(photo credit: Associated Press)
Iran has announced that it will donate $50 million to the Palestinians.
"I am honored to announce that Iran has donated $50 million to help the Palestinian people," Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said in a televised speech to a conference on the Palestinian issue in Teheran.
The conference was attended by leaders of several radical Palestinian groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
During the conference, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal declared that "the Palestinians will never recognize Israel," adding that there was no point in initiating talks with Israelis.
On Friday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at the conference and said Israel's existence constitutes a "threat on the Islamic world," but vowed to remove the threat soon, characterizing Israel as a "rotten tree."
It's not clear when and how the funds would be transferred to the Palestinians. However, some Palestinian Authority officials expressed cautious optimism, pointing out that most of the Arab and Islamic countries have thus far issued "empty promises" of aid.
The Hamas cabinet is under immense pressure to pay salaries to more than 140,000 civil servants, who are still waiting for their March payments. Policemen in the Gaza Strip have threatened to attack several government buildings on Monday to protest the failure to pay their salaries. Last week dozens of masked policemen occupied a number of public buildings in the southern Gaza Strip.
Ahmed Bahr, deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, who attended the conference in Teheran together with several Hamas leaders, welcomed Iran's decision to support the Palestinians financially.
"The Palestinian people will continue the resistance against Israel," he said. "By God's will, we will triumph."
He added that it was the duty of all Muslims and Arabs to support the Palestinians at this very critical stage. "The Palestinians are not beggars," he emphasized. "But all the Arabs and Muslims must know that if the Islamic government in Palestine loses, this will be a defeat for all Muslims. But if we win, it will be a victory for all Muslims."
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, Bassem Abu Sumayah, on Sunday urged the new Hamas cabinet to resign, accusing it of failing to solve the severe financial crisis in the PA. He also called for holding new parliamentary elections.
Scoffing at Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's recent statements, Abu Sumayah, who is affiliated with Fatah, said that olives and bread alone were not enough to save the cabinet from bankruptcy.
"Hamas made a mistake by forming a Hamas cabinet," he said. "Running a government is not as easy as running charitable organizations, municipalities and student councils. It's much bigger and complicated."
Abu Sumayah also mocked at Hamas's drive to collect donations from ordinary Palestinians. "Collecting donations from bread and felafel sellers or from the allowances of school children could help expand a mosque and build an organization, but this is not the way to build a government and pay salaries."
Atef Udwan, minister of state in the new cabinet, dismissed Abu Sumayah's call and accused him of exploiting the financial crisis to incite against Hamas. "Abu Sumayah's statements reflect a philosophy of defeatism and surrender," he said. "This is not the way to confront serious challenges facing our people."
He also rejected the call for holding new elections, saying the financial crisis was not new. "The problem of the salaries is not new because it also existed under the previous government," he said. "Abu Sumayah and his Fatah party should accept the new political reality in Palestine."
In yet another sign of growing tensions between Fatah and Hamas, Fatah representatives on Sunday boycotted a meeting in Gaza City chaired by Haniyeh.
Attended by representatives of all Palestinian factions, the meeting focused on the financial crisis in the PA. Fatah legislator Azzam al-Ahmed said the decision to stay away from the meeting was taken in protest against Haniyeh's "inflammatory" remarks against the previous cabinet.