US working with Fayad on way to channel funds

Washington considering PA finance minister's proposal to augment aid from Arab countries by using a PLO account under his direct control.

Salam Fayad 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Salam Fayad 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The United States is considering a proposal made by Palestinian Authority Finance Minister Salaam Fayad to deliver more non-American funding to the Palestinians, a top State Department official said Friday. On his trip here this week, Fayad suggested augmenting aid from Arab countries by using a PLO account under his direct control, according to media accounts. Such a plan would ease some of the effects of the international community's ban on funds to the Palestinian Authority, first begun when Hamas took over the government in early 2006. Fayad is a Western-educated Washington favorite who is an independent in the current Palestinian government. "We have been working with [Fayad] in his private capacity to address the appropriate manner in which others might deliver the assistance that they wish to Palestinians," Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Welch told reporters from Middle East news publications at a briefing Friday. "[Fayad] had some ideas about how to move forward in this respect and those are under consideration." Welch referred to various formulas which are acceptable to the United States, including a mechanism in which foreign assistance "can be sent to the accounts of the PLO, the presidency, or independent institutions. And in his capacity as - I don't know what you'd call it - chief economic officer of the PLO, Dr. Fayad is able to vouch for those accounts and we have confidence in that system and it's available for the use of donors." Israel's Ambassador to Washington, Sallai Meridor, declined to endorse such a funding mechanism, telling The Jerusalem Post that the government still didn't know the details of how such a program would work. "It's important that whatever is being done will send the Palestinian people a message that choosing and working with moderates would bring a better future for the Palestinian people," he added, "and not a message that says, no matter if you chose a terror government or not, no matter whether you stop terror or not, no matter whether you recognize Israel or not, business continues as usual." Some have suggested that any appearance of alleviating the financial blockade now that a Fatah-Hamas unity government has come to power would be seen as a victory for the Hamas administration. Just meeting with Fayad has been a matter of contention between the US and Israel, the latter of which has refused to have contact with any ministers of the unity government and will deal only with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. In response to a question on these different approaches, Welch said to the reporters, most of whom represented Arab media outlets, "They [Israel] have their position with respect to the national unity government. We have our position. It overlaps, but it's not completely alike. Perhaps it comes as a stunning surprise to you that occasionally there might be some differences."