'PM agreed to transfer NIS 50m. to Gaza'

Blair claims Netanyahu okayed funds from W. Bank; US congressmen visit Strip, Gerry Adams barred.

gaza bank 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
gaza bank 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has agreed to transfer an initial NIS 50 million from bank branches in the West Bank to the Gaza Strip, responding to a request to allow the transfer of around NIS 200 million, Quartet representative Tony Blair said Tuesday, a day after meeting the premier. The cash is set to be used for the payment of Palestinian Authority salaries. The money belongs to the Palestinian Authority in accordance with an agreement in which Israel collects certain tax revenues for the Palestinians and transfers them to the PA leadership. Blair welcomed the decision, but called for larger and more predictable transfers of cash on a monthly basis. "This is a welcome first step but we need to ensure that larger transfers continue to be made as soon as possible and thereafter on a predictable basis so that all the necessary payments can be made to help people in Gaza," Blair said. The Quartet representative vowed to continue working on the issue, as part of his agenda for Gaza, in close cooperation with the Palestinian Monetary Authority, the Palestinian Authority, the international community and the Israeli government. He underlined the importance of such a measure, which would help people on the ground, without jeopardizing the security of the people of Israel. In related news, The Jerusalem Post has learnedIsrael will not facilitate Northern Ireland politician Gerry Adams's entrance into the Gaza Strip through the Erez crossing because he will not commit to not meeting Hamas officials. Adams, who arrived in Israel on Tuesday and visited Sderot, had, according to Israeli sources, asked for permission to enter Gaza via the crossing. Israel's policy is that the Erez crossing is for diplomats and UN or humanitarian aid organization workers, and that since Adams did not fall into any of those categories, it would only let him pass if he promised not to meet Hamas representatives. When he was unwilling to do so, it was made clear that he would not be allowed in through that crossing. Adams could, however, enter Gaza by going into Sinai and then through the Rafah crossing. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening. The Post has learned that a number of European parliamentarians who have entered the Gaza Strip over the past few months via Erez, with the understanding being that they would not meet Hamas officials, had indeed done so. Two US representatives, Stephen Lynch (D-Massachusetts) and Bob Inglis (R-South Carolina) visited Gaza on Tuesday, but did not meet Hamas representatives. They entered the area through the Erez crossing, and were the third congressional delegation to visit the Gaza Strip since Operation Cast Lead and the inauguration of US President Barack Obama in January. As a result of Adams's refusal to commit to not meeting Hamas representatives, his request to meet Israeli government officials had been denied, Israeli sources said. "When a politician like Adams meets with Hamas, it gives them legitimacy, without Hamas having to do anything to get it," one Israeli government source said, explaining the government's decision to boycott the Irish republican leader. Adams, the president of the Sinn Fein Party, was last in the region in September 2006, immediately after the Second Lebanon War, at the invitation of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. In a related development, Regional Cooperation and Negev and Galilee Development Minister Silvan Shalom walked out of a gathering of international parliamentarians in Ethiopia on Tuesday when it became clear that two Hamas members were part of the PA delegation. While Shalom was addressing the gathering, the two Hamas representatives began heckling him. Shalom, according to his spokesman, said that the presence of the Hamas men was a violation of the policy laid down by the Middle East Quartet - that Hamas was not to be dealt with until it recognized Israel, abandoned terrorism and accepted previous agreements. Shalom said that if Hamas was allowed representation at the gathering, then why not the Taliban or al-Qaida. He then walked out of the meeting, along with the other Israeli MK present, Kadima's Shlomo Molla.