The Middle East envoy from the ‘Quartet for Mideast Peace’, James Wolfensohn, has told his staff that without a clear mandate on a policy toward Hamas he would leave his job at the end of April, a staff member said.
Wolfensohn said Saturday that he had agreed to extend his work another month, through April, in order not to give the wrong signal by shutting down his office just after the Israeli election on March 28, said the staff member, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Wolfensohn, the former head of the World Bank, was appointed the envoy of the so-called Quartet – the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations – to oversee Israel’s pullout from Gaza in August and to help the Palestinians make Gaza a success through investment and job creation.
He said that the Quartet had asked him to stay on for April and that he had agreed. "It would be irresponsible to shut down the office three days after the Israelis vote," he told the staff, according to one of them. "But I also think it would be irresponsible to keep it open further without a clear Quartet decision on policy toward the Palestinian Authority in the current circumstances."
Israel is withholding money due the Palestinians because of the Hamas election, and the United States and European Union, which consider Hamas a terrorist organization, expect to be forced to withhold much of their current aid to the Palestinian Authority once a Hamas-led government is installed.
The Quartet has demanded that Hamas recognize Israel, forswear violence and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian accords, all of which Hamas has refused to do. If not, aid will be curtailed. Although officials have suggested that they should continue to aid ordinary Palestinians while bypassing Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, there is no consensus for how to do it.
"You can’t deal with development and trade when it’s unclear what funding mechanism will be acceptable to the donors," another staff member said. "Every country has its own ideas, but there’s little leadership and nothing will work without an agreed decision that gives a clear political envelope within which to work."
Wolfensohn invested thousands of dollars of his own money to persuade other U.S. philanthropists to help the Palestinians buy functioning greenhouses from the Israelis who were abandoning them in Gaza. But he has been frustrated by the Bush administration’s inability to ensure that Israel kept its promises of improved access in and out of Gaza for people and goods, especially agricultural exports, said an official close to him.
The Israelis, citing security concerns and alerts, scrapped their agreement to a regular bus convoy for Gazans to travel to the West Bank and have also shut down the main terminal for goods traffic between Israel and Gaza, Karni, for weeks at a time, causing millions of dollars of produce to rot.
*this article sourced from the New York Times