Fayyad. Transferred funds to home owners
Olmert. Approved funds
Photo: Emil Salman
Destruction in Gaza
Israel recently approved the transfer of NIS 175 million ($41.8 million) in order to pay the salaries of Fatah government workers in Gaza, but Ynet learned Thursday night that about half of the funds were used to compensate residents whose houses were damaged by Israel Defense Forces fire during Operation Cast Lead.
Ten days after the money was transferred, not one penny has been deposited in the Palestinian Authority workers' bank accounts in Gaza.
A document presented to the political echelon 10 days ago, and which was obtained by Ynet, reveals that NIS 90 million ($21.5 million) out of the NIS 175 million approved by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to be handed over to the PA on February 6 have been allotted for a different cause than the one they were transferred for.
Olmert decided to transfer the funds to Gaza despite Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak's objection.
Following an order issued by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, those NIS 90 million were transferred to the United Nations Development Program in order to compensate owners of houses in the Gaza Strip which were destroyed or damaged during the Israeli offensive.
This move contradicts explanations provided by the Prime Minister's Office that the money would be transferred to Fatah members only, according to their identity cards.
Despite the urgency claim made by the Palestinian Authority and the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem at the time, the rest of the sum, NIS 85 million ($20 million), has been frozen for at least 10 days in bank accounts in Gaza, while the Fatah members have not received their salaries.
The withdrawing of the funds began only on February 17, after they were frozen as per Fayyad's order in the Strip's banks.
Up until 10 days ago, when the document was written, another NIS 115 million ($27.5 million) were needed to complete the payment of the wages. As aforesaid, most of the missing money, about NIS 90 million, was used to compensate Gaza house owners. NIS 20 million were paid by PA representative Hassan Abu Lavda shortly after being withdrawn from the banks.
No international supervisionState officials in Jerusalem were informed that the funds given to the home owners were not distributed through an international body supervising the money funneled to Gaza, as opposed to Israel's demand. The supervision mechanism for the funds allotted to rebuild Gaza was to be established during a conference scheduled to convene in Sharm el-Sheik next week.
According to state officials, the money allotted to the payment of salaries, according to the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli prime minister, was in fact distributed for damages without the required supervision.
The document also stated that the Hamas movement has begun distributing the compensation funds to the residents in a manual and direct manner. The political gain from this act is clear.
The main issue is that both Hamas and Fatah are handing out money without the required international supervision. In addition, there are residents receiving funds twice, both from Hamas and from Fatah. It is also unclear who receives the funds, and whether houses used by Hamas members are also being rebuilt.
Despite repeated appeals, the prime minister, foreign minister and defense minister's offices did not offer a response to this report.