Iran today offered to help finance a Palestinian Authority run by the Hamas militant group, state radio reported.
Israel promptly warned the Palestinians that if they accepted Iranian money, they would be aligning themselves with an “international pariah”.
The secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Larijani, announced the offer after a meeting with Khaled Mashaal, the political leader of Hamas, in Tehran.
Larijani said the decision was taken after the United States said it would not provide aid to an authority governed by Hamas until the group renounced violence, recognised Israel and agreed to abide by existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.
“The United States proved that it would not support democracy after it cut its aid to the Palestinian government after Hamas won the elections. We will certainly help the Palestinians,” Larijani said, according to the radio report.
The United States and European Union, which consider Hamas a terrorist group, have said they will halt their grants of hundreds of millions of dollars of aid to the Palestinian Authority after a Hamas government takes office unless it changes its attitude toward Israel and violence.
Hamas has long called for the destruction of Israel and has refused to negotiate with the Jewish state. Its leaders have refused to change their policies since the group won last month’s Palestinian elections by a landslide.
Yesterday, a moderate Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, was asked to form a government by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
In Jerusalem, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said: “The incoming Palestinian leadership has to decide if it wants to be part of the legitimate international community or if it wants, through its own actions, to align itself with international pariahs.”
Israel accuses Iran of supporting militant groups, such as Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah, and of seeking to produce nuclear weapons. Last year Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Israel should be “wiped out.”
Mashaal and his delegation were in Iran in the latest stop of a tour of Arab and Islamic nations aimed at drumming up support as Israel and the United States move to cut off money to the Palestinians.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had called for Muslim nations to provide aid to a Hamas-led government and expressed support for the group’s refusal to recognise Israel.
President Ahmadinejad also indicated yesterday that Hamas should not fear the West’s threat to cut off funds. “Since the divine treasures are infinite, you should not be concerned about economic issues,” IRNA quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.
Israel and the United States have long accused Iran of giving financial and material support to Hamas. But Iran has always replied it gives only moral backing.
Hamas suicide bombers have killed hundreds of Israelis. But the group has respected an informal cease-fire since early last year.