After meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on Wednesday, Saudi Arabian leader Saud al-Faisal announced that his country, unlike Egypt and the U.S., would not cut humanitarian funding to the Palestinian people.
Saud al-Faisal said that the world should not prejudge Hamas, signalling that many countries in the Arab world, along with many European countries and Russia, are still undecided about whether to sever financial aid that has become a lifeline for the Israeli-occupied Palestinian people.
The Saudi announcement comes a day after Egypt’s leader, Hosni Mubarak, announced that his country would withhold aid to the new Palestinian government until the now-majority Hamas party agreed to certain pre-conditions set by the US. Mubarak’s announcement was made after a meeting with Condoleeza Rice, the US Secretary of State, during which Rice pressured Mubarak to agree with the US position.
Rice is currently on a five-day tour to various Arab countries to pressure them not to aid the new Palestinian government, after Palestinians elected a legislative majority from the Hamas party in January elections. The U.S. considers Hamas to be a terrorist organization, and does not differentiate between the party’s political and military wings.
The US Secretary of State’s trip takes her to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Thursday, where her pressure tactics regarding Palestinian aid may be overshadowed by an emerging scandal involving secret dealings between the UAE leadership and the White House regarding international shipping and the attempted purchase of US ports by the UAE.
In Saud’s statement Wednesday night, he criticized the US for cutting off funding to the Palestinian people, aid which would have equalled $400 million for the year. Stopping aid for a sewer system infrastructure, which is the sort of project the US wants to be starved of funding, is effectively denying Palestinians humanitarian aid, he added. Hamas leaders have called such denial of aid a type of ‘blackmail’ against the Palestinian people for exercising their democratic right to vote for whomever they choose.
The Saudis plan to continue sending approximately $15 million a month to the Palestinian government.
While Arab leaders appear hesitant to pre-judge the Hamas government, the main ally to the US in the region, Israel, has been very quick to engage in a policy of ‘punitive measures’ against the Palestinians, whose land they have been militarily occupying since 1967. At least 35 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since the January elections, including at least 5 children. ‘Punitive measures’ also included freezing Palestinian tax money, over which Israeli authorities have complete control, and closing the Palestinian borders completely, imprisoning Palestinians into the two separate prisons of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, with no way to cross between them.