Abbas Fools the World

February 4, 2007

In January 2007, Israel eventually released $100m of Palestinian money, which she had collected but withheld, to the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas. The declared aim was to use the transfer for humanitarian purposes.

It has since emerged that the cash would join a fund supplied by Saudi Arabia and others to pay for "security forces", currently locked in battle with Hamas. An aid to Abbas, Rafiq Husseini, did announce that some of the money would also be spent on debt payment and welfare services.

The first of the following reports, from Voice of America, outlines the release of the cash from Israel, which was specifically not to be used to pay the security forces. The second, from AP, reports the announcement as to where the cash will be applied.

Israel, donor countries and the Palestinian people have been duped. The violence continues.

Israel Releases $100M in Frozen Tax Funds to Palestinians

By Robert Berger, Jerusalem, 19 January 2007

Israel is easing an economic boycott on the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority, releasing funds for the first time in 10 months. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, it is part of Israel's strategy to strengthen Palestinian moderates while weakening the radicals.

Israel has released $100 million in frozen tax funds and transferred the money to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. It was the first such transfer of funds since the Islamic militant group Hamas took power in March. Israel and the international community have imposed crippling sanctions on Hamas because it seeks the destruction of the Jewish state and is regarded as a terrorist organization.

At the same time, Israel wants to strengthen President Abbas who is locked in a violent power struggle with Hamas for control of the Palestinian Authority.

"The prime minister has been very clear about the fact that he respects the Palestinian president for the fact that he stands up and states clearly that he is for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue through dialogue and not through violence," said Miri Eisen, spokeswoman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

The transfer of funds is only 25 percent of what Israel owes, but Palestinian analyst Bassam Eid says it is a step in the right direction.

"I think that the Palestinian people will appreciate any country who will provide any aid to the Palestinians," he said. Israel says the funds are earmarked for humanitarian aid in the West Bank and Gaza and to beef up security forces loyal to Mr. Abbas. But in a bid to keep the pressure on Hamas, the money will not be used for the salaries of 165,000 Palestinian civil servants who have not been paid in full in 10 months.

Hamas officials criticized Israel, saying it has no right to bypass the elected Palestinian government or to determine how the money will be used.

Abbas to start paying salaries to members of Palestinian security forces

The Associated Press, January 27, 2007

RAMALLAH, West Bank: President Mahmoud Abbas will start paying long overdue salaries of the Palestinian security forces, a senior aide said Saturday, after three straight days of factional fighting in Gaza claimed 20 lives.

Most of the security forces are loyal to Abbas.

The aide, Rafiq Husseini, said Abbas will pay the salaries from a fund of $152 million (118 million), including $100 million (78 million) in tax rebates recently transferred by Israel, $30 million (23 million) from the United Arab Emirates and $22 million (17 million) pledged by Qatar. Israel had frozen the tax rebates last year, after the Islamic militant Hamas took power.

Husseini did not say how much of the money would go for the salaries of the security forces. Some of the money would also be spent on debt payment and welfare services, he said.

Since winning parliament elections a year ago, Hamas has had trouble paying 165,000 civil servants, including 80,000 members of the security forces, because of an international aid boycott. The funds, along with the tax rebates held by Israel, are integral parts of the Palestinian budget.

The international community has rerouted some of the aid to the moderate Abbas, Hamas' main political rival. Husseini said the president's office disbursed $285 million (221 million) in 2006, but that it was not enough to cover salaries or maintain vital services.

"The money that we receive doesn't solve the problem," Husseini told a news conference. "This contributes to fighting poverty and hunger."

Husseini reiterated that Abbas prefers the establishment of a new government acceptable to the West, a coalition of Hamas and his Fatah movement. However, the latest coalition talks were suspended because of the Gaza fighting. If no agreement is reached, Husseini said, "the president will go for early elections."

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