Bethlehem, Asharq Al-Awsat- Authoritative sources in the Fatah movement have asserted to Asharq Al-Awsat that the Palestinian leadership has decided to stop all the funds it pays to the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority’s [PA] budget apart from the salaries of its own employees.
According to the sources, this decision was taken the night before yesterday at an extraordinary meeting of the Palestinian leadership that President Mahmud Abbas called for holding. They said the PA is financing the coup in the Strip and paying the electricity, water, and fuel bills to the Israelis while the Hamas leadership waits for these supplies to reach it.
Fatah movement leaders tried to keep these decisions secret and when Asharq Al-Awsat asked some of them in Bethlehem’s hotels they said such decisions would be announced at the end of the movement 6th Congress. Abdullah Abdullah, head of the political department in the Legislative Council, replied: “Measures will be taken at the highest levels which Hamas does not expect and we will be keen not to let the Gazan citizen pay the price.”
Abbas Zaki, the PA’s ambassador in Beirut who is a candidate for Fatah’s Central Committee, hinted that such a decision would be taken by telling the official Palestinian television that “the PA might have naively financed the coup. Do not forget that we pay the salaries of 77,000 employees and give 58 percent of the PA budget to the Strip. This will not remain since Hamas does not understand the rules of the game and national action” and added” I tell Hamas if you see the lion’s baring its teeth do not think it is smiling.”
The sources went on to say: “We are paying a heavy price to the Israelis for everything that enters Gaza and Hamas seizes them and then we are accused of participating in the blockade. We believe this farce should end and Hamas must shoulder its responsibility toward the people over whom it has installed itself.” The PA’s response is expected at the end of the Fatah Congress — which starts today and lasts until Thursday and will elect a new leadership for the movement whose tasks will include dealing with Hamas’s control of Gaza – and will be in response to the Hamas measures that prevented the Fatah congress members from leaving the Strip to Bethlehem to take part in it. Among the other measures that the PA might take will be the arrest and trial of the Hamas political leadership in the West Bank. The Fatah movement’s Revolutionary Council was supposed to have met late last night after having postponed its meeting from Sunday so as to give the Syrian mediation efforts a chance but Fatah officially announced the failure of these efforts. Fatah’s Official Spokesman Ahmad Abdul-Rahman asserted that the council’s meeting would put the final touches and approve the mechanisms for holding the congress.
The most important issue on the agenda is that of the ban on the travel of Gaza’s members. Asharq Al-Awsat learned that the Central Committee authorized the Revolutionary Council to find the mechanisms for solving the Gaza problem. One of the most discussed proposals is to keep the Strip’s quota of six members in the Central Committee and 30 in the Revolutionary Council without election and to have them elected later as conditions permit. This was what the Gaza leadership proposed to the Palestinian president as a compromise after threatening to boycott the congress. Fahmi al-Za’arir, the Fatah spokesman, asserted to Asharq Al-Awsat that the Revolutionary Council would decide this among other issues it would be discussing, among them membership of the congress. Ibrahim Abu-al-Naja, the Fatah leader and member of the Revolutionary Council, returned to the Gaza Strip from Ramallah yesterday in solidarity with the Fatah leaders in the Strip who were prevented by Hamas from taking part in the congress. Abu-al-Naja said he would not participate in the 6th Congress without the participation of 400 Fatah members from the Strip, adding that he was expecting the majority of the movement members from the Strip who are in the West Bank to take the same decision.
Hamas had insisted on the release of all political detainees and giving Gaza its share of passports in return for allowing the Gaza members to travel. Abdullah said “they want legitimacy for their coup by giving them passports that are recognized. This will never happen.”
Informed sources in Fatah and in the presidency office disclosed to Asharq Al-Awsat” that US Envoy George Mitchell interceded with the Syrians to persuade Hamas to allow the Fatah members to leave following a request from [Palestinian President] Abu-Mazin. The sources said: Mitchell did in fact intercede and the Syrian president responded positively. Khalid Mishal promised the Syrians to allow the Fatah members to travel. We received a message to this effect. But we learned later that Mishal was unable to fulfill his promise because the hard-line Hamas leadership inside [the territories] refused to obey his orders. The sources added: “(Ahmad) Al-Jabari (official in charge of Al-Qassam Brigades) told Khalid Mishal he would shoot the Fatah members as they were leaving and he should not embarrass himself by making promises.”