The Palestinian Authority was created through the Oslo peace process of the early 1990s to provide self-government for the Palestinian people in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza. It relies for its financial existence on funding from a range of donors, most importantly the EU (which gave it around $300 million in 2005) and the USA. Since its creation, the PNA has been dominated by the Fatah movement led by Yasser Arafat, who died in 2004 and subsequently Mahmoud Abbas. Widely criticised by many both inside and outside the area for its corruption and lack of control over armed militias, life for many ordinary Palestinians has remained wretched. Fatah’s leaders have declared it in favour of the peace process, against terrorism and in favour of co-existence with a Jewish Israeli state - although many in Israel have doubted both its willingness and its ability to make even its own supporters and their militias respect these commitments. Other Palestinian groups, particularly Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad, have continued to reject the peace process and have engaged in terrorism, including rocket attacks on and suicide bombings within Israel.
Hamas grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928 but is now influential (though repressed) in many other Arab countries. The Muslim Brothers rejected both western colonial dominance and secular nationalist Arab movements, calling for spiritual and political renewal based firmly upon the Koran. Following Israel’s victory in 1967, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin applied these principles in Gaza and built up a range of charities, providing welfare services and education, while also encouraging resistance to Israel. Hamas - the name comes from the initials in Arabic of the Islamic Resistance Movement, and also means “zeal” - was founded at the start of the first Intifada (uprising against Israel) in late 1987. Under its leadership, islamist radicals joined the nationalists of Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) in rebellion. Hamas’ charter was adopted in 1988 and calls for the destruction of Israel, declaring that all the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean should be Muslim. The charter is strongly anti-Semitic in tone and also declares that “There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad”.
Since 1988, Hamas has continued to provide social services and strongly influence many aspects of life in Gaza, while rejecting the peace process and PLO/Fatah authority. Being against the Oslo accords, it did not participate in the 1996 Palestinian Authority elections. Hamas is listed as a terrorist organisation by both the USA and EU, and its suicide bombings and other attacks have killed hundreds of people, both in the occupied territories and in Israel proper. Israel killed Sheikh Yassin in an airstrike in 2004, and it has targeted and killed other Hamas leaders as part of its anti-terrorism campaign. Since 2000 and the second Intifida, it has gained in authority and popularity as Fatah and the PA have become discredited, especially in the (more secular) West Bank where its influence was previously small. Starting with unions, education boards and professional bodies, it began to stand for elections and win a share of power, and this change in policy continued with success in Palestinian local elections in 2005.
In elections on January 25th 2006 Hamas won 74 of the 132 seats in the Palestinian Authority parliament; its members were sworn in on 18th February 2006, there was briefly a coalition agreement between Hamas and Fatah through the Palestinian Unity agreements.
The victory in elections of Hamas lead to a reaction from the major governments involved in the peace process; The European Union, United States and Russia that without a renunciation of violence aid would be cut off. Hamas refused so aid was cut off. In June 2007 after sporadic conflict during 2006 and 2007 fighting broke out between Fatah and Hamas with a resulting collapse of Fatah control in Gaza leaving Hamas in control. Fatah was however able to retain control of the West Bank so the Palestinian territories were effectively split.
This topic focuses how western countries, particularly the USA and European Union, should react to any organisation that will not renounce violence gaining power in Palestine; whether democratically or otherwise. Such an organisation would most likely be Hamas – and indeed there has been a new coalition agreement between Hamas and Fatah in February 2011. However many of the points in this debate could equally apply to any other terrorist organisation that could get into government in Palestine. Many of the arguments could also be adapted to consider Israel’s reaction, as well as that of other countries and of international institutions such as the UN and the World Bank.
 “EU Threatens to Halt Aid to Palestinian Authority.” Voice of America News. 18/12/2005. http://www.voanews.com/english/news/a-13-2005-12-18-voa21-66909032.html
 Katz, Lisa. “What is Hamas?”About.
 “Hamas chief killed in airstrike.” BBC News. 22/03/2004.
