An advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told reporters Monday that the Palestinian Authority would be willing to give up US aid money rather than submit to US demands that the Palestinians give up their internationally-recognized rights in the name of ‘negotiation’.The statement came after a weekend of talks between the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas and the Fateh party, which currently rules in the West Bank, and the democratically-elected Palestinian Authority in the other Palestinian Territory, the Gaza Strip, led by the Hamas party. The talks were meant to restart an attempt at national unity between the two factions that fell apart late last year.
Azzam Ahmed, an advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told reporters from the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, “The Palestinians need American money, but if they use it as a way of pressuring us, we are ready to relinquish that aid.”
US officials have previously attempted to pressure the Fateh party to sever all ties with the democratically-elected Hamas party, which is considered a terrorist organization by the US and Israel due to past attacks on Israeli civilians by the party’s armed wing. Attacks on civilians by the Hamas party ended in 2005, and the party has since denounced such attacks when carried out by other Palestinian resistance factions.
Hamas won democratic elections in both Palestinian Territories (the West Bank and Gaza Strip) in January 2006, but were prevented from forming a government by the US and Israel. In June 2007, a coup by the Fateh party led by Mahmoud Abbas took power in the West Bank, while Hamas formed its government in the Gaza Strip, essentially creating two Palestinian Authorities – one in the West Bank, which receives US aid money and Israeli support, and one in the Gaza Strip which is considered a terrorist entity by the US and Israel.
Infighting between the two factions, which peaked in late 2007 and early 2008, caused the deaths of over a hundred Palestinians from both the Hamas and Fateh parties. The two parties subsequently met to form a national unity government, but the US-supported Fateh party pulled out of talks when the US government threatened to end its financial support for the Palestinian Authority, which is around $200 million a year and is a major source of funding for the Palestinian Authority.
The US has also demanded that the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas give up its key demands: a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homes in what is now Israel, and the release of the over 8,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
Recently released transcripts of peace negotiations, known as the “Palestine Papers”, show that Palestinian negotiators with the Fateh party had offered unprecedented concessions, including giving up large swaths of the city of Jerusalem, in negotiations with the Israelis, but the Israeli negotiators refused the offer.
The release of those documents led to a crisis of legitimacy for Abbas’ Palestinian Authority in the Palestinian Territories, and led to calls for the dismantling of the Authority itself, with some Palestinians calling Abbas’ PA a puppet government put in place by the Occupying power, Israel.
Now, with peace talks having failed, the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas has stated its willingness to work with rival Hamas to form a national unity government and push for an independent Palestinian state that includes both Palestinian Territories in a geographically contiguous state with control of its own borders.