PA to get $143m. in urgent EU aid

The EU agreed Monday to provide the urgent aid for Palestinians before Hamas forms a new government.

Dismissing as "ridiculous" talk about transferring funds directly to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas and PA officials told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that European financial aid will go straight to the PA budget. "The Palestinian Authority is not a private company," said a source close to Abbas. According to the officials, any funds received from the European Union will be deposited with the PA's Finance Ministry, which will then decide how to spend the money. The EU agreed Monday to provide $143 million in urgent aid for Palestinians before Hamas forms a new government. The funds were required to avoid "economic chaos" from paralyzing the PA, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said. Officials said the aid package comprises $48m. to pay for the PA energy and other utility bills, $76m. for health and education projects and $21m. to help the authority pay its employees. "The money will go to the Palestinian budget for the welfare of the public. There is only one Palestinian Authority." Farhat As'ad, a Hamas representative in the West Bank, said the EU's decision to transfer funds to the PA marked the beginning of "climbing down from the high tree" after threats to cut off financial aid to the Palestinians in the wake of Hamas's victory in the election. "If the money is paid to a certain person, it will eventually be subjected to any decision taken by the Palestinian leadership," As'ad said. "There's no such thing as money for the presidency and money for the [Hamas] government. Anyway, I don't believe that Abbas will accept this logic." He added that all the funds sent to the PA will be spent in accordance with the financial policy outlined by the Hamasdominated parliament. As'ad said his movement believes that the US and EU have softened their position on the issue of financial aid largely because of Russia's stance toward Hamas. A senior Hamas delegation is scheduled to visit Moscow later this week at the invitation of the Kremlin. Khaled Suleiman, another Hamas spokesman in the West Bank, said EU money would not go to Abbas's pocket. "The funds will go directly to the Palestinian Authority," he said. "Hamas won't accept any preconditions for financial aid."