|Photo by: Michael Omer-Man|
Palestinians vow to continue cost-of-living protest
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
Fayyad announces financial steps to quell protests in W. Bank; Netanyahu orders transfer of NIS 250m. to PA to help ease crisis.
Palestinian activists on Tuesday vowed to continue protesting against the high
cost of living despite Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s new
measures to tackle the economic crisis.
Meanwhile, a Fatah spokesman in
the West Bank held the United States responsible for Monday’s scenes of anarchy
and lawlessness in various parts of the West Bank. He also accused Washington of
inciting Palestinians against the PA leadership.
Fayyad announced his new
measures following the weekly cabinet meeting in Ramallah.
reducing the value-added tax to 15 percent and suspending a recent price hike
for diesel, kerosene and gas fuels, he said.
Fayyad said the government
also decided to cut the salaries of top PA officials and ministers, expenses for
a number of PA ministries, and rent, travel and exchange coupons. He also
announced that PA employees would receive half of their August salaries on
The PA prime minister blamed the current crisis on a deficit
in the PA’s budget, the Hamas-Fatah power struggle, a lack of Arab financial aid
and the fact that Israel continues to control 60 percent of the West
“Were it not for the occupation and its measures, the Palestinian
Authority would have reached a point where it would no longer have to depend on
additional foreign aid,” Fayyad said.
The PA government also decided to take measures to prevent “unjustified price increases” of basic goods
in the West Bank, he added.
Fayyad said that while his government
supported the people’s “absolute right to express their opinion peacefully and
democratically,” it nevertheless strongly condemned scenes of chaos and attacks
on private and public properties. He renewed his appeal to Arab countries to
provide the Palestinians with urgent financial aid.
Shortly after the
announcement, dozens of Palestinian protesters marched in Ramallah, chanting
slogans against the PA and the Oslo Accords.
The protesters also called
on the PA to stop security coordination with Israel. PA policemen prevented them
from approaching the Mukata presidential compound, eyewitnesses said.
President Mahmoud Abbas is currently on a visit to India.
Other West Bank
cities witnessed similar protests, but, unlike Monday, no violence was reported.
Palestinians said at least 50 people had been injured during clashes that
erupted Monday in Hebron and Nablus, where protesters hurled stones and bottles
at PA policemen.
Although most of the protests have been directed against
Fayyad, demonstrators in some parts of the West Bank have also begun calling for
the resignation of Abbas and the abrogation of the Oslo
Representatives of various Palestinian factions and youth groups
reacted with disappointment to Fayyad’s new economic measures, saying they were
Nader Yassin, one of the organizers of the protests in
Nablus, denounced them as “frustrating” and vowed to continue demonstrating
against the PA prime minister.
He added that Palestinians were expecting
the government to reduce the price of basic goods such as bread and
Issa Amr, a leader of the protests in Hebron, accused Fayyad of
working to “bypass” the demands of the people. He also expressed disappointment
over Fayyad’s failure to cancel the Paris Protocol, which regulates economic
relations between the PA and Israel.
Another activist, Thaer Anis, said
Fayyad’s measures did not meet the demands of the protesters and vowed to
continue demonstrations against the high cost of living.
head of the PA employees’ union, also voiced disappointment, saying the measures
were “below the expectations of the street.”
secretarygeneral of the Palestinian People’s (Communist) Party, also described
the measures as insufficient and called on the PA to “liberate itself from
agreements that restrict the national economy.”
Jamal Nazzal, a Fatah
spokesman and member of its revolutionary council, accused the US of driving
Palestinians toward chaos by imposing a “financial blockade” on the PA
He also accused unnamed NGOs of inciting Palestinians to
carry out acts of chaos and vandalism in the West Bank.
spokesman, Osama Kawassmeh, said he saw a direct link between the crisis and
criticism leveled recently against Abbas by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor
Liberman. He claimed that Israel was exerting pressure on Abbas and the PA
leadership to foil the Palestinian struggle for independence and
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday night ordered the
Treasury to transfer NIS 250 million to the Palestinian Authority to help ease
its financial crisis.
His special envoy Yitzhak Molho arranged the
transfer with the PA. Earlier in the day, during a meeting with Bulgarian Prime
Minister Boyko Borissov, Netanyahu said that Israel has taken a number of steps
to help the PA.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.