Arab League Secretary-General Nabil ElAraby has arrived in Ramallah [from Amman] to meet with Mahmoud Abbas at 12:20 today.
It was reported earlier in the week that [apparently according to Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Malki] there would be a delegation of 8 to 10 Arab Foreign Ministers travelling with ElAraby. But most of the others did not come.
Al-Malki had also said that the Arab League delegation would arrive by air, apparently to avoid encountering Israeli passport controls at the Jordanian border… And that’s what happened with ElAraby today — he was accompanied only by Egypt’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamil, and the two arrived by Jordanian military helicopter.
Egyptian diplomats are notoriously discrete. It seems, however, that ElAraby did not show up carrying suitcases full of dollar bills.
Reuters reported here that ElAraby said during his press conference in Ramallah that “Arab countries agreed at their Baghdad summit (in March) for an Arab safety net of $100 million dollars each month, but unfortunately none of this has been achieved yet”.
UPDATE: Ma’an News Agency reported Sunday 30 December here that “Arab League members had agreed a $100 million monthly payment to the Palestinian Authority, but the League chief Nabil al-Arabi said on a visit to the West Bank on Saturday that none had been delivered … Deputy Secretary General of the PFLP Abdul Raheem Mallouh said that there are American pressures on the Arab states to financially blockade the PA. Secretary General of the Popular Struggle Front Ahmed Majdalani said the failure to transfer funds was ‘clearly a political decision… (and) collective punishment against the Palestinian people because of the agenda of seeking an independent Palestinian state’. Meanwhile Fatah spokesman Ahmad Assaf said it was up to Arab states to explain the impasse”.
Some Palestinians in the West Bank believe that only the Emir of Qatar can and will save them — he announced grants of some $450 million for Gaza’s rehabilitation after all, and the West Bank is bigger… But, his possible visit has been postponed for at least a month.
Nabil El-Araby has his own separate status, however, based on years of representing Egypt at the UN in New York and Geneva and elsewhere — and above all based on respect for El-Araby’s breathtakingly strong and direct separate opinion, when he sat as a Judge on the International Court of Justice, in the ICJ’s 2004 ICJ Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
The Associated Press reported that ElAraby said in his remarks to the press in the Muqata’a that “We will return to the U.N. Security Council … Palestine will be cooperating with Arab and EU countries to change the equation (in the peace process) that prevailed over the past 20 years, which was a waste of time”.
Haaretz reported that while in Ramallah, the two senior Egyptian diplomats “will also discuss a decision by an Arab League ministerial committee to hold talks with the UN Security Council, the United States, Russia, China and the European Union on a mechanism to relaunch Palestinian-Israeli peace talks”. This is posted here.
Not many people in the West Bank expected much from the Arab League, of course — despite the fact that Mahmoud Abbas formally defers all major decisions until approval by Arab League leaders.
But, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat reportedly said that it was a letter from Nabil ElAraby, confirming an Arab League decision to provide a $100-million-dollar “safety-net” fund [to counteract Israeli financial reprisals after the recent UN upgrade] that enabled the Palestinian Authority to borrow from Palestinian banks [despite the PA’s maxed-out credit limit] in order to transfer partial salary payments to its employees on 24 December.
Meanwhile, PA government employees were bitterly disappointed earlier this week when the banks which paid their partial salaries [as 1st installment of November salary] after taking full reimbursement of loan payments due from PA government employees. The Palestinian banks, in effect, advanced the salaries in order to get the loan payments due. Following the banks’ actions, many PA government employees were left with little or no money in their accounts — for the second time since the beginning of November [when October salaries were belatedly paid].
Two months without money has put PA employees in an extremely difficult position — and they find it individually humiliating. This inhibits them from speaking much about it publicly, or even with each other.
The loans are a policy pushed after the June 2007 split between Gaza and the West Bank, and strongly advocated by Tony Blair [on the basis of the Portland Trust’s policy recommendation] and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
These loans created a deceptive illusion of indebted prosperity that bewildered many Palestinians in the West Bank as journalists enthused over an illusory “Ramallah bubble”.
Agence France Presse [AFP] reported that “Every month, Israel transfers about 460 million shekels ($120 million) in customs duties on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports, and which constitute a large percentage of the Palestinian budget. The transfers are governed by the 1994 Paris Protocols [part of the Oslo Accords] with the Palestinians”. This is posted here.