UN to Aid Palestinian Authority, Congress Bans Talks with Hamas

Quartet-member UN is making an about-face, despite the avowed freeze on funds to the Hamas-led PA until the terror group recognizes Israel. Meanwhile, Congress bans talks and aid with Hamas.

Hana Levi Julian , | updated: 10:07 AM

On Thursday, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) kicked off a campaign to raise $450 million for the terrorist-led government so it could meet its obligations to its population. The U.N. calls it the third-largest fundraising campaign in the world.

The Quartet of Nations, which includes the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia, demanded in January that Hamas formally acknowledge the State of Israel’s right to exist, renounce violence, and uphold peace agreements with Israel signed by the previous PA administration.

PA prime minister Ismail Haniye of Hamas reiterated again yesterday that Hamas would never recognize Israel.

Just this past Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill banning the executive branch from holding talks with Hamas, and cutting off aid (except for humanitarian) to Hamas. The ban is in force until the terror group acknowledges Israel’s right to exist, renounces terrorism and agrees to abide by agreements with Israel. The Senate passed the bill this past June, and it now awaits President Bush's signature.

The terrorist-led PA government has lost billions of dollars as a result of the freeze on international funds.

OCHA head David Shearer announced at a news conference that the new funding will be earmarked for cash assistance, food, the PA health and education systems, and a project to create jobs.

PA sources said the European Union, another member of the Quartet, sent a payment of 185 euros to each of some 73,000 households to alleviate some of the financial problems they face.

The PA has not paid its 160,000 government workers in months, despite pledges of millions of dollars in funding from Qatar and other member nations of the Arab League.

U.N. officials now claim that unemployment in the PA stands at 29%, with 65% of PA residents living at or below the poverty line - almost half of whom they say do not have reliable access to food. The PA health care system is reportedly running out of medicine and is on the verge of collapse, said Shearer.

Israel has contributed humanitarian aid to PA families in a number of different ways.

The “Save a Child’s Heart” organization, albeit a private project, has helped more than 100 PA children this year alone, with life-saving heart surgery performed by top doctors at Wolfson Hospital in Holon. PA doctors are being trained through the program in pediatric cardiac surgery as well. A Jordanian paper reported that about 1,000 PA residents receive medical treatment each month in Israel.

Earlier in the year, Israel said it would back a Quartet decision to bypass Hamas and transfer money directly to individuals. “It is known that the Quartet wants to promote humanitarian aid,” said Israel’s former ambassador to the U.S., Danny Ayalon. “But paying the salaries of civil servants isn’t the way.”

Israel agreed in May to the Quartet process of managing the humanitarian funds, but foreign diplomats said at the time that the same mechanism might later be used to pay the salaries of professionals employed by the PA government.

Despite border crossing closings in and out of Gaza due to constant terror warnings, Israel has allowed shipments of food, medicine and other humanitarian items to pass through.

According to the United Nations, however, Israel needs to do more. U.N. officials criticized the border closures, saying the security restrictions limit PA Arabs’ access to health service centers, schools, markets and places of employment. “While humanitarian aid can slow the deterioration,” said Shearer, “what is really needed is a political settlement.”