In a story broken by NYGrime’s Jerusalem Bureau Chief, Ethan Bronner, the US State Department said it would withdraw $100m of funds to the Gaza Strip, if Hamas insists on the audit of American-financed charitable operations in the region.
Such funds go to health care, agriculture and water infrastructure. Hamas officials suspended International Medical Corps operating in Gaza upon their refusal to submit to Hamas inspections in their offices.
Now, despite the Fatah/Hamas merger meant to strengthen the Palestinian Authority, after slight guerilla warfare and a war of attrition between the factions called the Wakseh, the United States still forbids any kind of direct contact between American-backed groups and Hamas, which is considered by the State Department as terrorist organization.
Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nounou told the NYGrimes:
“These organizations do not recognize and do not want to recognize the Palestinian law. We do not kneel down to any threat. Any organization that wants to operate in the Palestinian territories must respect the laws.”
Hamas has been tightening the noose on NGOs in Gaza, demanding that they register with the central government, pay a fee and submit financial reports.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is seeking, despite adversity coming from Israel, the US and other heavyweights, a state without Jewish settlements.
To prove how far away the issue is from any feasible solution, on Thursday Israel’s Interior Ministry gave approval to build a 1,600-apartment complex in East Jerusalem in Ramat Shlomo and will soon be approving an additional 2,700 housing units there. Last week, Israel planned 936 new homes in Har Homa also in East Jerusalem, Jerusalem being the proposed capitol of a Palestinian State. Housing in East Jerusalem makes up more than 35% of projects in the city.
Interior Minister and Shas leader Eli Yishai suggested that expanding Ramat Shlomo was meant to alleviate a housing shortage which partly ignited a wave of protests throughout the country demanding social and economic reforms.
42 lawmakers, more than a third of Israel’s parliament, urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to solve the housing crisis by building tens of thousands of new units. This includes Judea and Samaria.
Peace Now, the Israeli NGO who advocates the dismantling of the settlements said there is no connection between expanding Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator said the building was “further proof that this government is committed to investing in occupation rather than peace…Recognizing the State of Palestine on the 1967 border and supporting our admission to the UN is the appropriate response to Israel’s rejectionist and expansionist agenda…”