Future funding for the Palestinian Authority is in jeopardy as the major peace brokers in the Middle East meet on Monday to plot how to deal with a new Palestinian government led by militant group Hamas.
Hamas asked the international community on Monday not to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority.
"We call on you to transfer all aid to the Palestinian treasury," Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader in Gaza, told a news conference.
Addressing international concerns that aid would be used to fund violence, Haniyeh said: "We assure you that all the revenues will be spent on salaries, daily life and infrastructure."
Members of the Quartet -- the European Union, the United Nations, the United States and Russia -- will meet in London to discuss whether isolating Hamas politically and financially is the best policy after the Islamic militants surprise victory in last week’s parliamentary elections.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in London for the meeting, said while the United States would fulfill its current aid commitments to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Washington could not fund Hamas in government.
“We are going to have extensive discussions in the Quartet about the way forward. But the United States is not prepared to fund an organization that advocates the destruction of Israel, that advocates violence and that refuses its obligations under the roadmap to which everyone is committed,” said Rice.
Rice said she believed Quartet members and many others were on the same page and would not prop up Hamas with the funds it desperately needs when it takes over the Palestinian Authority.
“I have seen nothing to suggest that people are not on the same page,” she said.
The European Union also cannot fund a Hamas-run Palestinian Authority if it did not renounce violence and recognize Israel, said German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“Such a Palestinian Authority cannot be directly supported by money from the EU,” said Merkel on Sunday soon after her arrival in Jerusalem at the start of her first official visit to the region.
Money from other sources?
Last year the European Union gave the Palestinian Authority $615 million, money vital for its survival.
The United States, which has given more than $1.5 billion in aid to the Palestinians since 1993, has begun a full review of its assistance programs to the Palestinians since Hamas swept the polls last week. For 2006, the United States had budgeted $234 million in assistance to the Palestinians.
Hamas has rejected as “blackmail” Western demands that it renounce violence against Israel or risk losing aid. It also suggested it could look for alternative sources of funding in the Arab world and beyond.
One risk of completing cutting off funds to a Hamas-led government in the Palestinian territories is that Iran and Syria might fill the gap.
Rice scoffed at suggestions these countries could fill the gap, saying Hamas risked losing money from financial institutions, Asia, Europe and elsewhere. “This is a pretty big gap.”
Former U.S. ambassador to Israel and to Egypt, Ned Walker, said Rice would try her best to convince all members of the Quartet that the time had come to draw the line on Hamas.
“They need the money, this is not the time to get weak and let Hamas dictate terms,” Walker told Reuters.