Israel will oppose paying salaries to Hamas government employees in the Palestinian Authority (PA), via the humanitarian mechanism that the Quartet (the US, UN, EU and Russia) announced yesterday, Israel Ambassador to the US Daniel Ayalon told “Globes” last night.
The future mode of operation of this mechanism, and, in particular, the identity of the potential beneficiaries of its grants, became a bone of contention on the organization’s first day. The founding document states that the mechanism will manage funds intended solely for basic humanitarian needs. However, US and European diplomats said that, at some point, the mechanism’s funds might be used to pay the salaries of doctors, teachers, or other workers to maintain services that the Hamas government would be providing were it not for the aid boycott imposed on it.
“I hope that the Quartet mechanism doesn’t plan to finance the salaries of PA workers under the Hamas government,” said Ayalon. “It is known that the Quartet wants to promote humanitarian aid for the Palestinians, just as Israel wants to promote this. But paying the salaries of civil servants isn’t the way. External financing of salaries will only strengthen Hamas, intensify violence, and block any chance of a solution.”
Sources in Washington said EU representatives in the Quartet lobbied to include the payments of salaries as one of the goals of the mechanism, but US representatives strongly objected.
Ayalon said that if the payment of PA civil service salaries is put on the agenda, “Israel will know how to deal with this.” He stressed that Israel would definitely not agree to paying salaries of education system employees, who poison the minds of Palestinian children with anti-Semitic texts.
The consent of the US to the establishment of the mechanism signals flexibility on the part of the Bush administration, which until now adhered to a rigid policy of preventing all aid to the PA, except for urgent cases of humanitarian distress. European and Russian representatives on the Quartet said in the discussions that 165,000 people paid by the PA government supported a third of Palestinian families in PA territories. A World Bank representative also participated in the talks; the World Bank will coordinate the practical aspects of the mechanism’s operation.
At a press conference at the UN building in New York, Quartet representatives emphasized yesterday that the mechanism would be fully transparent, and bypass the Hamas government when distributing aid. The Quartet again called on the Hamas government to recognize Israel, reject terrorism, and honor all agreements between the PA and Israel.
The US has not made a final decision on how and to whom to distribute the mechanism’s funds. These issues will be on the agenda when President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert meet later this month.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on May 10, 2006
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