Israel delivers $15 million cash in suitcases to Hamas

Controversy swirled Sunday after Israel transferred $15 million in cash to Hamas on Thursday.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Controversy swirled Sunday over the Israeli government’s transfer of $15 million in cash in suitcases to Hamas on Thursday. Qatar supplied the money, which will be used to pay Palestinian civil servant salaries.

To ensure the money went to where it was intended, the transfer was photographed. However, IDF Radio reported Sunday that a portion of the money lined Hamas’s pockets.

“Hamas took part of the funds for their money box. The Qataris sent 52 million shekels for 40,000 clerks and needy families, meaning 1,300 shekels a person. In fact, many clerks received only 800 shekels, and the needy received 400 shekels,” the station tweeted.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the move on Saturday night as he boarded a flight to Paris where he will meet with French President Emanuel Macron at a peace conference to celebrate 100 years since the end of World War I.

“I am doing what I can … to restore peace and prevent a humanitarian crisis,” Netanyahu said. “Right now, this is the right step. For every step, without exception, there is a price. When you take steps as a leader, there is always a price. If you can’t bear the cost, you can’t lead.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett blasted the decision on Sunday, calling it “protection money” in an interview with Israel’s Kan Bet. “You can buy quiet for a short time but you accustom the other side to use violence to achieve its interests,” he said.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman slammed Bennett on Twitter. “Either Bennett suffers from memory loss, or he is simply lying,” he wrote.

“Unlike me, when I forcefully opposed an arrangement with Hamas, especially the transfer of funds, Bennett supported the funds and the Qatari fuel in the first place, and suggested letting 5,000 workers from Gaza into Israel,” Liberman tweeted. “Bennett opposed every military action against Hamas, and the responsibility for the protection money is on him and his party.”

Minister of Construction and Housing, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yoav Galant, who defended the government’s decision to allow the funds, criticized both Bennett and Liberman, Sunday. “Whoever isn’t familiar with power and doesn’t know how to use it is likely to become drunk with power. We need to guard the IDF from political argument and not to use it as a lever left or right,” Israel’s 103 FM quoted him as saying.

Media pundits largely defended the government’s move. Opinion pieces in both the right-wing daily Israel Hayom and the left-wing Ha’aretz argued that the only other option was for Israel to go to war.

The transfer of Qatari funds was made possible by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to allow an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Hamas to go forward.