How long can Hamas not pay its bills?

The cash-strapped Palestinian government led by Hamas is behind on its bills. It hasn't paid 165,000 government employees in weeks. The Palestinian Authority needs about $160-170 million each month to continue running, but only about $30 million comes in each month as income – the rest always came from aid. Now that aid from the United ...

The cash-strapped Palestinian government led by Hamas is behind on its bills. It hasn't paid 165,000 government employees in weeks. The Palestinian Authority needs about $160-170 million each month to continue running, but only about $30 million comes in each month as income - the rest always came from aid. Now that aid from the United States and the EU has been frozen, and Israel has ceased providing tax collections, the situation is getting dire.

Iran and Qatar have pledged $50 million each, but those might be one-time payments. Russia has promised aid (asserting to the US, according to The Economist, that it isn't a 'piece of furniture') but hasn't specified an amount. And the $50 million promise from the Arab League hasn't materialized. What's more, League member Jordan rescinded its invitation to the Hamas foreign minister to visit Amman this week - probably a result of American pressure. The government is frantically looking for any kind of wealthy patron, but even the pledges it's receiving won't keep the government running for long.

So how does the government avoid complete financial collapse? Will the situation necessitate more emergency grants from the EU? Will the US approve emergency funds? I doubt it, but the situation is approaching the brink. Surely the appointment of a prominent Hamas militant today to a top security position doesn't help matters.

The cash-strapped Palestinian government led by Hamas is behind on its bills. It hasn't paid 165,000 government employees in weeks. The Palestinian Authority needs about $160-170 million each month to continue running, but only about $30 million comes in each month as income – the rest always came from aid. Now that aid from the United States and the EU has been frozen, and Israel has ceased providing tax collections, the situation is getting dire.

Iran and Qatar have pledged $50 million each, but those might be one-time payments. Russia has promised aid (asserting to the US, according to The Economist, that it isn't a 'piece of furniture') but hasn't specified an amount. And the $50 million promise from the Arab League hasn't materialized. What's more, League member Jordan rescinded its invitation to the Hamas foreign minister to visit Amman this week – probably a result of American pressure. The government is frantically looking for any kind of wealthy patron, but even the pledges it's receiving won't keep the government running for long.

So how does the government avoid complete financial collapse? Will the situation necessitate more emergency grants from the EU? Will the US approve emergency funds? I doubt it, but the situation is approaching the brink. Surely the appointment of a prominent Hamas militant today to a top security position doesn't help matters.

Carolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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