U.S. FREEZES HAMAS ASSETS
NYT has the story:
President Bush ordered the Treasury Department today to block and freeze the assets of six top leaders of the militant Palestinian group Hamas and five charities based outside the United States that administration officials said help finance Hamas.
Mr. Bush said he was taking the action in response to Hamas’s claim of responsibility for the bus bombing in Israel on Tuesday that killed 20 people.
“By claiming responsibility for the despicable act of terror on Aug. 19, Hamas has reaffirmed that it is a terrorist organization committed to violence against Israelis and to undermining progress toward peace between Israel and the Palestinian people,” Mr. Bush said in a written statement issued by the White House as the president toured a dam here.
As if we needed proof of this?
It is the first time that the United States has gone beyond acting against the military wing of Hamas and tried to shut down the political wing that provides social services and relief assistance.
Mr. Bush’s announcement is a victory for Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, and other officials who have argued for years that charitable groups tied to Hamas serve as a conduit for financing terrorism. And Hamas has been staunchly opposed to the so-called road map, the American-led peace plan that lays out the foundation for creating a Palestinian state in coexistence with Israel.
In taking this action, Mr. Bush risks fueling anti-American anger among Palestinians who not only depend on assistance from Hamas but also see it as an integral part of their lives. Hamas also has close ties to Arab leaders throughout the Middle East, and many of its biggest financial supporters come from the wealthy elite of Saudi Arabia.
The president’s move could also open another rift between the United States and Europe, because European leaders have thus far made a careful distinction between the military and political wings of Hamas. The Europeans contend that the organization’s charitable institutions provide much-needed services Ã¢€” and hope Ã¢€” to destitute Palestinians.
The United States will need European support if its freeze is to have any practical effect, because four of the five charities cited today are based in European countries while the fifth is based in Lebanon.
In Washington, a senior administration official conceded that the organizations had few if any assets in the United States.
Money is, of course, fungible. This makes the distinction between the wings of a terrorist group rather immaterial. Money donated to the “nice” wing can easily be shifted to the “not nice” wing.