Arab states pledge to keep PA going
Arab states pledge $100 million per month to PA
DOHA, Qatar — Arab states on Saturday pledged to provide the Palestinian Authority with $100 million each month as a back-up if Israel withholds tax revenues, official PA media said.
The decision was taken at the meeting of the Follow-up Committee for the Arab Peace Initiative in the Qatari capital on Sunday, PLO official Saeb Erekat told PA news agency Wafa.
He said President Mahmoud Abbas had made the request to the foreign ministers present to stave off financial crisis if Israel repeats past bars on tax revenues owed to the authority, which are collected by Israel on the PA’s behalf.
Israel froze the transfer of tax revenues to the PA, amounting to around $100 million per month, twice in 2011, when Hamas and Fatah leaders agreed to end their four-year division.
In late March Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Israeli government ministers support a new freeze after the UN Human Rights Council agreed to investigate Israeli settlements.
Secretary General of the Arab League Nabil Al-Arabi was tasked by the meeting with following up on the payments with Arab countries, Erekat told Wafa.
The committee called on Arab nations to fulfill financial commitments they made at prior Arab summits, Wafa reported.
Abbas briefed the meeting on his efforts to achieve full membership of the United Nations at its Security Council and General Assembly, and confirmed he is continuing to examine with Israel ways to achieve peace within the 1967 borders.
Erekat also told reporters after the meeting that reconciliation with Hamas remains a national priority. “If we do not help ourselves, no one will help us,” he remarked.
Arabs to help Palestinians if Israel halts funds
DOHA, Qatar — A top Palestinian negotiator says Arab nations have promised $100 million a month if Israel follows through with threats to block critical tax funds as punishment for the statehood drive by the West Bank and Gaza.
Saeb Erekat says the so-called “safety net” was pledged by Arab League foreign ministers meeting Saturday in Qatar’s capital Doha.
Erekat says the Arab funds would only begin if Israel stops the monthly tax payments to the Palestinian Authority.
In December, Israel backed down from halting the payments under intense international pressure.
But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he could reconsider the decision if Palestinians step up their push for U.N. recognition of an independent state.
Obama signs waiver to lift Palestinian aid barrier
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has signed a waiver to remove curbs on funding to the Palestinian Authority, declaring the aid to be “important to the security interests of the United States.”
A $192 million aid package was frozen by the US Congress after the Palestinians moved to gain statehood at the United Nations last September.
But in a memo sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, published by the White House, the president said it was appropriate to release funds to the authority, which administers the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In signing the waiver, Obama instructed Clinton to inform Congress of the move, on the grounds that “waiving such prohibition is important to the national security interests of the United States.”
The Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Act of 2012 contained a provision that said none of the funds “may be obligated or expended with respect to providing funds to the Palestinian Authority.”
In November, the US Congress released $40 million but the State Department had expressed concern about being able to provide the necessary funding to address the dire economic and humanitarian hardship facing Palestinians.
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said the funds were aimed at “ensuring the continued viability of the moderate PA government under the leadership of president Mahmoud Abbas and prime minister Salam Fayyad.”
“The PA has recognized Israel’s right to exist, renounced violence, and accepted previous agreements, including the Roadmap,” he said, referring to the peace plan proposed by the so-called Middle East Quartet — United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.
“The United States is committed to a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, including a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he added.
On April 11, the Quartet called on foreign donors to deliver promised aid to the Palestinians while urging Israelis and Palestinians to build trust to revive peace talks.
Abbas: Palestinian Authority “has no power”
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has no intention of dissolving the body, although it has been rendered largely powerless by Israel, he told a newspaper on Monday.
In an interview published a day before a senior Palestinian delegation is to deliver a letter from Abbas to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Palestinian leader said breaking up the authority he heads would not happen.
“There are many reasons which have contributed to the weakening of the Palestinian Authority, but its dissolution is out of the question,” Abbas told the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam.
In the letter, a copy of which was seen by AFP on Sunday, Abbas says Israel’s actions have stripped the Palestinian Authority of its “raison d’etre,” creating a reality which cannot continue.
“As a result of actions taken by successive Israeli governments, the Palestinian National Authority no longer has any authority, and no meaningful jurisdiction in the political, economic, territorial and security spheres,” he wrote.
The letter will be personally delivered to Netanyahu by Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad when they meet in Jerusalem on Tuesday, said negotiator Saeb Erakat, who will be part of the delegation along with Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
An earlier draft of the letter had reportedly included threats to dismantle the Palestinian Authority and turn the entire responsibility for the occupied territories over to Israel.
But all such references had been removed, partly due to heavy US pressure, the Haaretz newspaper reported earlier this month.
Netanyahu is also preparing his own letter for Abbas which will be handed over by Israel’s chief negotiator Yitzak Molcho, when he meets the Palestinian leader in the coming weeks.
Tuesday’s meeting will be the first top-level meeting between the two sides since the peace process ground to a halt more than 18 months ago in a bitter dispute over Jewish settlement building.
Understanding the Arab League Follow-Up Committee
Middle East Progress/Center for American Progress
Official Name: League of Arab States’ Follow-Up Committee on the Arab Peace Initiative
Members: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the Secretary General of the Arab League
Origins and Mandate: Members of the Arab League adopted the Arab Peace Initiative at the 2002 Beirut Summit. The document mentioned the need to form a separate, smaller committee to gather support for the plan. Later, two groups were formed to that end: the follow-up committee and a contact group, comprised of Egypt and Jordan, created to gain Israeli support for the plan.
Select important dates of the committee include:
– On July 25, 2007, the Egyptian and Jordanian foreign ministers visited Israel where they formally presentend the Arab Peace Initiative for the first time.
– Members of the follow-up committee attended the U.S.-hosted Annapolis conference in late November 2007, which re-launched negotiations between Israel and the PLO.
– On March 2, 2010, the committee met and the following the day the full Arab League endorsed a plan for Palestinians to enter into U.S.-mediated proximity talks with Israel, though the talks were delayed because of disputes about Israeli settlement expansion in East Jerusalem. The committee met again on May 1, 2010, and supported the proximity talks, which began on May 9.
– Representatives of the follow-up committee met on July 29, 2010, and agreed to support direct talks between Palestinians and Israelis when the Palestinians deemed the time right.
– On October 8, 2010, the committee supported the Palestinian stance of declining further direct negotiations until the Israeli government extends the settlement moratorium, and said they would meet again in the coming weeks to discuss any new proposals. Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, chair of the meeting, denied that there is a one-month deadline.