Dispute in Israeli cabinet over Abbas ”relevancy” as European Commission decides to release aid

Published February 27th, 2006 - 01:31 GMT

Israel's Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert distanced himself from comments made by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni who had branded Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas "irrelevant" after Hamas' election win.


At talks with US Middle East envoy David Welch on Sunday, Livni said Abbas "heads a Palestinian Authority that is led by a terror organization. As such, your demands need to be directed to Hamas. Abu Mazen is simply not relevant," added Livni. She repeated this idea also Monday. Israel does not want to be in a situation in which it is dealing with Abbas, who is "more moderate, believes in two states ... but is powerless to deliver the goods or enforce it on the Palestinian Authority," Livni told Israel's Army Radio.


Olmert's office, however, maintained a different approach towards Abbas. "We will not refer to Abu Mazen (Abbas) as irrelevant. This is an inappropriate term," an official in the prime minister's told AFP.


European Commission

With Hamas still to take office, the European Commission stated it was releasing 120 million euros to help the transitional government pay for its basic needs, such as energy bills and salaries. This was announced ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers who have still to decide how to deal with the longer-term question of funding for a Hamas-led government.


That sum could include paying $48 million to help run utilities and authorizing the World Bank to unblock some $60 million to pay the salaries of Palestinian Authority employees.


The aid is expected after international envoy James Wolfensohn has warned Mideast mediators that the Palestinian Authority is in danger of financial collapse within two weeks. According to a letter The Associated Press obtained Monday, Wolfensohn wrote "I know I do not need to tell each of you that the failure to pay salaries may have wide-ranging consequences - not only for the Palestinian economy, but also for security and stability for both the Palestinians and the Israelis."

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