Strapped Hamas courts Muslim cash

US, EU withhold aid to exert pressure on party.

hamas kids 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
hamas kids 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Facing a dangerous drain of Western cash and political support for its government-to-be, Hamas has begun a tour of Muslim states for help. After its landslide victory in the recent Palestinian Legislative elections, Hamas has made some gains in getting political support. But experts say that it is unlikely to drum up enough money to keep the Palestinian Authority afloat very long without help from the West. Top Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and his delegation left the Qatari capital, Doha, for Khartoum Sunday,with trips also scheduled to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran. "We are going to ask the Arab summit to support us and extend a hand to us," Mashaal told reporters upon arrival in Sudan's capital, where the Arab League will be holding its summit next month. The US and European Union, two of the Palestinian Authority's biggest donors, have threatened to stop all aid if Hamas does not renounce terror and recognize Israel. Hamas insists on keeping its guns and its anti-Israeli ideology, meaning it must look elsewhere for help in paying the $116 million a month in salaries to teachers, health care workers and civil servants of the PA. "They will get some money, but not enough to run the PA for long," said Ashraf Radi, an Egyptian political analyst. Radi added that even the Gulf states, which are strong US allies, would be under pressure not to help Hamas. "Money is the way for the West to make Hamas change its policies," said Radi. "If the money from the Gulf states helps Hamas, they will be under pressure from the US to stop giving it." Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have been supporting Hamas for many years, and are likely to continue in the short-run, said Dr. Meir Litvak, an expert on Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran. Following the first Gulf War, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia transferred their support for the Palestinian people from the PLO to Hamas because former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's supported former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. However, Hamas does not necessarily need much money, said Litvak, an analyst at the Dayan Center and at the Center for Iranian Studies at Tel-Aviv University. "Hamas assumes that they only need enough money from the Muslim states to show that they can keep their [anti-Israeli] stance and not turn to the Europeans for help," said Litvak, adding that it would probably work. "In the end, the Europeans will give them the money in order to prevent chaos in the region. Anyway, Russia and France are already breaking the front." Indeed, Russian President Vladimir Putin's invitation to Hamas to visit Moscow for talks was the first crack in the West's tough stance against Hamas. France has also expressed its support, "and others will probably follow," said Litvak. Hamas appears to be looking for help not only among the West's enemies, but also among its friends. Turkey, a close ally of the US and a hopeful member-to-be of the EU, is one of Mashaal's tour stops. The Muslim country is also the only other example of an Islamic government that came to power democratically.