London, Asharq Al-Awsat- A recently declassified report by the Saudi government released before the latest Palestinian elections predicted a Hamas victory and attributed the probable outcome to the Palestinian people’s jaded opinion of the current government and America’s lack of support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The report by the Saudi National Security Assessment Project (SNSAP), of which Asharq Al-Awsat has obtained a copy, states, “The Palestinians face severe social welfare needs that have not been addressed by the current government. Recent surveys conducted by the SNSAP indicate that there is deep distrust of senior officials in the Palestinian Authority, most of whom are Fatah members. This situation has created an opportunity that Hamas has been able to exploit.
The report also details Hamas’s grass root activities, which were instrumental for the group in winning popular support amongst the Palestinian people. “According to UN statistics, almost 75 percent of Palestinians live below the poverty line. Hamas operates an extensive social services infrastructure that includes schools, orphanages, mosques, healthcare clinics, and soup kitchens – services that the Palestinian Authority often fails to provide. Hamas’s efforts in this area, combined with its reputation for financial probity, are in contrast to perceived Fatah corruption and incompetence.”
The report also evaluates the implications of Hamas’s landmark victory on the Saudi government, which is recognized as the primary regional supporter of the Palestinian cause. “Saudi Arabia is by far the largest supporter of the Palestinian Authority’s social and economic services. In addition, private Saudi citizens and charitable foundations donate approximately $150 million per year to support the general social and economic programs in the Palestinian territories. This makes the Kingdom the largest single aid donor to Palestine.” However, the likelihood of a U.S. and European suspension or reduction of financial aid to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority will probably lead to the Saudi government inheriting the responsibility of maintaining the loss in financial assistance. Furthermore, according to SNSAP’s director, Nawaf Obaid, “this report merely highlights the policy options facing Saudi Arabia today as a result of Hamas’s landslide victory in the elections”.
The report’s criticism of U.S. Middle Eastern foreign policy has been echoed a number of times in the past by the Saudi Foreign Ministry. It states, “American policies in the region, especially its unfettered support for Israel and its designation of Hamas as a terror organization complicate the situation, and demonstrate that the Bush administration is clearly out of touch. Thus, they are unable to understand the situation from the Palestinian perspective”.
The report also recommends the resurrection of King Abdullah’s 2002 Arab league summit’s peace initiative, which called for the normalizing of relations with Israel in return for a withdrawal from occupied Arab territories, the creation of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, and the “return of refugees.”