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Monday, February 27, 2006

Middle East Envoy Warns of Palestinian Authority Collapse

Just last Thursday, I told you all how James Wolfensohn had brought about Condaleeza Rice's embarassment by convincing Saudi Arabia to announce that it planned to fund the Hamas-led PA in Rice's presence. Now Wolfensohn is crying that the PA is within two weeks of going broke. And guess who's to blame? Why Israel of course.

In a Feb. 25 letter addressed to senior diplomats from Russia, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations, Wolfensohn said Israel's decision to withhold the sales tax and customs fees it collects for the Palestinian Authority has pushed the caretaker government to the brink of insolvency.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas's secular Fatah movement currently runs the government. But that will change in a few weeks when Hamas, designated a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, forms the next cabinet following its victory in parliamentary elections.

Wolfensohn, a former World Bank president, said the Palestinian Authority needs $60 million to $80 million by the first week of March to pay 150,000 civil service employees and trainees, nearly half of them in the security forces. The European Commission, the executive body of the EU, agreed Monday to provide $144 million to the Palestinian Authority, designating most of it for social programs and energy bills. About $20 million could be used for salaries. [I'm a bit confused here. Israel withheld about $50 million from the PA. Suddenly the shortfall is $60-80 million. That means that the PA would not have enough money even if Israel had given them that $50 million. Moreover, the Europeans gave them $144 million but actually directed that the money go elsewhere than paying 'salaries' to the 'security forces.' Maybe it's time for the 'Palestinians' to have fewer 'security forces.' Maybe that would solve their financial crisis. Maybe they would even have to start spending responsibly. But no, Wolfensohn has to come around with a tin cup for them.... CiJ]

"If we do not want to see rising tension leading to violence and chaos -- particularly just before the Israeli election -- we will have to develop urgently a convincing strategy addressing the PA's financial and developmental needs, not only in the short-term of the next few weeks but also in a longer time frame," Wolfensohn wrote. [There are words to describe Wolfensohn. But this is a family-oriented blog. CiJ]


In the letter, Wolfensohn proposes a donor meeting in mid-March to find ways of financing the Palestinian government without violating anti-terrorism laws that prohibit funds from going to Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel.

"If we don't get this right, I am afraid past investment in the Palestinian development will be lost, a Palestinian economy will not be sustainable, the Palestinian people will live off humanitarian handouts, and security for both Palestinians and Israelis will be in greater jeopardy than it has been for years," he wrote.

The Quartet agreed Jan. 30 to continue financing the caretaker government to strengthen Abbas, who has called on Hamas to pursue a negotiated peace with Israel based on a two-state solution to the conflict. But Wolfensohn, the Quartet's special envoy here, warned that Israel and the United States are pursuing policies at odds with that position by restricting vital funding before Hamas installs its cabinet. That is due to happen within the next month. [So does that mean that if Hamas is 'installed' and does what they say they will do, Wolfensohn will be agreeable to denying them funds? I doubt it. CiJ]

With national elections scheduled for March 28, the Israeli government decided after the Hamas majority was sworn into parliament earlier this month to freeze a $55 million monthly tax and customs transfer to the Palestinian Authority.

That payment, which covers about half of the Palestinian Authority's monthly payroll and unemployment benefits, would have been due in the next few days. President Bush, meanwhile, has demanded the return of $50 million in direct U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority. [Has the PA already returned the money? If it has, why is the shortfall not greater? If it has not, why is the shortfall not smaller? And what about all the money Arafat stashed in Swiss bank accounts? Why can't anyone find that? CiJ]


Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European Union's external relations commissioner and a recipient of Wolfensohn's letter, said the funds approved Monday would "reduce the pressure on the caretaker government so that President Abbas can continue his important task of building the next government." [With whom is Abu Mazen forming the next government other than Hamas? Why should Abu Mazen be used to make a Hamas-led government Kosher? CiJ]

In recent public comments, U.S. diplomats have indicated that Abbas could serve as a conduit for future funding, even though that policy would contradict past U.S. efforts to weaken the Palestinian presidency when it was held by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. U.S. development aid to the Palestinian territories last year exceeded $400 million, all of it channeled through non-governmental organizations.

The Israeli government, however, has sought to discourage that strategy. Israel's acting foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, characterized Abbas, commonly known as Abu Mazen, as "no longer relevant" on the eve of traveling to Europe where she hopes to convince governments to isolate the Palestinian Authority.

Mark Regev, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said, "If there is a difference of opinion, it is only over when one should consider Hamas as having taken over the Palestinian Authority."

"We've agreed to disagree on this, but soon it will be immaterial when Hamas becomes the actual government," Regev said. "It appears that the real political power will be held by Hamas, and Israel does not believe it would be in anyone's best interest to ignore that. To put it in Jewish terms, we would be very worried that Abu Mazen could be used as a way of making the Palestinian Authority kosher."

The JPost adds:

Voices have been raised in the Quartet (the US, EU, Russia and the UN) arguing that the cutoff date by which Hamas must accept certain preconditions or face international isolation is "malleable" and not necessarily the day a Hamas government is formed, The Jerusalem Post learned. [If they drag it out long enough, maybe they can keep financing the terrorists until Hamas decides that there won't be any more elections. Then what? And what will happen the first time there's a suicide bombing R"L? The Europeans will increase funding? CiJ]

One Western diplomatic official said that among the questions the Quartet principals were dealing with now was what would happen if Hamas were to make some move toward recognizing Israel and continue to abide by a cease-fire, but would not go all the way toward full-throated recognition of Israel or committing itself to nonviolence. [The answer to that question should be very simple. No. The fact that they are 'dealing' with that question shows that they're following Ehud Olmert's wishy-washy lead. CiJ]

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh on Sunday denied that Hamas was prepared to make peace with Israel, saying he had been misquoted by The Washington Post.

Haniyeh said his comments had been misunderstood.

He said he was not referring to a peace agreement, only a "political truce." [That's positively a Clintonian distinction. CiJ]

"I didn't talk about recognizing Israel during the interview with the newspaper," Haniyeh told reporters in Gaza City.

I have said it before and I will say it again. The 'Palestinians' voted knowing exactly what Hamas was, what they stood for and what they wanted to do. It's time to stop treating them like children and to make them pay for the consequences of their actions.


At 9:52 PM, Blogger NY Nana said...

Would 'self hating Jew' do for Wolfenson? I will refrain from saying what I really think, and remain polite. It seems that these are the only Jews that are acceptable to either party when it comes to appointments...a variation of Court Jew.

In all of this, whatever happened to Rashid, Arafat's 'banker', and why hasn't Suha Arafat been taken into custody by Interpol, or some Eurabian agency? She could probably afford to pay off all the debt with enough to live on quite nicely, in the style to which she has become accustomed? Her dear friend Shrillery must be arranging for a contribution, under the radar, for her presidential run in '08, from her kissing buddy.

My only strong confusion involves the funding of an imaginary country that some call 'Palestine'..it seems like an hallucination on the part of the rest of the world, with the US joining in, sadly.



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