RAMALLAH ø Palestinian Authority Finance Minister Salam Fayyad has
become the go-to man for insurgents in the ruling Fatah movement.
Palestinian sources said insurgents from the Fatah-dominated Al Aqsa
Martyrs Brigade have met Fayyad and appealed for funds from the PA. The
sources said the Fatah fighters were registered on the payroll of PA
security services but rarely reported to work.
"At first these people went to President [Yasser] Arafat," a senior PA
official said. "The president said he didn't have any money and that the
issue could only be dealt with by Fayyad."
[On Tuesday, Israeli forces launched major operations in the West Bank
city of Nablus and the Gaza Strip. An Israeli officer and four
Palestinians ø two of them U.S. citizens ø were killed in a helicopter
missile strike in Nablus. Israeli military sources said the U.S. citizens
were bystanders, Middle East Newsline reported.]
Palestinian sources said Fayyad has become the last word for funding in
both the PA as well as in the ruling Fatah movement. Fayyad's stature has
been endorsed by the European and the United States, which see the
finance minister as a model for transparency and government accountability.
The crisis that resulted in the appeal by Fatah insurgents to Fayyad
began in May. Starting last month, Fayyad was given authority for the
salaries of more than 40,000 members of the PA security forces. The Finance
Ministry began paying salaries directly into the bank accounts of PA police
and security forces.
Fayyad's authority was opposed by Arafat as well as security commanders,
who until May distributed salaries to their troops. The sources said the
security commanders had benefited greatly by inflating manpower levels and
pocketing the difference.
The sources said that over the last month hundreds of Fatah insurgents
who had received a PA salary through fictitious service in the police and
security forces were thrown off the government payroll. When Fatah
insurgents urged Arafat to pay the salaries, the PA chairman said he did not
have the money, the sources said.
Western donors and Japan provide most of the $1.2 billion in the PA
budget. In April, Arafat accepted the Western demand that Fayyad control all
PA funding after donors threatened to halt the transfer of funds that would
ensure the payment of monthly salaries to PA employees.
Since then the stream of supplicants who sought aid from Arafat has been
diverted to Fayyad. Palestinian sources said Fayyad controls 70 percent of
all funds through the PA. Arafat was said to control the rest.
The United States has been heavily monitoring the activities of Fayyad
and the Finance Ministry. The sources said the U.S. government has sent
advisers and established a presence in the Finance Ministry in Ramallah.
So far, the sources said, Fayyad has failed to control PA funds in the
Gaza Strip. They said Arafat remains in control over large parts of the PA
infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.
Arafat has been under pressure by Egypt to cede most of his authority to
Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei over the next few weeks. Palestinian sources said
Arafat pledged to respond to the Egyptian request during the next visit by
Egyptian intelligence chief Gen. Omar Suleiman, scheduled to arrive in
Ramallah at the end of June.
Egypt has demanded that Arafat appoint an interior minister and merge
the 12 Palestinian security agencies into three organizations. The new
structure would comprise a Palestinian police force, domestic security
agency and military intelligence.