Editorial comment.

Author:Lancaster, Pat
Position:CURRENT AFFAIRS - Editorial

The decision to withdraw funding from the democratically elected, Hamasled Palestinian Authority, is not one I would like to have on my conscience. But I can, as they say, see where the US and EU are coming from.

Back in January, President George W. Bush ruled out giving aid to a Hamas government unless it renounced violence and its stance on Israel. "They have got to get rid of that arm of their party which is armed and violent and secondly, they have got to get rid of that part of their platform that says they want to destroy Israel; if they don't we won't deal with them. Aid packages won't go forward," the president warned in an interview with CNN News.

The US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack warned that aid programmes to Palestinians would be "reviewed". "To be very clear, we do not provide money to terrorist organisations," he stated emphatically.

In the intervening months Hamas has done little to allay fears in Washington or elsewhere. Khaled Meshaal, political chief of Hamas, declared that "Hamas is immune to bribery, intimidation and blackmail", and said the party would not be changing its stance on Israel.

The death of a 17-year-old suicide bomber in Tel Aviv, which claimed the lives of six people and injured many more, was roundly condemned by President Mahmoud Abbas, as a "terrorist attack" and he denounced all such actions as harmful to the Palestinian cause. Meanwhile, Hamas' Khaled Abu Helal, spokesman for the Interior Ministry would commit himself only to noting: "We think that this operation ... is a direct result of the policy of aggression and siege committed against our people."

In April, after much shuttlecock diplomacy, the EU said that it too would be cutting aid to the PA but, it noted, some of the reduction in funding would be channelled into the Occupied Territories via humanitarian aid organisations. Israel also announced it would be withholding monies owed. British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, said: "We do not wish to punish the Palestinian people for the decision they freely made to elect a Hamas dominated government. However, Hamas has got to recognise that being elected as a government, democratically, they have responsibilities ... one of which is to eschew violence."

Unfortunately, Mr Straw's assurances ring a little hollow in the majority of Arab capitals. Dutch foreign minister, Ben Bot, was more straightforward when he announced: "The Palestinian people have opted for this government, so they...

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