In early March, Hamas took control of the PIF offices by force in Gaza, where the terrorist group acts as the de facto government. Hamas now control’s PIF bank accounts, the luxury Hanadi Tower office building, a juice factory, cars, and other assets.
PIF officers in the West Bank cede that these assets are lost. They sent out an email noting that Hamas had “confiscated some of its assets and properties,” condemning the action as illegal. The fund declared that it “won’t be responsible for any future measures, deals or agreements” associated with those holdings, and that whatever Hamas may do with them “doesn’t represent the PIF or its companies and properties.”
But Hamas does represent the PIF in Gaza. How else would those assets still be considered part of the PIF portfolio?
Hamas may control the PIF in other ways, too.
One of the PIF’s most prominent board members is Mazen Sinokrot, a Palestinian businessman and former minister of economy arrested by Israeli authorities in 1998 for operating Beit al-Mal, an investment company that reportedly financed Hamas. In December 2001, the U.S. Treasury designated Beit al-Mal for terrorist financing activities associated with Hamas.
While some might note that the U.S. has never designated Sinokrot himself, and that he is not an official member of Hamas, the terrorist group nonetheless hopes to name him prime minister in a Hamas-Fatah unity government.
At the very least, Sinokrot’s affiliations with Hamas deserve scrutiny, since he is a PIF board member.
Congress should now take a close look at the PIF and its ties to Hamas. This should all be part of the legislative calculus as members debate America’s financial relationship with the Palestinian Authority.
Jonathan Schanzer is vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and author of Hamas vs. Fatah: The Struggle for Palestine (Palgrave Macmillan 2008).