US: No Quartet funds for PA salaries

Doesn't oppose funneling more money for health and education needs.

The US will oppose European attempts to use the new money transfer mechanism created by the Quartet to pay salaries of Palestinian Authority employees. Administration sources have made it clear in the past two days that the agreement reached by the Quartet on Tuesday does not compel the US to agree that international funds will be used to pay salaries of all or part of the 165,000 PA employees. Members of the Quartet will meet in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss the mechanism which will be responsible for transferring humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians. While the Europeans and the UN would like to see this mechanism pay salaries, US officials have stressed they would oppose any such suggestion and demand that the money be transferred only through groups that have nothing to do with the PA. According to sources here, the US also opposes suggestions to pay salaries only for health care and education workers, since they comprise almost a third of the PA civil service. Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams said Thursday that the White House is firm on not allowing any funds to get through to the Hamas-led PA and dismissed the idea of using the Quartet mechanism to pay salaries. "Hamas is a terrorist group and we are doing all we can to achieve a financial blockade against Hamas - and every other terrorist group," he said in a meeting with the leadership of the Orthodox Union. The US does not oppose, however, funneling more funds for health and education needs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, if they go directly to NGOs and independent groups which operate there. The European suggestion focused on the need to pay civil service salaries to to avoid a collapse of the PA, but the US believes that the Palestinians' needs can be met without going through the PA bureaucracy. The House of Representatives is expected next week to take up the anti-Hamas legislation, which was pulled back at the last minute this week. The legislation has now gained the approval of the Judiciary and Foreign Relations committees and has 295 co-sponsors. Ambassador to the US Danny Ayalon issued a statement Thursday clarifying Israel's approach toward the bill, following reports claiming that Israel did not back broad sanctions against the PA. "Any assertion that Israel's position on aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people is in conflict with the efforts of the administration and Congress in this regard is entirely inaccurate," it said. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will speak to both houses of Congress during his visit to Washington and is expected to thank the lawmakers for their effort to block aid to the PA. According to administration sources, the US does not expect Olmert to provide a detailed outline of his convergence plan. The visit and the meeting with President George W. Bush are seen as intended to build a working relationship and to present a general description of his plans. The US will not endorse or reject the convergence plan during the visit. Diplomatic sources confirmed Thursday that during the Quartet talks this week, the Americans made an effort to add a favorable remark concerning the convergence plan, but this attempt was dropped due to opposition of other members.