 “The Palestinian Parliamentary Election and the rise of Hamas.” House of Commons Library. 15/03/2006. http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons/lib/research/rp2006/rp06-017.pdf
 BBC News, ‘Palestinian sanctions to remain’, 20 March 2007, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/6469217.stm
 McGirk, Tim, ‘What Happens After Hamas Wins?’, time.com, 13 June 2007, http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1632614,00.html
 BBC News, ‘Mahmoud Abbas to head interim Palestinian government’, 6 February 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-16903239
Hamas is a terrorist organisation, responsible for killing hundreds of civilians, often by sending suicide bombers into Israel. Both the European Union and the US State Department have recognised this by listing Hamas as a terrorist organisation. Their governments are barred by law from providing any funding to such groups. It is extremely worrying that such a violent organisation managed to win power in the most recent Palestinian election, and that committed terrorists are in government in Gaza and in control of the Palestinian budget and security forces. In 2007 both Western law, and the moral disgust at the thought that aid funding could be used to fund terror attacks, required the EU and US to stop funding the Palestinian Authority while under a Hamas government, the same would almost certainly be the case again if Hamas were to regain power.
 Schulenburg, John. “Fatah Reconciles With Hamas.” Gateway Pundit. 27/04/2011. http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2011/04/fatah-reconciles-with-hamas-us-now-officially-funding-islamic-terrorism-how-will-obama-proceed/
It is these western governments themselves who define what groups are terrorist groups. They both make the definitions of terrorism and decide what groups fall into these definitions. For example the United Kingdom regarded the IRA (Irish Republican Army) as being a terrorist group while the United States did not consider them a terrorist organisation. Therefore if these countries wished to deal with and provide financial aid to a new Palestinian government, even if it was the political arm of a terrorist organisation they could simply redefine it, as would almost certainly be the case if the terrorist organisation was perceived as doing something that is in the interests of these western nations.
It is clear what Hamas, or any other terrorist organisation, has to do in order to convince western governments to continue funding the Palestinian National Authority with it in charge. It must formally give up terror, accept the existence of the state of Israel and drop any anti-Semitic ideology. Yasser Arafat’s PLO and Fatah Party made these commitments in the early 1990s, and this allowed them to become negotiating partners in the Oslo Peace process. Hamas has to take the same steps if it wants to enjoy the same level of support from western donors which the previous Fatah government had. Until it makes these public changes, there would not be any funding.
 Schlaim, Avi. “The Rise and Fall of the Oslo Peace Process.” International Relations of the Middle East. 2005. http://users.ox.ac.uk/~ssfc0005/The%20Rise%20and%20Fall%20of%20the%20Oslo%20Peace%20Process.html
If the terrorist organisation was elected as Hamas was it is likely that as in 2006/7 when much of the power in the PA remained with the Fatah President, Mahmood Abbas, one or other of the presidency or the parliament would remain in non-terrorist hands so funding should be continued in order to strengthen that party. In any case, any party that is willing to stand and contest relatively free and fair elections, is in the long term likely to want to bring peace. Working with such a government would encourage the moderates within that organisation, and allow them to understand that helping the Palestinian people to a better future requires compromise and negotiation. This move from terrorism to a political process will take time in order for attitudes to change and trust to build. It can only be achieved by western commitment to work with the new government rather than to cut it off entirely.
A terrorist organisation such as Hamas may be democratically elected, but that does not mean we have to fund its government. Respecting the decision of the Palestinian people is not the same thing as liking their choice or rewarding it with aid. The Palestinian people should realise that a vote for Hamas or any other terrorist organisation is a vote for international isolation. Showing our clear disapproval of terrorists in government sends a clear message for future elections both in Palestine and in other countries.
It would be anti-democratic to punish the Palestinian people for exercising their right to vote. Their vote may not be a vote for terrorism or against the peace process, but rather a response to the corruption and anarchy of the ruling party, currently Fatah, and its mismanagement of the Palestinian National Authority. Withdrawing funding is not just a signal of disapproval for the party which is elected, but a clear attempt to bring down the PNA government and overturn the election result. After all the years of western criticism of corrupt dictatorial regimes, what message does it send to Arab governments and people if the west refuses to respect the result of an election and imposes a collective punishment?
Cutting off aid to the Palestinian National Authority would be counter-productive no matter who is elected in. The PNA would have to replace funding from somewhere, this would inevitably mean turning for aid to Muslim and Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran as Hamas did. The west may therefore simply force the Palestinians in to the arms of countries that are much more hostile to Israel resulting in the Palestinians simply being more hard-line to please their new paymasters. Allowing the Palestinians to become dependent upon such anti-Israel regimes will end any influence the west has had with the PNA and push it in a more extremist direction. Potentially, such alliances could make a regional conflict more likely.
