Palestinian Authority Penniless, Still Won´t Recognize Israel

The new Palestinian Authority government is flat broke and is appealing to the international community for money to pay its bills, but the PA still refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist.

Hana Levi Julian, | updated: 21:05

PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh met for the first time on Wednesday with his newly-appointed Cabinet, led by Hamas terrorist organization Hamas members. He blamed President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party for leaving the treasury without funds to pay government workers.

At the meeting, he talked about the lack of money with which to pay government employees, blaming President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party for its destitution. Fatah led the previous PA government.

“The Ministry of Finance has inherited an entirely empty treasury, in addition to the debts of the ministry and the government in general”, Haniyeh told the cabinet meeting, according to Reuters news service.

The cabinet met through a video conference which connected simultaneous sessions held in Gaza and PA-controlled territory in Israel. Haniyeh promised his ministers the new government would do its "utmost as a government to pay the salaries of the Palestinian Authority employees despite the cash crisis we are facing”.

The terrorist group needs to find enough funding to pay 140,000 government employees, approximately one-third of the PA population. These include security forces, teachers and health care professionals.

Haniyeh also criticized Arab nations whose leaders met last week at the Arab Summit, saying that their pledges of support were “not sufficient to meet the demands of our people”. A total of $55 million per month was pledged at the meeting but Arab nations have seldom made good on their pledges in the past.

Three Gulf State countries have promised $80 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA), according to Omar Abdel-Razaq, PA finance minister. He said the money will come from Saudi Arabia. Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates and will cover part but not all of the government salaries.

Despite its dire straits, Hamas has continued to maintain its stance against worldwide international pressure to recognize Israel’s right to exist and renounce terrorism.

Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said Wednesday that the organization was willing to talk with any country, except Israel. Speaking to an Omani news agency, Mashaal called Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plan to set final borders, unilaterally if necessary, “very dangerous”. He added that there was no basis on which to negotiate with Israel at present.

The U.S. and Canada, where Hamas is officially listed as a terrorist group, and several other Western nations made good on their threat to cut off funds to a PA government led by Hamas. After the new Hamas-led cabinet was sworn in, those nations discontinued foreign aid to the PA.

The European Union, meanwhile, has said it was ready to support Abbas but would meet next week in Luxembourg to decide whether to continue its foreign aid to the PA government. Funding from the EU could equal as much as hundreds of millions of euros.

“The Union will continue to provide support to President Abbas and to the peace program upon which he was elected,” said the Javier Solana EU’s head of foreign policy.

Javier Solana He told the European Parliament Wednesday that “talking about business as usual simply isn’t possible” until Hamas renounces violence and recognizes Israel. “The Union is revising its aid programs as far as assisting the Palestinian Authority is concerned,” he said.

On the other hand, Solana said the EU "doesn't and shouldn't want the Hamas government to fail". His statement seemed to rebuff an appeal by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who asked world leaders to ostracize the Hamas government.