Palestinians appeal for aid as donors demand Hamas make changes

first_imgGAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) – Hamas militants and the Palestinian president appealed for continued aid to the struggling Palestinian Authority on Monday, saying the Palestinian people are in desperate need. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas implored European donors to avoid a threatened cut in aid, which could devastate an already battered economy, force the Palestinian Authority into a fiscal crisis and cost tens of thousands of government workers their jobs. “The European countries must understand that the Palestinian people are in bad need of this aid,” Abbas said. “I hope to God that they will change their positions, both Israel and the European countries.” A top Hamas leader promised Monday that aid would go only to ordinary Palestinians – not to attacks on Israel, which Hamas refuses to recognize – and said a Hamas government would be willing to have its spending monitored. “We assure you that all the revenues will be spent on salaries, daily life and infrastructure. You can review this,” Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh said in Gaza. In Lebanon, a senior Hamas official said an aid cut would not affect Hamas policy. “If the European Union countries and the American administration see this as a means that could lead to a change in Hamas’ strategic position, then they are dreaming and are mistaken,” Mohammed Nazzal, a member of Hamas’ decision-making political bureau, told Al-Arabiya satellite television. Israel said Monday that it would stop the monthly transfer of $55 million in taxes and customs it collects from Palestinian workers and merchants to the Palestinian Authority if a Hamas government is installed. The election of Hamas, which has killed hundreds of Israelis in dozens of suicide bombings, threw the future of Middle East peacemaking into question and prompted a flurry of diplomatic meetings. Both the European Union and U.S. list Hamas as a terror group, making it difficult, if not illegal, for them to give money to a government led by Hamas. The so-called Quartet of U.S., Russia, the EU and United Nations agreed Monday that a Hamas-led government must commit to nonviolence, recognition of Israel and acceptance of existing peace agreements to maintain financial support, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said after a meeting of the group in London. Europe is the largest donor to the Palestinian Authority, which had a $1.96 billion budget last year. About one-third of aid goes to salaries and the rest to rehabilitate Palestinians’ war-shattered infrastructure. The U.S. gave $70 million in direct aid to the Palestinian Authority last year. Separately, the United States spent $225 million for humanitarian projects through the U.S. Agency for International Development last year, and gave $88 million for refugee assistance, according to the State Department. Annan said future aid “would be reviewed by donors against that government’s commitment to renounce violence, recognition of Israel” and other agreements, including the so-called roadmap peace plan that calls for the co-existence of Israel and a Palestinian state. President Bush said Monday that he would not support a Hamas government, saying the party “has made it clear that they do not support the right of Israel to exist.” “And I have made it clear that so long as that’s their policy, that we will not support a Palestinian government made up of Hamas,” he said. Financial problems already are looming for the Palestinian Authority, which has been widely criticized as inefficient and corrupt. European donors stopped forwarding salary money to the Palestinian Authority in December after the government gave raises of up to 40 percent to its employees and added people to its already bloated payroll. So far, $60 million have been withheld, and in the past three months, only Saudi Arabia has transferred money to pay salaries – a total of $15.4 million, said the Palestinian deputy finance minister, Jihad Wazir. The government is to pay salaries to its 137,000 workers Thursday. “If salaries are unpaid, I think that will create a very serious crisis,” Wazir said. Associated Press writers Jamal Halaby in Jordan and Anne Gearan in London contributed to this report. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESanta Anita opens winter meet Saturday with loaded card160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

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