Advancing Palestinian Society by Weakening Hamas

(Washington Institute for Near East Policy) Zohar Palti - Hamas is reshaping Palestinian society through a network of social welfare institutions, and during 2002-2003, Hamas invested approximately $60-70 million toward this end. Hamas operates more than 100 educational institutions in Gaza, ranging from early childhood centers to universities, as well as dozens of medical clinics. Since its inception, Hamas has maintained financial independence, fully exploiting its elaborate global web of so-called charity organizations. Nevertheless, Hamas's social welfare efforts are not a sufficient substitute for what the Palestinian government is expected to do, to provide bona fide solutions to the problems of employment, welfare, education, and health. Heavy external investment in building a network of neighborhood clinics, nursing homes, early childhood centers, and a liberal school system is essential to countering the challenge posed by Hamas's social welfare network. While Israel should continue to fight Hamas terrorism, the financial pipeline from charitable fronts around the globe (mainly in Saudi Arabia) should be constricted, and the PA leadership should be pressured to reach finality in the conflict with Israel and fight fundamentalist movements that do not abandon terrorism. Such efforts may constitute the only way of preventing Hamas from achieving dominance over Palestinian society. The writer is a visiting military fellow at The Washington Institute.

2004-02-17 00:00:00

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