As Saudi Arabia seeks to strengthen its anti-Iran coalition, it may become the new sheriff in town on the Gaza Strip. An Israeli news site called Arutz Sheva spoke to sources in Israel’s security apparatus, who say that the Saudis and UAE have taken on the task of funding Gaza’s reconstruction. The reputed arrangement suits Egypt and Israel just fine, since they want to see Qatar’s influence in Gaza reduced:
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have played a significant role in returning Hamas to the negotiating table over a permanent ceasefire, a security official revealed Sunday on condition of anonymity, after pledging to contribute money to rebuild Gaza.Hamas initially insisted on a financial plan backed by their longtime ally, Qatar, to recover from the conflict, the source stated to Walla!.However, since Jerusalem and Cairo both aim to lessen Qatar’s stronghold on the terror regime – as well as the influence of Qatar-based Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Meshaal – Hamas then turned to Riyadh and contacts in the United Arab Emirates for assistance after Operation Protective Edge.
What’s more, according to these sources, the Saudis have pledged to keep the materials of war out of Hamas’s hands:
The Saudi funding is conditional on the promise that the funds will be used for legitimate civilian projects only – specifically barring the rebuilding of terror tunnels.It is unclear what system of checks and balances exist to ensure that promise is kept will be in place, however, and the fact remains that Hamas routinely sets up headquarters in civilian buildings, and has stored rockets and booby traps in schools and hospitals.
To add a further layer of speculation, Arutz Sheva notes that the money paid to Hamas’ operatives over the weekend could have been part of this funding package.These sorts of articles are impossible to verify (though notably, both Egypt’s President and the UAE’s Foreign Minister visited Saudi Arabia this week), but the purported agreement strikes us as feasible—and perhaps even desirable—for all parties except Hamas and Iran.Here’s why: In becoming the new paymasters of Gaza, the Saudis and the UAE would gain an advantage in their standoff with Iran. In a sense, they’d be buying up the Palestinian movement, depriving Iran of its ability to play the anti-Israel, pro-Palestine card in the struggle for religious legitimacy in the Islamic world. They would also be continuing their policy of strong support for Egyptian President al-Sisi, helping him crush their common Muslim Brotherhood opponents and working to create an environment in which he can achieve his goal of cleaning up the mess in Sinai. While Egypt might not relish leaving Hamas in control of the Strip, it knows that the power vacuum opened up by Hamas’s fall could be even worse. Putting Hamas on a Saudi leash would be a very neat solution.This deal, if true, has something in it for everyone: Egypt, the Saudis, and the UAE, Israel, and even the Palestinians. The Sunni states strengthen their anti-Iranian alliance, in which Israel has become something of a silent partner, while at the same time tamping down an extremist threat to regional stability. And with Hamas tied down and unable to start wars with Israel, the injection of Saudi cash could finally bring Gaza the prosperity and stability—not to mention hope—it desperately needs.[This post has been edited.]