Attacking Hamas's financial base
...We are also starting to see cash flow problems in other Islamist terrorist organizations. In this case the Palestinians are learning a lesson in the high cost of corruption that goes with support of terrorism. As the story demonstrates they are also learning some of the benefits in stopping that corruption.
While many in the political and defense establishments lamented the Hamas-Fatah rift and its negative impact on any future diplomatic process, Shamni did not waste time in taking advantage of what he saw as a new opportunity. He immediately convened a meeting of top IDF, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and Mossad officials and began thinking of a way to prevent a similar Hamas takeover from taking place in the West Bank.
The upshot was the establishment of a new unit in Central Command called the "Dawa Team." The idea was to go after Hamas's Dawa financial infrastructure and not just its terrorist tentacles.
"Hamas is not only a terrorist organization that tries to attack Israel with suicide bombers and gunmen," explains a senior Central Command officer. "Through its Dawa charitable organizations, it became capable of providing all the welfare services for Palestinians in the West Bank and was able to present itself as an alternative to the PA, which was perceived as corrupt."
Following the January 2006 PA parliamentary elections, this was the reality in the territories, and Hamas was effectively in control of all the welfare services in the West Bank. Shamni decided to put an end to this.
The Dawa team got to work immediately and with intelligence information collected by the Shin Bet and other agencies began piecing together Hamas's elaborate financial pyramid. The intelligence officers, legal experts and Arabic-speaking representatives of the Civil Administration on the team quickly discovered that the Dawa charities were the owners of multimillion dollar assets including malls, buildings and parking lots. While most of the money was going to welfare services, a significant percentage was funding the group's terrorist activities.
"We wanted to smash Hamas's capabilities," the officer explained.
The team went through the charities' financial records and crunched the numbers. The result was the incrimination of most of the charities as supporters of terrorist activity. The team then took the evidence to court and received authorization to confiscate the assets. The high drama came in July 2008, when IDF troops swept into downtown Nablus and took over a 70-store mall.
But Shamni didn't stop there. As the prime minister's military aide, Shamni - a graduate of the US National Defense University and one of the only IDF officers to undergo training with the Green Berets - had been exposed to the inner workings of the Israeli political and diplomatic system. He also became intimately familiar with the different players on the Palestinian side, including Prime Minister Salaam Fayad.
After the Nablus raid, the PA called on the IDF to stop. "We said to them that we would not stop them from taking action against the Dawa if they wanted to," another officer said. "We told them that the more they did, the less we would."