Palestinians Ordered to Return US Aid

The United States has asked the Palestinian Authority to return $50 million in US aid because Washington does not want a Hamas-led government to have the funds. Hamas will officially enter government for the first time on Saturday when the new parliament,

Palestinians Ordered to Return US Aid

The money is being demanded as part of a review of all US aid for the Palestinians which began soon after the resistance group Hamas won last month's legislative elections. The US State Department expects to finish the review in the next few weeks. Sean McCormack, the US State Department spokesman, on Friday said the caretaker government of Mahmoud Abbas had agreed to return the $50 million, which was given to the Palestinian Authority last year for infrastructure projects after Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank.

"In the interests of seeing that these funds not potentially make their way into the coffers of a future Palestinian government (made up of Hamas) ... we have asked for it to be returned and the Palestinian Authority has agreed," McCormack told reporters. Over the past decade, the United States has given about $1.5 billion in aid to the Palestinians. Most of that was channeled via nongovernmental organisations.

Israeli decision
 
Israel's interim prime minister has meanwhile decided to wait until after Hamas assumes control of the Palestinian parliament before ordering any tough new restrictions on the Palestinians. Officials said Ehud Olmert put off until Sunday's cabinet meeting a proposed ban on Palestinian workers and funding after the United States and the European Union cautioned against taking steps that might make life more difficult for Palestinians.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Israel was now in "watch and wait mode" to see what positions Hamas would take on Saturday after the swearing-in of a parliament dominated by the Islamic group, whose charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state. "We're waiting to see what happens tomorrow in Ram Allah and we will respond to that," Regev said.
   
Government sources said Olmert decided to delay a decision until Sunday after disagreements emerged between some of his top advisers over what measures should be taken against Hamas. Olmert was expected to adopt most of a Defence Ministry proposal that would bar Palestinians from working in Israel or travelling between Gaza and the West Bank starting on Sunday, one day after the Hamas-led parliament is sworn in.
   
The plan also calls for halting more tax revenue transfers to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority to pressure Hamas to renounce violence, recognise the Jewish state and abide by interim peace deals. Israel would also freeze plans to build a Gaza seaport and rebuild its airport. Under interim peace deals, Israel, which withdrew from Gaza last year, still controls its airspace and coastal waters. "What's important is that the Palestinians realise the consequences of their vote," said a senior Israeli source, speaking on condition of anonymity because Olmert has yet to announce his final decision.

Hamas parliament set to meet

Hamas will officially enter government for the first time on Saturday when the new parliament, which it dominates, is inaugurated. The Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, will conduct the ceremony and plans to urge Hamas to honour all standing agreements with Israel. Hamas group gained a sensational victory over Abbas's Fatah party in parliamentary elections last month, winning 74 seats to Fatah's 45. The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 11am (0900 GMT) at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in Ram Allah. Hamas MPs in the Gaza Strip will participate via video link-up because Israel has banned them from travelling to the West Bank.

New faces

After inaugurating what will be only the second Palestinian Legislative Council since 1994, Abbas will then call on Hamas to form a new government. The faction is widely expected to nominate Ismail Haniya as prime minister. Hainiya is one of the movement's Gaza-based leaders and considered a pragmatic radical by many. Aziz al-Duwaik, a geography professor from the southern West Bank city of Hebron, has already been chosen as the speaker of parliament.

Abbas will use his keynote address to stress his commitment to resuming peace talks and to call on Hamas to respect all standing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, including the 1993 Oslo accords that are boycotted by the hardline group.

 

Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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