Bethlehem mayor lacks Christmas celebration funds

Batarseh accuses PA for not keeping $50,000 promise; says Israeli checkpoints will spoil atmosphere.

bethlehem churches 88 (photo credit: )
bethlehem churches 88
(photo credit: )
Bethlehem Mayor Victor Batarseh on Thursday accused the Palestinian Authority of failing to provide financial assistance to his city as it prepares to celebrate Christmas. In an urgent letter to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Batraseh called for solving Bethlehem's financial crisis as soon as possible. He pointed out that the new municipality has not received any funds from the PA since the last elections in May. "There are many promises, but we haven't seen anything on the ground," Batarseh wrote. "Recently the Palestinian cabinet decided to allocate $50,000 for decorating Bethlehem for Christmas, but until now we haven't received the money." According to Batarseh, the municipality has been forced to take loans from different banks to complete the decorations, including setting up a Christmas tree in Manger Square. "Over the past two months we were also forced to take loans from banks to pay salaries for the municipality workers," the mayor told the Bethlehem-based Palestine News Network Agency. He also complained about Israeli security measures around the city, which, he added, are threatening to spoil the atmosphere in Bethlehem on the eve of Christmas. Expressing fear that Israeli checkpoints around the city would restrict the number of pilgrims wishing to enter Bethlehem, Batarseh said he had sent messages to Church leaders in Jerusalem and around the world urging them to intervene with Israel to ease its security measures. Abbas is expected to attend Christmas celebrations in the city for the first time since he was elected as chairman of the PA. Abbas attended the celebrations last year in his capacity as interim PA chairman. He was elected in January.