Israel and Hamas may currently be locked in deadly combat, but, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials, beginning in the late 1970s, Tel Aviv gave direct and indirect financial aid to Hamas over a period of years.Israel “aided Hamas directly —the Israelis wanted to use it as a counterbalance to the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization),” said Tony Cordesman, Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic Studies.
Israel’s support for Hamas “was a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious alternative,” said a former senior CIA official.
According to documents United Press International obtained from the Israel-based Institute for Counter Terrorism,Hamas evolved from cells of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928. Islamic movements in Israel and Palestine were “weak and dormant” until after the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel scored a stunning victory over its Arab enemies.The cornerstone of the Islamic movements success was an impressive social, religious, educational and cultural infrastructure, called Da’wah, that worked to ease the hardship of large numbers of Palestinian refugees.
According to ICT papers, Hamas was legally registered in Israel in 1978 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the movement’s spiritual leader, as an Islamic Association by the name Al-Mujamma al Islami.According to U.S. administration officials,funds for the movement came from the oil-producing states and directly and indirectly from Israel.
The PLO was secular and leftist and promoted Palestinian nationalism. Hamas wanted to set up a transnational state under the rule of Islam, much like Khomeini’s Iran.
The Islamic movements began to surge after the Iranian revolution, after armed resistance to Israel sprang up in southern Lebanon vis-à-vis the Hezbollah, backed by Iran, these sources said.A further factor of Hamas’ growth was the fact the PLO moved its base of operations to Beirut in the ’80s, leaving the Islamic organization to grow in influence in the Occupied Territories “as the court of last resort,” he said.
Israel was certainly funding the group at that time. One U.S. intelligence source who asked not to be named said that not only was Hamas being funded as a “counterweight” to the PLO, Israeli aid had another purpose: “To help identify and channel towards Israeli agents Hamas members who were dangerous terrorists.”