(by Paul Martin and Ksenia Svetlova, WashingtonTimes.com) GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Beleaguered Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh warned yesterday that decisions by the U.S. and European Union to suspend aid to his Hamas-led government are jeopardizing Western strategic interests in the Arab and Muslim world.
In an interview with The Washington Times, Mr. Haniyeh, 49, said the United States and Europe are withholding aid as a “cover” to bolster Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands.
“The West should not risk destroying its relationship with the Arab and Muslim area,” said the silver-bearded Hamas stalwart. He spoke prior to more than three hours of emergency talks with his Cabinet.
He said the financial measures, which had emptied the Palestinian treasury, would “subject the Palestinian people to a further load of suffering.”
The aid suspension, he said, was “a cover, or green light, for the occupation to continue its aggression.”
The Palestinian Authority, set up in 1994 under the Oslo accords, pays $120 million a month in salaries to its employees, including 56,000 security personnel. Government operations cost about $30 million a month, an official said.
Palestinian finance ministry officials are scrambling to obtain loans from private Palestinian, Arab and Islamic banks.
Bank Hapoalim, the main Israeli bank that had been transferring monthly tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority, sent a private letter this week saying it was “suspending all relations,” a Palestinian official said on the condition of anonymity.
More ominously, the official revealed, the major private Jordanian-owned Arab Bank has indicated that it plans to close the Palestinian Authority account and call in more than $100 million it had loaned to the authority in recent months.
Economy Minister Alaa Al-Areej, in a separate interview, said the Americans and Europeans are attempting to bring down the fledgling Hamas-led administration.
“We were expecting the worst from Israel and from the Americans, but the European decision has caught us by surprise,” he said. “We believe it’s a failure of European democracy.”
The aid cutoff stems from Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist and its refusal to honor agreements negotiated by the previous Palestinian government.
The militant group’s charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.
Mr. Al-Areej denied that the new Palestinian government is a Hamas administration, saying that seven of the government’s 24 ministers are full-fledged Hamas members.
He appeared to backtrack on Hamas statements that the government would have little or nothing to do with Israel.
“We said from the start we are ready to negotiate matters of everyday life — and financial matters,” he said.
–Distributed by World News & Features
Copyright 2006 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times. This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization. Visit the website at www.washingtontimes.com
1. Who is Ismail Haniyeh? Why is he upset with the U.S. and the European Union?
2. What does Mr. Haniyeh think is the U.S. and E.U.’s motive for their decision? What is the real reason for their decision as explained in paragraphs 12-13?
3. What does Mr. Haniyeh say will be the result of the U.S./E.U. decision?
4. When was the Palestinian Authority set up? How much money does it spend each month on the salaries of its 56,000 security personnel? How much is spent per month on government operations?
5. What has Israel’s Bank Hapoalim decided to do? Why might the Jordanian-owned Arab Bank’s decision be so much worse in the eyes of the Palestinians?
6. The majority of Palestinian Authority officials, newly elected in a free and fair election, are members of Hamas, a terrorist organization that sends out suicide bombers and calls for the destruction of Israel. Should the PA receive aid while Hamas continues its program? Explain your answer.
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