States.
In an interview with the newspaper, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said that he officially approved the Iranian support for the new Hamas-led PA.
The Israeli official said that while it would be more difficult to keep the money from flowing into Gaza banks, Israel could prevent it from reaching the West Bank.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas concurred, saying in a television interview that the money would not find its way to the PA without Israel's agreement.
Officials in Jerusalem did not seem overly concerned that a western freeze of money to the PA would chase the Palestinians into the open arms of the Iranians, with the feeling being that the Iranians were "bluffing" and that no one country could replace the billions of dollars of international aid provided the PA.
The Iranian aid offer also provided the Palestinians with a dilemma, Foreign Minister spokesman Mark Regev said.
Ultimately the incoming Palestinian leadership will have to choose if it wants to conform to international norms, recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce terrorism, accept signed agreements and change their covenant, or to chose to stand with the extremists who are international pariahs," he said.
"If they chose to act like a pariah, they can't blame the international community for treating them like one," Regev said.
The issue of channeling funds to the Palestinians, without it strengthening Hamas or being diverted for terrorist purposes, will be at the center of two days of talks Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will have Wednesday and Thursday in Europe.
Livni is scheduled to hold talks Wednesday afternoon in Austria, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, followed by meetings in Paris in the evening, and talks in London on Thursday.
Diplomatic officials said one proposal she would likely hear was to funnel the money directly to Abbas in order to give him leverage over Hamas, an idea Israel has opposed because of a concern that this money would end up in the PA coffers that Hamas would soon control.
Diplomatic officials said that while Livni may hear some proposals Israel might not accept, there was little difference between Israel and the European Union's position regarding the need for funding to be stopped unless Hamas fundamentally changed its positions.
The officials said that Livni would try to impress on her interlocutors the need to keep up a united front regarding Hamas, and the need for "Hamas to adapt to the world, not the world adapt to Hamas."
In addition to Hamas, the discussions are also expected to focus on the Iranian nuclear issue.
While in Paris, Livni is scheduled to meet with the leadership of the local Jewish community as well as pay a visit to the family of Ilan Halimi, the French Jew tortured and murdered last month.