Monday, August 20, 2007
Israel to PA: Give W. Bank welfare or Hamas will win
"The Palestinian Authority must establish a strong welfare system in the West Bank to win elections and gain more support than Hamas, according to a plan formulated by a senior Israeli official.
The proposal predicts a Hamas takeover in the West Bank within two years if the Fatah-dominated PA does not provide sufficient welfare to the population there.
The plan, which was recently handed to senior Palestinian officials during a closed conference at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, was compiled by Rani Loewenstein, who is considered one of the closest Israeli officials to Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad and Israel's main liaison with the Palestinians on economic and financial affairs over the last five years.
Senior American, Palestinian, Egyptian and Jordanian officials attended the conference, which was headed by Dennis Ross and David Makovsky. Other participants included the European Union's envoy to the Middle East, Mark Otte; former Israeli defense officials, including former chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon; MK Ephraim Sneh and former Foreign Ministry director general Avi Gil.
Loewenstein's plan consists of recommendations for bolstering the PA's control in the West Bank after the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip. The main recommendation is to set up a welfare system similar to the charity organizations operated by Hamas, as a tool to muster public support which will translate into an electoral victory.......
The plan also recommends adopting Hamas' economic methods in reducing red tape and distributing assistance directly to the needy.......It also suggests increasing the residents' personal safety and improving public order.
Loewenstein also has recommendations for Israel, the Arab states and the international community. Israel must continue to transfer the taxes collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority and gradually remove restrictions on movement in the West Bank, in accordance with the security situation.
The Arab states must block fund transfers to Hamas via the tunnels under the Gaza border with Egypt and also stop Gulf states from contributing to Hamas' charity funds. The international community should continue to transfer money to the PA, but in a way that would enable the Palestinians to decide for themselves how to use it.
The bottom line in Loewenstein's presentation was that it is necessary for the Palestinians to take these measures to prevent Hamas from taking over the West Bank in two years. "