PA officials to lose VIP status

Israel promises no contact with PA officials who join Hamas government.

Israel will cut off ties with senior PA officials who join the new Hamas led government, VIP status will be annulled and Gaza border crossings will cater for humanitarian assistance and the transfer of vital goods only, once the newly elected Hamas led government takes power, Israeli security officials said. The situation will also cause severe repercussions for the thousands of Palestinian laborers and merchants from Gaza permitted to enter Israel daily, as once the new Hamas government is formed, their access to Israel will be stopped completely or acutely minimized, Israeli security officials said. Palestinian laborers in the West Bank will be less affected unless the new government orders them to refrain from requesting work permits at the district coordinating offices. The Erez crossing will be open for humanitarian assistance, and the Karni crossing will be opened for the entry of vital goods such as food, medicine, oil, and water. Electricity will continue to be supplied to Gaza, but the Sufa crossing will be closed. A decision has yet to be made whether or not to shut down the Kerem Shalom crossing, officials said. "One more attempted terror attack at the crossing could change that," an official added. The Palestinians will be forced to market their produce to Jordan or Egypt, and will no longer enjoy the special custom tax discount Israel has provided thus far. Israel will no longer be able to maintain contacts with newly elected Palestinian ministry officials because of their allegiance to the Hamas, Israeli security officials said. Unlike the past, when great efforts were made to strengthen PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' position, Israel now will not be able to maintain contact with high level Palestinian officials, officials said. "Israel's position is crystal clear, it will not speak to anyone affiliated with Hamas, a terror organization who refuses to recognize Israel and calls for its destruction," one official said. Security officials stressed that while Israel has no intention of toppling the Palestinian Authority, once the new government is formed, Israeli officials will be left with no one to speak to. The new situation the Palestinian population will be forced to confront is not an optimistic one, officials said, pointing out that the previous administration had overseen a period of economic improment. "Unemployment in Gaza decreased by 6%, and despite the closures, thousands of Palestinian laborers entered Israel to earn a living," an official said. Tourism in Bethlehem increased 160% in 2005, compared to former years. "There was a belief that once Abu Mazen took office, the situation would improve, investors were far more optimistic," an official said. Hamas' belief that funds will pour in from Arab countries, particularly Iran, have yet to be proven, an official said, adding that "Iran never donated funds to the PA, and Arab countries were never considered to be the major donors." To back up his statements the official noted that of the $6.48 billion in funds donated to the PA between the years 1996 to 2006, the United States was the leading donor, with the European Union, Japan, the World Bank and Norway following. The US donated $1.3 billion, 20% of the net sum. Europe donated $1.1 billion, Japan donated $530 million and Norway $320 million. Saudi Arabia donated a similar amount - approximately 5% of the total sum. The remaining sum of $2.48 billion was donated by 30 countries, including Germany, France, Australia and China as well as the Gulf States, security officials said.