Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Saturday that senior U.S. State Department official David Welch promised him that Washington would not freeze aid to the Palestinians, but would only redirect it.
Erekat spoke following a meeting between the two in Ramallah, the first between senior U.S. and PA representatives since Hamas’ victory in the Palestinian elections, according to the Associated Press.
“We urged the U.S. Administration to continue helping the Palestinian people, as it did in previous years,” Erekat said after the meeting. “They have never transferred a single dollar to the Palestinian Authority directly. The money was being transferred via non-governmental organizations.”
Welch declined to speak to reporters.
The U.S. and the EU reiterated that they view Hamas as a terror organization and would refrain from supporting a Palestinian government led by extremists.
Israel recently announced it would halt the transfer of funds to the Palestinians, but Erekat’s statement indicates that that the U.S. has not formulated a clear stance on the issue.
On Friday President George W. Bush said that Hamas' leaders have to decide if they wish to get the U.S. assistance. If so, they will have to recognize Israel, renounce terror and strive for a lasting peace with the country.
Bush also expressed hope Hamas will adopt a more pragmatic policy now that it has won the elections. It is easier to be a martyr than a cabinet minister, the president said.
‘Abbas will resign if Israel will not show willingness to negotiate’
When you take responsibility for building roads and bridges, and for health and education, you are likely to be less enthusiastic about bombing clinics, schools and bridges, he explained.
Democratically elected leaders must bring to real changes in the lives of their voters, or they will be kicked out in the next elections, Bush added.
Meanwhile, during his meeting with Meretz Chairman Yossi Beilin on Friday, Palestinian Erekat proposed that for six months following the elections in Israel the sides would hold talks on a permanent agreement while implementing the Road Map peace initiative.
According to Erekat, should Israel and the PA reach an agreement during this time, Abbas would bring the deal to a Palestinian referendum.
“I estimate that (Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud) Abbas will resign if Israel will not show a willingness to negotiate after the elections,” Beilin said.
“So, those who do not want negotiations with Abbas will get a Hamas representative such as Khaled Mashaal or Mahmoud al-Zahar heading the PA.”
Yitzhak Benhorin contributed to the report