Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Palestinian Authority blames Gaza for deficit mess

(Reuters) - Paying for the upkeep of the Gaza Strip while its political rival actively blocks revenues flowing back is taking its toll on the deficit-racked Palestinian Authority.

The Western-backed PA, many of whose top leaders belong to the mainstream Fatah movement, says it has poured around $7 billion (4.4 billion pounds) into the Gaza Strip since its rival Hamas seized control in 2007, but complains that the Islamist group is stymieing its efforts to balance its books.

A barrage of mutual accusations in recent weeks has driven Hamas and Fatah ever further apart as stalled efforts at reconciliation and economic stagnation have jangled nerves on both sides.

Crippling power cuts in the small coastal enclave have only added to the acrimony and lifted the lid on often opaque Palestinian funding.

The PA says it spends $120 million (75.5 million pounds) a month, or more than 40 percent of its whole budget, on salaries and services in Gaza despite being driven out in a brief civil war with Hamas five years ago, anxious to show the world that despite the political divisions, the Palestinians remain one people with a single administrative core.

The PA, which continues to exercise limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, has never recognised Hamas's rule in the Gaza Strip and still pays wages to former PA personnel in the enclave. more

Bethlehem mayor to Israel: We demand our international friends have access to Bethlehem

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The mayor of Bethlehem on Tuesday urged Israel not to humiliate hundreds of tourists invited to a week-long tour of Palestine.

Some 25 Palestinian organizations have invited internationals to visit Palestine from April 15 - 21 and Mayor Victor Batarseh urged Israel to let them enter and not to humiliate them, at a news conference in Bethlehem.

"We demand our international friends have access to Bethlehem," the mayor said. "It is our right to welcome visitors."

Israel's public security minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, said Tuesday that guests of the Welcome to Palestine initiative would be detained and deported, the Israeli news site Ynet reported.

"If they arrive in Israel they will be identified, removed from the plane, their entry into Israel will be prevented and they will be moved to a detention facility until they are flown out of Israel," Aharonovitch said. more