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Friday, February 24, 2006

A Fool’s Game with Hamas

In FrontPage Magazine.com, Kenneth R. Timmerman, Executive Director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, claims that none other than former World Bank President and "Quartet Special Envoy for Disengagement" James R. Wolfensohn is behind Saudi Arabia's embarassing US Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice by rejecting her plan to isolate Hamas. What's strange about this is that Wolfensohn actually has an office in the State Department! But according to State Department officials who spoke with Timmerman, Wolfensohn is "his own man" and "always has been."

When Wolfensohn retired from the World Bank last year, he convinced the Bush administration to set him up as the “Quartet Special Envoy for Disengagement.” In principle, this meant that the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations (the “Quartet”) had authorized him to work with the Israelis and the Palestinians to ensure the peaceful hand-over of Israeli assets when the Israelis left Gaza.

Wolfensohn was so convinced of his vision for the future that last August he called friends in the U.S. Jewish community – including real estate magnate and U.S. News & World Report chairman Mortimer B. Zuckerman - to fork out $14 million to buy greenhouses in Gaza from the Israelis settlers who were about to be evicted, and donate them to the Palestinians. (He also put some of his own money at risk, I am told).

Less than one month later, after the Israeli disengagement from Gaza, angry Palestinian mobs looted them and pulled most of the greenhouses to the ground, giving the world a foretaste of how successful the dream of peaceful Palestinian development was going to be.

But Wolfensohn is persistent. From protecting new Palestinian assets from the Palestinians, he turned to the real problems: reforming the Palestinian Authority, its endemic corruption, and helping to achieve legal and regulatory reform.

“Then we were faced with the rather surprising result to the [Palestinian] election,” one of his aides told me. “So the issue became what can we do to get the financing needed to make sure the caretaker government can make it.” [I don't see what was so surprising. That's why Abu Mazen - and Arafat before him - has been avoiding elections for years. CiJ]

But Condi Rice never said the “issue” was funding a caretaker government; it was getting international support for a cut-off in funding to the Palestinian Authority led by Hamas.

“Mr. Wolfensohn’s message during his talks in the region earlier this month was not pre-cleared with the Department,” NEA spokesman Gregg Sullivan said. That is a pretty substantial revelation. [The bigger question is why Wolfensohn is allowed to freelance like this when he is acting on State's behalf as "Quartet Special Envoy for Disengagement." Maybe someone should ask McLellan that question at the next White House press briefing. CiJ]

Wolfensohn had long been urging the Gulf Arabs to get more directly involved in funding the Palestinian Authority directly, instead of allowing private individuals and charities to fund Hamas, as they had been doing in the past. The State Department approved those efforts in the hope it would help bring about “a moderate government” in the PA, Sullivan said. [Why does State think the Gulf Arabs are so 'moderate'? Where were they on September 11, 2001? CiJ]

During Wolfensohn’s most recent trip, he asked the Saudis “to start funding of the PA that would be ongoing, sustainable, and that would support the social and political reforms the Palestinians themselves have been calling for.”

Rice has indicated that while the U.S. and Europe have cut all direct funding to the PA, they could continue to fund of Non-governmental organizations to carry out the type of social work that Hamas used to provide.

“We may have to get creative,” Sullivan said. “It doesn’t mean we won’t continue to provide funding to the Palestinians.”

That sounds to me like we’re about to get half-pregnant. You can’t defund the Palestinian Authority because it has been taken over by Hamas, and yet fund social welfare programs and development programs that free up money that Hamas and the PA can use for their own purposes, including the recruitment and training of suicide bombers. [Just like I've been saying to anyone who will listen since Hamas was 'elected.' Money is fungible. CiJ]

Read the whole thing.


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