Apparently since the Russian foreign minister blew into Ottawa this week. Sergei Lavrov arrived full of reassuring noises, fresh from meetings in Moscow with leaders of the terrorist group Hamas, who, of course, were full of reassuring noises themselves.
The blandishments of Hamas, which Palestinians entrusted with a parliamentary majority in January, should not be taken at face value. They claim that international aid to the Palestinian people wonít be siphoned off for terrorist purposes. And, according to Mr. Lavrov, they will allow foreign aid programs to be audited by some unspecified "international monitoring mechanism."
Russiaís say-so seemed to satisfy our own foreign affairs minister, Peter MacKay Ė enough to pledge that "some Canadian aid will continue." The amount of that aid remains unspecified, too, although the previous Liberal government had committed $25 million a year to projects in the West Bank and Gaza, and was contemplating hiking that amount.
Frankly, the Conservative governmentís first instincts about the election of Hamas were the right ones. Itís not just a matter of whether you can track every dime to its intended destination, which is doubtful. We canít even do that right in Canada. Itís not even a matter of whether you think Hamas would be stupid enough to jeopardize the entire international aid program by diverting funds to finance suicide bombings.
Primarily, itís a matter of principle.
Last month, in a conversation with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Stephen Harper hinted that continued Canadian aid was contingent on Hamas renouncing violence, recognizing Israel and living up to previous Israeli-Palestinian peace deals. Hamas has pointedly refused to budge on any of these issues, not even during its talks with Russian officials.
So why are we making life easier for them now?
It should not be up to Western governments, by far the biggest donors in humanitarian and other aid to the Palestinians, to bend over backwards to suit Hamas. If Hamas wants to retain this vital funding for the good of the Palestinian people, then it should jump through the hoops of civilized behaviour to do so. If not, let it seek sympathy elsewhere.
We fear Mr. MacKay has reset the bar too low.