Qatar is reportedly mulling ending its system of cash payments to the Gaza Strip and replacing it with an alternative means of aid due to concerns that funding the salaries of Hamas civil servants appearing as support for terror against Israel.
Israeli news site Walla reported on Sunday that a document circulating amongst Qatari government officials presents cash transfers to Hamas as “problematic” and argues that the system has garnered criticism from both Israel and Palestinians.
The document reportedly says transferring large sums of cash “only reinforces the negative view of Qatar as a financier of terror acting against the Sunni states.”
Last year, Qatar was cut-off by Saudi Arabia and its other Gulf allies after being accused of supporting extremist elements across the Middle East.
The document also reportedly addresses the specific problems stemming from the means of transfer and the way the world understands it.
“If the intention was only to pay the salaries of government official its would have been possible to transfer the money directly to their bank accounts, rather than cash — a method reminiscent of the mafia,” the report said.
The cash transfers were first approved by Israel, which disqualified hundreds of Gazans from receiving funds based on connections to Hamas’ military wing. Qatar, however, reportedly thinks Israel’s ability to prevent the money from reaching the wrong hands is limited.
“Hamas’s demand to receive money in a way that bypasses Israel’s monitoring capabilities reinforces the assumption that some of the money will go to terrorist organizations,” the document said.
Walla quoted an Israeli source saying the Gulf country was concerned how the cash transfer system would affect its public image.
“In Qatar they fear that the transfer of funds will ultimately work against them,” the source reportedly said. “Instead of being perceived as rehabilitating Gaza, Qatar is perceived as financing Hamas and its military wing.
Earlier this month, Gaza’s civil servants formed long lines in Gaza to receive the Qatari-funded salaries. A total of $90 million is to be distributed in six monthly instalments of $15 million, according to authorities, primarily to cover salaries of officials working for Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the Palestinian enclave.
The cash was driven into the coastal enclave through Israel by Qatar’s envoy to Gaza, Mohammad al-Emadi, according to a government source in Gaza.
Qatar has also said it would hand out $100 to each of 50,000 poor families, as well as larger sums to Palestinians wounded in clashes along Gaza’s border with Israel.
Senior Palestine Liberation Organisation official Ahmed Majdalani expressed the discontent of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority over the deal.
Emadi had “smuggled the money” into Gaza in suitcases like a “gangster”, the official said.
“The PLO did not agree to the deal facilitating the money to Hamas that way,” Majdalani, who is close to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, told AFP.
Such a deal harmed Egyptian efforts to reconcile Hamas and the PA and would allow the Islamist movement to consolidate its control over Gaza, Majdalani said.
Hamas has controlled Gaza since ousting forces loyal to the internationally recognized PA in a near civil war in 2007.