The Palestinian Authority said Sunday, March 11, it has received only 10 million of the one billion dollars promised to it at an emergency Arab summit convened in October to show support for the Palestinian uprising against Israel.
Palestinian ambassador to the Arab League, Mohammad Sobeih, told AFP that the Arab League method for distributing aid was "perfect for investment firms but not for a people in a state of war."
The Palestinian territories have been convulsed by bloodletting, with 356 Palestinians killed during the past five and a half months of their struggle against Israeli occupation.
Sobeih's words came as Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo Sunday night recommended their leaders to abandon the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) as the manager of two funds set up by the last Arab summit in October, because it was too slow in distributing the aid.
Arab League chief Esmat Abdel Meguid said Arab states donating money to the two funds, amounting to one billion dollars for the Palestinian, would instead give money directly and a new management mechanism would be worked out.
The foreign ministers made their recommendation to the next Arab summit, scheduled for March 27 in Amman, after discussing Sunday night how to improve implementation of decisions reached by Arab leaders at the October 21-22 summit in Cairo, which was convened three weeks after the violence started.
Arab countries have fallen short of the summit promise to provide a billion dollars to the Palestinians, pledging instead just under $700 million. But they also failed to meet that goal, Sobeih said.
"Of the $697 million, $290 million have been handed over to the IDB, but until now only $10 million have been transferred to the Palestinian Authority and to non-governmental Palestinian organizations," Sobeih said.
He said the Palestinian Authority urgently needs the money "at a time when it is under enormous Israeli economic pressure aimed at provoking its collapse."
The Arab foreign ministers responded to a Palestinian demand by recommending that $40 million be loaned to the Palestinians every month for the next six months to cover the Authority's budget deficit.
They also recommended the Arab summit to study the possibility of giving some of the collected money to the cash-strapped United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA. The agency is currently struggling to collect $37.2 million to fund emergency projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and also has a deficit of $65 million on its regular budget for 2001.
During the October Cairo summit, several Arab countries refused to provide direct financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, which they charged was rife with corruption and lacking in accountability.
"It's not the right time to ask us to be accountable. We don't want Arab pressure to add to the Israeli pressure, and this problem must be submitted to the next Arab summit in Amman to resolve it," Sobeih said.
Israel's closure of the Palestinian territories, a constant since the uprising began, has kept 120,000 Palestinians from working in Israel, costing them $3.4 million in daily income, UN figures show.
Since mid-November, the Jewish state has also frozen the transfer of customs duties and taxes to the Palestinian Authority on goods being shipped through Israeli territory. Such revenue amounts to around $320 million per year.
The Arab foreign ministers recommended the Arab summit to stick to its October pledge not to forge any new ties with Israel and to keep lobbying the United Nations to provide protection for the Palestinians from Israeli troops.
They also said the Amman summit should decide to lobby the UN to start collecting evidence against Israeli "war criminals" with a view to prosecuting them in an international war crimes tribunal. — (AFP, Cairo)
by Mona Salem
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)