Hamas Could Lead Palestinians to Financial Ruin
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
In Gaza City today, a top commander of the militant Islamic Jihad movement was killed when an explosion ripped through his car. Islamic Jihad is blaming Israel for the attack. Israel denies any involvement.
The incident comes at a tense time for the Palestinian Authority. Another Islamist group, Hamas, is set to take over the government soon, and NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr says that is creating some difficulties.
DANIEL SCHORR reporting:
The approaching Ides of March, and the world looks aghast as the Palestinian situation heads for some kind of crunch that is hard to imagine.
Most immediately, there is a prospect of financial insolvency as Israel and the United States withhold assistance from the Palestinian Authority. The United Nations officials say that stocks of basic food for Gaza are running out as Israel closes major crossing points.
That's the way it goes in the lead up towards the formation of a government headed by the militant Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. James Wolfensohn, Middle East envoy, has written to international donors warning that the Palestinian Authority, unable to pay its employees, could collapse, resulting in rising tension, leading to violence and chaos.
Some aid may be forthcoming as long as President Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah party remains in charge. But once Prime Minister designate Haniyeh takes over, then the United States and Israel and perhaps some European countries say they will not deal with or give assistance to that government.
In the New York Times today, veteran Palestinian negotiator Sayib Arikhat (ph) urges Israel to resume peace talks with President Abbas, but it's hard to imagine how governments could ignore the presence of a duly-constituted Hamas- led government.
Meanwhile, replacing a comatose Israeli Prime Minister Arial Sharron, Ehud Olmert has rung up 76 percent approval rating behind his announced policy of setting Israel's borders unilaterally with a protective wall nearing completion. Is it conceivable that Israel could yet deal with a Hamas government that renounced violence and recognized Israel's existence?
In an interview with Lally Weymouth of the Washington Post, Haniyeh said of the Israelis that "we do not wish to throw them into the sea," and "we are not interested in a vicious cycle of violence." But from that to recognizing that the other party exists, looks at the moment like a long, long road.
This is Daniel Schorr.