Palestinian PM Accuses U.S. of ‘Financial War’

RAMALLAH (AP) -
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and entourage. (Reuters/Mohamad Torokman)

The new Palestinian prime minister on Tuesday accused the United States of declaring “financial war” on his people and said an American peace plan purported to be in the works will be “born dead.”

In his first interview with international media since taking office over the weekend, Mohammad Shtayyeh laid out plans to get through the financial crisis he has inherited and predicted that the international community, including U.S. allies in the Arab world, would join the Palestinians in rejecting President Donald Trump’s expected peace plan.

“There are no partners in Palestine for Trump. There are no Arab partners for Trump and there are no European partners for Trump,” Shtayyeh said during a wide-ranging hour-long interview with The Associated Press.

Shtayyeh, a British-educated economist, takes office as the Palestinian Authority, which administers autonomous zones in Yehudah and Shomron, is mired in a financial crisis.

The Trump administration has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars of aid, including all of its support for the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees.

Israel has meanwhile withheld tens of millions of dollars of tax transfers to punish the Palestinians for their “martyrs’ fund,” a program that provides stipends to the families of Palestinians imprisoned or killed as a result of terror attacks against Israel.

Furious about the withholding, the Palestinians have in turn refused to accept partial tax transfers from Israel, further exacerbating the fiscal crisis.

Without its key sources of revenue, the Palestinian Authority has begun paying only half salaries to tens of thousands of civil servants, reduced services and increased borrowing. In a new report released Wednesday, the World Bank said the Palestinian deficit will grow from $400 million last year to over $1 billion this year.

Shtayyeh laid out a number of proposals for weathering the storm. He said he has imposed spending cuts by reducing perks for his Cabinet ministers.

He said he would seek to develop the Palestinian agricultural, economic and education sectors and seek ways to reduce the Palestinian economy’s dependence on Israel. For example, he proposed importing fuel from neighboring Jordan, instead of from Israel, and even floating a Palestinian currency. He also said the Palestinians would seek financial backing from Arab and European donors.

Shtayyeh said that after all of the U.S. moves in favor of Israel, particularly the recognition of Yerushalayim, there is nothing left to negotiate.

He said any proposal that ignores key Palestinian demands will be rejected by the international community. The European Union this week reiterated its call for peace talks aimed at establishing a Palestinian state.

“Where are we going to have the Palestinian state?” he asked. “We are not looking for an entity. We are looking for a sovereign state.”