Israeli restrictions worsen PA crisis

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has warned that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is facing a “real financial crisis” after Israel said it would withhold tax revenues from the organisation.

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By  Andrew White Published  February 26, 2006

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has warned that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is facing a “real financial crisis” after Israel said it would withhold tax revenues from the organisation. Abbas voiced his concerns after Israel approved a raft of punitive measures against the PA, as well as increased security checks at crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip and a ban on the transfer of equipment to Palestinian security forces. It also tightened restrictions on the movement of officials from Hamas, which won Palestine's parliamentary elections in January, and requested that all foreign donors cease payments to the PA. There appears to be no chance of Hamas succumbing to the additional pressure. It has instead defied Abbas — who called for the Islamic group to form a new government and return to the negotiating table —and condemned the discussions as a “waste of time”. Israel’s decision to withhold the tax payments has also drawn fire from other Middle East countries. Egypt — the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with the Jewish state — has vociferously objected to the policy, and called upon the US to reassess its threat to deny aid to the Palestinian people. In talks with US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that the new Palestinian government should be approached cautiously, but with an open mind. “We should give Hamas time,” he said. “I am sure that Hamas will develop, will evolve. We should not prejudge the issue. We support the PA and the authority is in the service of the Palestinian people, and then we have to give them time to develop their own ideas.” Rice is currently in the Middle East as part of a tour intended to gauge Arab support for Hamas’ regime, and keep the pressure firmly on the new Palestinian government. She claimed nations across the region should be wary of the organisation. “[Hamas] can’t have one foot in the camp of terror and the other foot in the camp of politics,” she said. “You have to renounce violence.” Rice also insisted that, whilst the US wanted to be able to come to the aid of the Palestinian people, Washington would not back down on US president George W. Bush’s threat to cease funding the PA. Bush has argued that a Hamas-dominated PA should not be receiving foreign funds until it has recognised Israel's existence. “So long as Hamas does not recognise Israel’s right to exist, my view is we don’t have a partner in peace and therefore shouldn’t fund a government that is not a partner in peace,” Bush said.

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