 Watt, Nicholas. “US urges Arab states to fund Palestinians after Hamas victory.” The Guardian. 31/01/2006. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/jan/31/israel/print
Arab and Muslim states won’t necessarily make up any budget shortfall if the EU and USA stop funding the PNA. Many Arab governments would be deeply unhappy at seeing Islamists in government and even though they do not like Israel, they have no wish to inflame the situation further. More moderate countries in the region recognise Israel and want the peace process to move forward so would be just as likely to demand that a terrorist group gives up terror and disarms as the west. Iran may be more sympathetic, but almost all Palestinians are Sunni rather than Shia Muslims, and Iran has its own international problems such as sanctions that are making an economic impact so it may not be in a position to subsidize other governments.
There is also no evidence that the Palestinians would turn to such states. In December 2007, 87 countries and international organisations, including Serbia and Nicaragua, pledged to donate $7.4 billion to the PNA over three years. This amount is far more than previous US and EU funding and there is no evidence that its acceptance has led to Palestine depending on anti-Israel regimes.
Stotsky, Steven. “Does Foreign Aid Fuel Palestinian Violence?” Middle East Quarterly. Summer 2008. http://www.meforum.org/1926/does-foreign-aid-fuel-palestinian-violence
Palestine is very dependent on foreign aid, the PNA is dependent on aid for 50% of its budget and per head the Palestinians are the biggest recipients of aid in the world. The loss of funding would therefore destabilise both the Palestinian National Authority and Palestinian society as a whole. 140,000 PNA jobs are dependent upon the income from western funding, and these workers in turn help support more than a third of the Palestinian population. Cutting funding could lead to the collapse of any government system and cause great suffering among the people who would lose their chief source of income has gone. Both these things are likely to radicalise the Palestinian people further and make peace less likely.
 Levy, Judith, ‘Palestinian economy dangerously dependent on foreign aid’, The Washington Times Communities, 27 May 2011, http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/israel-online/2011/m...
Cutting off aid to the PNA need not result in mass suffering among the Palestinian people. Humanitarian aid would certainly continue, although this could no longer be channelled through the PNA but rather to individual schemes run by non-governmental organisations. In any case, the greatest suffering is caused by a lack of a peace process with Israel. A commitment to peace talks shown by a terrorist group pledging to end terrorism would help allow the economic development needed to create jobs and relieve poverty in the Palestinian territories.
There is a clear precedent for engaging with terrorist groups moving towards a political track. Like Hamas in recent years, at the end of the 1970s, the IRA was a terrorist organisation which rejected the political process. In the early 1980s, Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, decided to stand for elections. As elected representatives grappled with local issues and had to work with others on councils and committees, the movement changed and, in 1994, the IRA declared a ceasefire. More recently, Sinn Fein leaders have held ministerial positions in Northern Ireland and the IRA has ended the armed struggle. This was a long process but it shows clearly how, if we respect any elected terrorist group’s popular mandate and are prepared to engage with them, they may be encouraged to give up terrorism and make concessions for peace. Indeed some hard liners in Hamas controlled Gaza worry that exactly such a scenario may happen.
 Schmidt, William E. “Cease-Fire in Northern Ireland.” New York Times. 01/09/1994. http://www.nytimes.com/1994/09/01/world/cease-fire-northern-ireland-overview-ira-declares-cease-fire-seeing-new.html?pagewanted=all
 Shaikh, Salman, ‘Don’t Forget Gaza’, ForeignPolicy.com, 24 January 2011, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/01/24/don_t_forget_gaza?page=0,1
The history of the IRA does not provide a useful precedent for dealing with Hamas. Leaving aside questions of how genuine the IRA’s conversion to peace and democracy really is, parallels with Hamas and the Palestinian conflict are misleading. Compared to the religious fundamentalism of Hamas, Irish republicans were pretty secular and focused on gaining and using power in this world. They wanted to force Britain out of Northern Ireland, but not to wipe Britain itself off the map. There has never been an IRA suicide bomber and, faced with a failing armed struggle, the movement’s leaders chose to compromise. Hamas is entirely different in its beliefs and attitudes, and there is no reason to suppose that funding it in power will encourage it to change its strategy or aims.
