PA to launch welfare network to weaken Hamas influence

The Palestinian Authority is launching a new socioeconomic network meant to counter the Hamas welfare system, the Dawa, which has been successful in assisting poor Palestinians for two decades.

PA to launch welfare network to weaken Hamas influence
The program is being backed by both Israel and the Quartet - the U.S., UN, EU and Russia - including its Middle East envoy Tony Blair.

On the Israeli side, the officials coordinating activities in the territories - under Major General Yosef Mishlav and Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog - are involved in supporting the PA.

The program calls for setting up an organization which will grant monthly stipends to families living in poverty. The stipends will also include unemployment and disability benefits.

During the first phase of implementation, the estimated cost to countries contributing funds to the Palestinian Authority stands at $120 million. The program is expected to provide stipends for about 60,000 people.

According to PA Social Affairs Minister Mahmoud Habash, nearly 160,000 needy families are supported by the government, and 50,000 are receiving monthly stipends. Some 110,000 more receive food assistance.

The PA budget for these purposes is a mere NIS 7 million per year, according to Habash. A total of 1,400 social workers are employed by the PA - 1,000 as advisers and the rest as administrative staff.

Fatah has tried a number of times to set up a competing socioeconomic network to counter Hamas' influence, but failed. The PA has recently tried to replace the management of the charities that operated with Hamas support, seeking to block the influence of the Islamic organization.

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad also announced the closing of all Islamic charity organizations.

But a security source said that it will take years to dismantle the Hamas Dawa system that has become part of the fabric of Palestinian life.

Last Mod: 21 Mart 2008, 16:42
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