Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al Zahar has said that the Palestinian Government, led by Hamas Movement, is facing a 1.4 billion-dollar financial deficit. In an interview with Asharq al-Awsat in Cairo, which he visited recently, Al-Zahar stressed, “However, we shall not abandon our responsibilities; we will travel coach, and we will not stay in five-star hotels.” Al-Zahar explained that his visit to Cairo and to countries of the region was aimed at emphasizing the resolutions of the Khartoum summit, and asking for financial support. In his talk about the domestic security situation, Al-Zahar pointed out that the weapons of the resistance were under control, but the problem was with the weapons of some families and some factions. Al-Zahar talked about the Arab peace initiative, and said that it was inapplicable, because Israel had rejected it.
With regard to the issue of his Egyptian opposite number, Ahmad Abu-al-Ghayt, not receiving him on the pretext of the Egyptian minister’s previous engagements, Al-Zahar said that he telephoned Abu al-Ghayt before arriving in Cairo, and the Egyptian minister asked him to postpone his visit for three days so that he would be able to receive him; however Al-Zahar was not able to do so because of his commitment to appointments in other Arab countries. Al-Zahar added: “We agreed to meet after my return from my Arab tour, before I return to Gaza.”
Al-Zahar stressed that his meeting with the chief of the Egyptian Intelligence, Umar Suleiman, was positive. He said, “Umar Suleiman was very clear in stressing that Egypt would dedicate all its efforts to serving the Palestinian cause.” Al-Zahar said that they discussed domestic issues related to security, crossing points, and other things, in addition to the extent to which Egypt could help the Palestinians in achieving reconciliation with the Arab countries and others in order to secure successful and effective investments. Al-Zahar rejected the claims that Suleiman had stipulated any conditions or demands on the Palestinians.
UAE, Kuwait, Jordan, and Syria.” He expressed his optimism about its results, and said that he would ask the Arab countries for political support, for emphasizing all the resolutions of the Khartoum summit, and for financial support and early payment. Al-Zahar said, “We will explain to them how we will spend the aid, and we will stress that the picture now is completely different.” He pointed out, “There will be no squandering, extravagance, or corruption; all the means are available for anyone who wants to know how this money is spent.”
Al-Zahar added, “We will ask the Arab countries to investigate the ways to help the Palestinians to get out of the dilemma related to the crossing points and to some of the agreements, such as the agreement of the Paris Economic Club according to which all the taxes and customs are transferred to Israel first, and then to us.” He pointed out that the amount of customs revenues retained by Israel ranged between 55 and 60 million dollars. Al-Zahar pointed out that the Rafah Crossing Point during the past three months did not open except for 34 days. He considered the closure of the crossing point a collective punishment for the Palestinian people, and an injustice to their day-to-day life. Al-Zahar pointed out that the closure of the crossing points was causing a shortage in flour and children’s milk, and added, “We would like to find a legal mechanism to get out of this dilemma, and we are trying to involve the Arab countries in this issue, and to consult with them about it.”
Al-Zahar stressed that the Palestinian Government was facing a financial deficit of 1.4 billion dollars, pointing out that HamasMovement had inherited a heavy legacy that included many debts, “It is not true that the government is unable to pay the salaries of the civil servants, because the provision of the salaries was the responsibility of the previous Palestinian Authority, and the responsibility was handed over to us on 30 March. However, we will not abandon our responsibilities; we will collect the money, pay the salaries, and we will carry out a plan to reform the administrative and financial structure. Indeed, every ministry has started doing this.” Al-Zahar stressed that he would be the first one to start the reform in the Foreign Ministry; he said, “We do not travel by air except in tourist class, and we will not stay in five-star hotels unless we are staying as guests.” He emphasized, “This will not belittle us in the least.”
With regard to the way he deals with a ministry the majority of whose employees are from Fatah, Al-Zahar said: “Whoever adheres to professionalism will remain in his post; as far as anyone who does not adhere is concerned, the law will be the arbiter between him and me.” He pointed out, “Indeed, this is what I apply.” Al-Zahar added that there was someone who deviated from the good manners of dealing, was referred to investigations, and was legally disciplined. However, he denied that there was any plan to take revenge on specific people, or to uproot them, and stressed that efficiency and professionalism were the criteria for dealing with the employees.
With regard to the control of weapons and the security chaos, Al-Zahar said, “The weapons of the resistance are under control, but the problem is with the weapons of some families and some factions.” He stressed that Hamas did not say that it would disarm the people, but said that it would control the arms by law and not by coercion; he pointed out that this referred to some chaotic weapons.” Al-Zahar added that there were a collection of security obstacles that hindered the implementation of this policy, at the forefront of which was the appointment of some people who were unacceptable to Hamas.
Minister Al-Zahar rejected the claims that the Palestinian Government’s acceptance of the Arab initiative was a condition for opening the Arab doors closed to Hamas Government; he said, “The Arab doors are not closed to us. I met the Arab ambassadors to the Arab League, and stressed to them that the resolutions of the Khartoum summit are compatible with the concepts expressed by Hamas, and no one asked us about the Arab initiative.” Al-Zahar added, “Abu-Ammar agreed to the Arab initiative, but this did not prevent his assassination. Abu-Mazen accepted the initiative, but Israel described him as useless and worthless.”
With regard to his reservations over the Arab initiative, Al-Zahar said: “Israel has not accepted it, and hence the initiative became inapplicable.” He warned that the two issues of normalization and recognition would be grabbed by Israel, and then considered by it as a step toward more concessions. Al-Zahar said, “The initiative needs more study and discussions with domestic and foreign sides to find out the way to deal with the issue, and we have questions to which we want answers.”
With regard to his meeting with Faruq Qaddumi, the head of the PLO Political Department and the leader of Fatah, Al-Zahar said, “We discussed two issues; the first was our joining of the PLO. In this context, we stressed the importance of the PLO role in the past and in the future, and the need to rebuild it to include all the Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, with every factions represented according to its size. We also stressed the need for a fundamental redrafting of the PLO political program in order to enable the Palestinian people to fulfill their national plan without abandoning their constants. The other issue was the way to reconcile the three authorities concerned with foreign affairs, namely ‘the president, the foreign minister, and the head of the Political Department.’ We reached an agreement with President Mahmoud Abbas to submit reports to him about any visits to any countries, and about what happened during this visit.” Al-Zahar pointed out that Abu al-Lutf (Qaddumi) called for managing this issue according to bases to be agreed later.
About the “bickering” with Fatah Movement, Al-Zahar said, “The bickering and discussions in the Legislative Council exist and continue. This is not a negative phenomenon; on the contrary, it is a means of self-expression and correction, especially as the disputed issues are subject to consultations.” He pointed out, “The administrative issues are delegated to a specific department of the Foreign Ministry.”
With regard to the possibility of disputes ensuing between him and Qaddumi, as the latter is a former foreign minister, Al-Zahar said, “Our meeting was constructive; we reached an agreement, and we crossed the Ts and dotted the Is.” He added, “You will see a real revolution in the reform of all diplomatic institutions; this reform will be led by the Foreign Ministry with the agreement of President Mahmoud Abbas, and brother Abu-al-Lutf.”
Al-Zahar accused Israel of wanting to demolish the Al-Aqsa mosque. He said, No one denies that the Israeli Government and other Israeli sides are trying to do this. He added, “Definitely they are scheming against Jerusalem. This will lead to a catastrophe for them; furthermore, harming the Al-Aqsa mosque is a larger catastrophe.”