The west should support democratically elected, just, uncorrupted government no matter who provides it. Hamas could make a much better government than Fatah, it is a religious movement dedicated to political and social action. For many years it has run the most effective welfare programmes in the Palestinian territories, especially Gaza, including orphanages, schools, clinics and help for the needy. The honesty and discipline of its leaders and followers provide a stark contrast with the corruption and chaos of the Fatah-run administration of Yasser Arafat and Mahmood Abbas. They paid lip service to the peace process but either could not, or would not control their followers so as to make a clear commitment to peace. At least with Hamas in power, the Palestinians would be better and more honestly governed, and billions of dollars in aid money will no longer be stolen by a corrupt elite. Hamas in Gaza by comparison has established an efficient public administration and has an ambitious infrastructure program. In addition, militias and security forces are likely to be under much more effective control, making genuine negotiations about a long-term ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians much more plausible. After all, a deal which excludes Hamas has no chance at all of holding.
 Putz, Ulrike. “Uncle Hamas Cares for Palestinians.” Spiegel. 12/20/2006. http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,455632,00.html
 Shaikh, Salman, ‘Don’t Forget Gaza’, ForeignPolicy.com, 24 January 2011, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/01/24/don_t_forget_gaza
This assumes that it is Hamas that is elected or another group that has been involved in running welfare programmes. It should however be noted that while Hamas has effectively provided welfare programmes it has at the same time used those same civilians as human shields. During its time in power in Gaza Hamas has had little impact except for starting a conflict with Israel, as a result Gaza is in a worse position than the West Bank with 80% of the population dependent on international aid, 61% are food insecure and 90% of water supplied is not suitable for drinking.
 Hasan, Mehdi, ‘No end to the strangulation of Gaza’, New Statesman, 6 January 2011, http://www.newstatesman.com/middle-east/2011/01/gaza-israeli-documents-s...
“EU Threatens to Halt Aid to Palestinian Authority.” Voice of America News. 18/12/2005. http://www.voanews.com/english/news/a-13-2005-12-18-voa21-66909032.html
Katz, Lisa. “What is Hamas?”About. http://judaism.about.com/od/peaceprocess/f/hamas.htm
“Hamas chief killed in airstrike.” BBC News. 22/03/2004. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3556099.stm
Hasan, Mehdi, ‘No end to the strangulation of Gaza’, New Statesman, 6 January 2011, http://www.newstatesman.com/middle-east/2011/01/gaza-israeli-documents-s...
“The Palestinian Parliamentary Election and the rise of Hamas.” House of Commons Library. 15/03/2006. http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons/lib/research/rp2006/rp06-017.pdf
Schulenburg, John. “Fatah Reconciles With Hamas.” Gateway Pundit. 27/04/2011. http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2011/04/fatah-reconciles-with-hamas-us-now-officially-funding-islamic-terrorism-how-will-obama-proceed/
Putz, Ulrike. “Uncle Hamas Cares for Palestinians.” Spiegel. 12/20/2006. http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,455632,00.html
Schlaim, Avi. “The Rise and Fall of the Oslo Peace Process.” International Relations of the Middle East. 2005. http://users.ox.ac.uk/~ssfc0005/The%20Rise%20and%20Fall%20of%20the%20Oslo%20Peace%20Process.html
Shaikh, Salman, ‘Don’t Forget Gaza’, ForeignPolicy.com, 24 January 2011, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/01/24/don_t_forget_gaza
Stotsky, Steven. “Does Foreign Aid Fuel Palestinian Violence?” Middle East Quarterly. Summer 2008. http://www.meforum.org/1926/does-foreign-aid-fuel-palestinian-violence
Watt, Nicholas. “US urges Arab states to fund Palestinians after Hamas victory.” The Guardian. 31/01/2006. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/jan/31/israel/print
“Palestinians ‘face financial crisis’.” BBC News. 21/02/2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4732090.stm
Schmidt, William E. “Cease-Fire in Northern Ireland.” New York Times. 01/09/1994. http://www.nytimes.com/1994/09/01/world/cease-fire-northern-ireland-overview-ira-declares-cease-fire-seeing-new.html?pagewanted=all