(photo credit: Associated Press)
On the day that the cabinet decided to stop the transfer of monthly tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority, Khaled Mashaal, Hamas's leader in exile, traveled to Iran to raise money for the cash-strapped PA.
"We will not reject any assistance from any country - Iran or any other," Ghazi Hamad, a Hamas leader from the Gaza Strip, told The Jerusalem Post. "Our delegation was in Teheran today and will be in Moscow tomorrow. We will try to look for political and financial support. It's our duty to pay salaries to our people. The world must understand that we are under occupation."
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However, Dr. Atef Adwan, a newly-elected Hamas PLC member, told the Post
that Hamas would be better off getting US and European aid.
"I think it is not good to let Iran have the upper hand in this area," he said. "Because if you are receiving money from any side, it will have a say in your policy. This will make Hamas a tool of [Iran's] policy and this is not good for Hamas and not good for the region."
Foreign ministers from Arab League states are scheduled to meet Monday in Algiers to discuss contributing some $50 million a month to the PA budget - about the same amount of tax revenues that Israel collects and transfers monthly.
The Arab League donation was agreed upon last year - long before Hamas's election victory. However, it won't be approved until the summit in Khartoum next month.
The PA, whose budget is largely funded by Arab states, the US and the European Union, faced financial hardship before the January 25 parliamentary elections, but Hamas's landslide victory made its situation even more precarious.
The US, EU, and Canada consider Hamas a terrorist organization and have said they will stop funding the PA in light of Hamas's victory.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has warned Iran and Arab states not to fund the new Hamas-led government. She is planning a trip to the region next week to pressure Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates not to transfer money.
"America will try to put pressure on Arab and Muslim countries not to give the PA money, but those countries are interested in helping the Palestinians so we are not worried," said Hamad.
The US and Israel have said Hamas must recognize Israel, renounce terrorism and accept signed agreements between the PA and Israel. But Hamas has reiterated that it will not recognize Israel, will only accept agreements "that are for the benefit of the Palestinian people" and will only consider a long-term truce if it is offered "something good in exchange."
Adwan warned Israel of the consequences of withholding money. "If Israel rejects [transferring the funds], this might make Palestinian life more and more difficult, which might push Palestinians to do something unexpected toward Israel," he said. "There is a saying: 'The most courageous people are the desperate people.'"
Adwan cautioned that if funds are not transferred, "it won't be quiet here and we might find that not only are the Palestinians participating in fights against Israel, but Arabs from all over the region. Jordan is weak and even [Egyptian President] Hosni Mubarak is weak for supporting America."
Adwan, a political science professor at the Islamic University in Gaza, said that Israel now had an opportunity to make a long-term truce with the Hamas-led government.
"If Israel will make a good offer to Hamas, [Hamas] will be cornered," he said. "So why not make such an offer for the good of their children and our children?"
Meanwhile, as part of its efforts to extend aid to Palestinians, Saudi Arabia has agreed to pay 75 percent of the tuition of some 19,000 Palestinian students, reported Arab News
, the Saudi English-language daily. The grant totals $15m. and will be distributed through UNESCO after it is finalized Monday.
AP contributed to this report