Pna Being Bullied To Prevent Hamas Standing

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The Palestinian National Authority is being bullied into choosing between democracy or empty coffers, the Palestine Media Center (PMC) says.

The PMC said on Tuesday: ‘Failing even to condemn the five-year old Israeli state terrorism against the Palestinian people, Israel’s re-occupation of the West Bank and the ongoing Israeli extra-judicial killings of Palestinians, the EU joined Israel and the United States in punishing Palestinian emerging democracy by threatening to cut “normal” relations and vital aid to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) unless Hamas disappears from the elections scene.

‘The European Union, the United States and the Israeli Occupying Power are practically pressuring the PNA to choose between bloody in-fighting or death of a burgeoning democracy and is bullying it to opt either for foreign aid or democracy.

‘EU and US vital funds to the PNA will not be forthcoming and Palestinians can consider the peace process over unless the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, disappears from the political scene, according to the EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, US House of Representatives and the Israeli government.’

The EU will have major difficulties in working with the PNA if Hamas wins next month’s parliamentary elections, Solana said on Sunday during visits to Israel and the Gaza Strip.

‘What I am talking about is after the elections. After the elections it will be very difficult to deal with a party which at the same time as participating in the elections continues as a military force,’ he told reporters in Gaza.

Earlier Solana told reporters during a visit to Tel Aviv: ‘All the political parties have the right to be part of the elections, but there is a certain code of conduct that has to be accepted by everybody.

‘It’s very difficult that parties who do not condemn violence . . . can be partners for the future.’

Solana said a Palestinian government that includes a party that fails to renounce violence and recognise Israel’s right to exist could not continue to receive EU funding.

He said: ‘It would be very difficult for the help and the money that goes to the Palestinian Authority to continue to flow.

‘The taxpayers in the European Union, members of the parliament of the European Union, will not be in a position to sustain that type of political activity.’

The Palestinians receive about $1 billion a year in international aid – about half the PNA’s budget – and EU assistance is slated to reach euro 260 million in 2006.

Palestinian officials say that the PNA budget already suffers more than $800 million deficit.

Meanwhile, last Friday the US House of Representatives passed overwhelmingly, in a 397-17 vote, a resolution, supported by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and opposed by Americans for Peace Now, warning of policy consequences if Hamas joins the PNA government.

The resolution threatened US aid to the PNA as well US normal relations with it.

Hailing the US and the EU for adopting Israel’s official policy, Israel considered a Hamas win in Palestinian January 25 legislative election tantamount to the end of the peace process.

Israeli foreign minister Silvan Shalom told Israel Radio: ‘The participation of Hamas in the elections can put us back 50 years.

‘Today is the time to make the difficult decision, the strategic decision, to dismantle the terror infrastructure, to go to elections with the intent of afterwards going to peace with Israel.’

The director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Ron Prosor, said the participation of Hamas ‘would totally collapse the peace process’.

PNA officials told the EU, US and Israel to stop meddling in their domestic affairs.

‘This is an unacceptable intervention,’ said Palestinian Minister of Planning Ghassan El-Khateib.

Referring to the threat of halting financial aid to the PNA he said: ‘They are exploiting the Palestinian people’s dire need for aid to influence their democratic choices.’

PNA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat voiced a similar rejection of EU, US and Israeli statements.

He said: ‘This is a direct intervention in our internal affairs. Mr Solana and others should respect the choice of the Palestinian people.’

Solana’s comments are ‘unacceptable,’ he added.

Erekat said: ‘These statements are totally rejected by the Palestinian Authority as external interference in Palestinian internal affairs.’

He pointed out: ‘I haven’t heard any American official speak about those who have guns and those who don’t have guns in Iraq even though there are more guns in Iraq than in the whole region.’

Confirming Hamas has a right to run in the elections, Erekat added: ‘We have an election law which stipulates that every Palestinian man and woman above the age of 18 has the right to participate in the elections.’

On Saturday, PNA Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa, several Palestinian officials and Hamas categorically rejected as ‘interference’ in Palestinian affairs the US congressional resolution passed on Friday.

Earlier on the same day Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaynah said that the PNA cannot hold democratic elections that exclude Hamas.

‘We informed Washington that we cannot hold any democratic elections that exclude Hamas,’ he said, urging the White House and the rest of the world not to endorse the position of the Congress.

He said: ‘We call on the international community to impose pressure on the US administration and prevent it from complying with the decisions of the House of Representatives as this does not serve the peace process nor the US efforts to maintain peace in the area.

‘The legislative elections will be held on time and all Palestinian parties have the right to participate in them. Otherwise, the elections wouldn’t be democratic.’

Separately, Abdullah Abdullah, the director-general of the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, said that insistence on excluding Hamas from the Palestinian elections casts doubts on the EU and US seriousness about democracy.

He said: ‘I don’t understand how America calls for democracy in the Middle East and elsewhere and at the same time demands we exclude people we don’t agree with from the democratic process.’

Abdullah added that the US should be honest and clear on democracy in the Middle East.

He said: ‘If they are truly committed to democracy, then they would have to accept free and transparent elections, and if they insist on excluding Hamas or others from the democratic process, then they would have to admit that they are not really serious about democracy.’

He said the PNA wouldn’t be bullied into choosing between democracy and US aid.