US, EU 'Harming P.A.' By Threat To Cut Funding

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:16 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - The Palestinian Authority and Hamas told the European Union and U.S. to respect the democratic process in the Palestinian areas on Monday.

Both a representative of the E.U. and the U.S. House of Representatives warned that they might cut aid to the Palestinians if Hamas makes substantial gains in the upcoming P.A. parliamentary elections.

Chief P.A. negotiator Saeb Erekat said U.S. and E.U. threats to cut aid were "harming" the P.A.

"We urge the U.S. Congress and the European Union to focus on respect of the democratic choice [of the Palestinian people]," Erekat said in a telephone interview.

Hamas made an unexpectedly strong showing in municipal elections in important West Bank cities last week indicating that the militant Islamic group could win a large bloc of seats in the Jan. 25 legislative elections.

In a further blow to P.A. Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the younger generation of his ruling Fatah party broke away to form its own political faction last week, leaving Abbas with the older generation of Fatah activists, whom many Palestinians view as corrupt.

Hamas opposes any negotiated settlement with Israel and aims to set up an Islamic state, including the Gaza Strip, West Bank and all of Israel. A large Hamas representation in the P.A. parliament would likely scuttle any Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Erekat said he was not concerned about Hamas political gains. "I belong to a party and I'm determined to win," said Erekat.

By making comments about funding, the U.S. Congress and European Union envoy Javier Solana are trying to act as "campaign managers" for the elections, Erekat said. Their actions are actually encouraging people to vote for Hamas, he added.

Solana told reporters on Sunday that the E.U. taxpayers would not want to support a P.A. government that included a party which advocates violence and the destruction of Israel.

"It would be very difficult for the help and the money that goes to the Palestinian Authority to continue to flow," Solana said.

The P.A. receives about half of its annual budget - about $1 billion - from international aid. It is expected to receive 260 million euros ($312 million) in E.U. assistance in 2006.

On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution asserting that the P.A. should prevent Hamas from participating in the January elections unless it first recognizes Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, ends it incitement, condemns terrorism, and dismantles its terrorist infrastructure.

Failure to do so could result in a cut of financial assistance.

Hamas' spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said his group opposed "any foreign or international interference in the Palestinian elections," the Palestinian Maana News Agency quoted him as saying.

Abu Zuhri said it demonstrated "American duplicity" and proved that American democracy is "tailored in accordance" with its own interests.

Israel has all along opposed the inclusion of Hamas in the elections, but Washington has said that Hamas' participation in the elections is an internal Palestinian affair.

Hamas is on the State Department as well as the E.U.'s list of terrorist organizations.

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