For years, the Palestinian Authority (PA) paid for healthcare, electricity, and other basic civilian needs in the Gaza Strip, while Hamas raised funds through heavy taxes (often leveled on top of PA taxes) that it could then devote largely to its military needs. The PA recently brought an end to this arrangement, as part of last month’s reconciliation deal. Evelyn Gordon explains how the new situation will affect the terrorist group’s bottom line:
Hamas for the first time has to spend some of its own money on [public services], causing its military budget to plummet from an estimated $200 million in 2014 to just $50 million this year (not counting the extra money it gets from Iran, which is solely for military spending). . . .
[I]mplementation of the reconciliation deal got off on the right foot on Wednesday when Hamas formally handed over Gaza’s border crossings to the PA. This isn’t because of the handover itself, which was largely meaningless, but because Hamas also agreed to dismantle the tax-collection checkpoints it erected near the crossings with Israel. . . . [These] checkpoints were major revenue sources for Hamas, since almost all imports to Gaza passed through them. . . . Thus the removal of these checkpoints will severely dent Hamas’s revenue stream.
Of course, it will still have the money it gets from Iran, estimated at $60-70 million this year, and that money will continue going straight to its military wing. But that’s far below what it was spending on its military in 2014 when it was getting less money from a cash-strapped Tehran but had a steady stream of Gazan tax revenue. . . .
[However], it’s not clear how anyone could stop [Hamas] from using its guns to resume extorting taxes once it has gotten what it wants out of the deal, which is to cease being responsible for civilian affairs. [And] the more money Hamas has to spend on its military build-up, the sooner it will reach the point where it feels it can afford to start another war. Hence if the PA, Egypt, and the international community want to avoid such a war, they must start thinking now about how to keep Hamas away from Gazan revenues if and when the reconciliation deal is fully implemented.