Palestinian Authority Faces Budget Crisis

"The world can't abandon us. It's in no one's interest, not for Israel or anyone, to have the P.A. public sector collapse. To increase unemployment this way would be a message of violence, not of peace."

Palestinian Authority Faces Budget Crisis

In the last two weeks, the Palestinian Authority has been given about $70 million more than $40 million released by the World Bank, nearly $21 million from the European Union and $10 million from Norway. But even when all that money arrives, the Palestinian Authority will have only 95 percent of the money needed to pay February's overdue salaries, according to the Palestinian economic minister.

How it will cover salaries for March, said the minister, Mazen Sinokrot, "remains a mystery." And once Hamas, the Islamic party that swept January's legislative elections, names a new government, significant amounts of international aid will dry up.

"We're bankrupt," Mr. Sinokrot said bluntly in an interview on Thursday in his Ramallah office. "The world can't abandon us. It's in no one's interest, not for Israel or anyone, to have the P.A. public sector collapse. To increase unemployment this way would be a message of violence, not of peace."

Mr. Sinokrot needs $115 million a month just to pay the salaries of 145,000 public sector employees, about half of whom, he said, shaking his head, are listed as security forces. Most of them have weapons. The Palestinians raise about $35 million a month from internal taxes. But Israel is withholding about $55 million a month in customs and duties it collects for the Palestinians, arguing that a Hamas majority in Parliament means that Hamas,  controls the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinians' governing body. The major donors — the European Union, the World Bank, the United States and a few Arab nations — do not agree with the Israeli position because Hamas has not yet formed a government.

Even if Israel were handing over the revenue, the Palestinian Authority would still be in a significant hole, since it needs about $165 million a month to operate.

Mr. Sinokrot, who is not a member of Hamas, is a potential finance minister in the new government. But he said no one from Hamas, including the prime minister-designate, Ismail Haniya, had talked to him since the elections.

Mr. Sinokrot calls Israel's decision to withhold the money a "collective punishment" of Palestinians for voting for Hamas, and urged the world to see the Hamas victory "as a real window of opportunity" created by democracy.

But Israel and the so-called quartet for Middle East peace — the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations — have warned that a new Hamas government will face isolation and further cuts in financing unless it recognizes Israel, rejects violence and accepts the validity of previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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