There has been a collective holding of breath in Ramallah and the West Bank for the past 12 days, waiting to see if Palestinian Authority salaries would be paid.
They have been held up this month after the announcement of a Fatah reconciliation agreement with Hamas — considered by Israel [and the U.S., as well as other members of the Quartet, major donor countries to the Palestinian Authority] as a terrorist group.
Israel’s Minister of Finance Yuval Steinitz said he would not release the money as expected because some of it could end up in the hands of Hamas.
The salaries – for between 150,000 employees in the West Bank, and an addition number of at least 30,000 paid not to work since Hamas has been in power in Gaza after its rout of Fatah/Palestinian Preventive Security Forces in mid-June 2007 — are due on the 5th of every month.
On the 4th of the month, Ramallah sources said that Israeli money would be paid — this was stated just hours after the White House announcement that President Obama would receive Prime Minister Netanyahu in the White House on May 20 (now, this coming Friday). They just didn’t say when the money would be paid, but the assumption was that it would be immediately.
U.S. Administration officials public, though even-toned, statements noting that as a new Palestinian national unity government had not been yet formed, there was no reason to withhold any money at this point.
A few days later, the Palestinian Authority [PA] Ministry of Finance called the bank in Ramallah to see if the Israeli refund payments had arrived. The answer, apparently, was “No”.
PA Prime Minister then made a series of daily statements, calling on Israel, then Arab governments who had not yet paid full amounts pledged, then on the international community to send money.
The EU immediately put money in the bank — but still the PA salaries were not paid.
The money was in the bank, but the Prime Minister and probably also the President wanted to maintain pressure on all parties…