In YNet today, another means by which the PA enriches Hamas is detailed:
[Over the summer] Israel announced that it will allow new cars into Gaza, for the first time since Hamas took over the Strip. Of course, that announcement was not directly conveyed to Hamas authorities – the official Israel prefers to pretend that Ramallah’s Palestinian Authority still rules the Strip.The entire article is very interesting.
Everyone, all across the military and economic establishment, plays along with this pretension, highlighted by the shekels used by Hamas to pay Gaza salaries – shekels transferred to Gaza by the Bank of Israel and seemingly handed over only to authorized banks. Similarly, messages about car imports are also conveyed via a game of pretend: Only to representatives of the official Palestinian Authority. Yet this time we were in for a surprise.
Maher Abu-Aluf, the PA official in charge of coordination with Gaza, quickly approved the move. However, the transportation ministry’s director general on behalf of Hamas in Gaza, Hassan Ukasha, announced that he will not allow the vehicles to enter the Strip.
Ukasha explained his decision to the stunned Gaza press as follows: The Palestinian Authority has a financial interest in bringing vehicles into Gaza. Israel imposes high taxes on each vehicle (a 50% sales tax and a 14% value added tax) – these funds are directly transferred from Israel’s Treasury to the PA’s accounts in Israeli banks. The PA doesn’t have to make any effort to collect the money from the importers – Israel does everything.
Ukasha made it clear that he does not wish to undermine importers and impose more taxes on vehicles entering Gaza. Hence, he proposed a simple solution: Let’s establish a joint committee with the PA that would discuss the distribution of funds received from Israel.
Officials in Salam Fayyad’s government realized that they’re about to lose millions and rushed to convey a message to Ukasha suggesting that he shut up: There is no reason for Israel to be aware of the nature of financial ties between Hamastan and the PA, to the tune of billions of shekels annually.
Ukasha got the hint, and proposed a joint committee about a wholly different issue. Within less than a week, a committee was set up, seemingly for the sole purpose of discussing “a shared transportation vision for Palestine and connecting Gaza to the West Bank.”
And so, with discussions about vision not arousing suspicion of money transfers to Hamas, the committee completed its work. Officially, the PA informed Israel about a week ago that it managed to convince Hamas authorities to lift their objection to the entry of vehicles into Gaza. Meanwhile, Hamas announced that it is no longer interested in vehicle tax revenues, as long as the Fayyad government earmarks more funds to Gaza municipalities.