While Iran’s intention to attain nuclear capabilities remains perhaps the Islamic Republic’s most troubling goal, we have also been following its reach across the Middle East. Writing at The Times of Israel, Arieh Dan Spitzen says that Iranian funds are now being used to buy influence in the West Bank, among Hamas and Palestinian Authority followers alike:
This has led critics to worry that Iran will gain immediate access to enormous sums of money that it can use to bolster Hezbollah and strengthen Hamas in Gaza. In fact, very recently, the British newspaper The Telegraph reported that Iran has given Hamas millions of dollars to reconstruct the tunnels in the Gaza Strip that were destroyed by the IDF in last summer’s fighting. But even without the enormous new flow of funds promised by the removal of US and international sanctions, Iran has not limited its financial contributions in the Palestinian arena to Hamas or to Gaza.
Instead, the evidence suggests that it has been funneling money to the Palestinian Authority through its Shari’a courts and buying influence with the Palestinian public in the West Bank as well…
Standing alone, this Iranian financial support can only be considered a small beachhead in that nation’s efforts to gain influence with the PA and West Bank Palestinians, but it remains unclear whether there are other, less open financial streams flowing from Tehran to Ramallah. More importantly, the willingness of the Palestinian Authority to allow its postal service and government department to be used as a channel for financial support from an Iranian financed and US designated Hezbollah organization raises further questions about both the PA’s internal cohesion and its ultimate sympathies. The only thing that is clear is that Tehran, through its renewed support for Hamas and its coordination with the PA to fund payments to the families of “martyrs” in the West Bank, is seeking a key position of influence in the Palestinian territories.