WASHINGTON, Aug. 4 (UPI) -- Insider notes from United Press International for August 4:
While stopping terror attacks is every government's highest priority, choking off terrorist funding comes in as a close second. According to a report by the Israel-based Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies, the Arab Bank is the major conduit for Hamas and Islamic Jihad to transfer money to the Palestinian Authority. The Jordan-based Arab Bank, one of the largest in the Arab world, has 190 branches in every Arab country as well as in the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia. According to Israeli intelligence officials, Hamas and Islamic Jihad prefer the Arab Bank because of its numerous branches under the Palestinian Authority's control and overseas. Israeli intelligence says the two groups use the Arab Bank to transfer money to support of families of killed, wounded, wanted and imprisoned militants and bank to transfer money to finance military operations and civilian infrastructures. The report claims that the groups directly transfer millions of dollars to the Palestinian Authority, with donations to the families of Hamas activists coming directly from overseas. The Amman-based Arab Bank is a private institution with $5.2 billion in assets and 6,000 employees. The question is whether these Israeli allegations are true or are simply trying to blacken the name of a leading Arab financial institution which has as a major shareholder a family known to be Palestinian moderates. A leading member of the family acted as a liaison between the United States and the Palestinian Liberation Organization when the PLO recognized Israel in Geneva in 1988. The Israelis claim that their information is solid; the bank's Ramallah branches were stormed by Israeli troops on Feb. 25; during a 13-hour search Israeli computer specialists ransacked online files, and the forces eventually retreated with nearly $2 million they claimed belonged to terrorist accounts. Washington strongly protested the incursion, claiming the raids could destabilize the Palestinian banking system and that the action should have been coordinated with Palestinian financial authorities through Finance Minister Salim Fayad. Maybe the Israelis are simply trying to destabilize the Palestinian banking system.