Top Arab officials paid a rare visit to the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Saturday (December 29) to discuss a Palestinian financial crisis that President Mahmoud Abbas hopes will be soothed with Arab donations.
Arab League Chief Nabil Elaraby and Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr congratulated the Palestinians on a successful U.N. status upgrade last month, but stopped short of promising the badly-needed funds.
"Palestine is in need of material and political support, and I mentioned the material one before the political because the Palestinian Authority cannot move on with their responsibilities with this material situation.
Arab countries agreed in their Baghdad summit for an Arab safety net of $100 million dollars each month, but unfortunately none of this has been achieved yet," Elaraby told a press conference in Ramallah.
Palestinian were cheered by a strong majority in the U.N. recognizing them as an "observer state," but have struggled to get Arab support to make up $100 million in shortfalls left by Israeli sanctions following the U.N. move.
"The material situation will affect in a negative way our movement as a Palestinian leadership," said Riyad Al Malki, Palestinian Foreign Minister.
Elaraby is the first Arab League Chief to visit Ramallah, but he and other prominent Arab and Islamic leaders, including the Egyptian Prime Minister, met with Abbas's Palestinian Hamas rivals in Gaza during their deadly war with Israel last month.
Hamas, which split with the West Bank after Palestinian clashes in 2007, also won a diplomatic coup by receiving Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, ruler of the oil-rich Gulf state of Qatar, who pledged US $400 million to impoverished Gaza.
The emir postponed a visit to Ramallah he had announced this month, disappointing West Bank officials who hoped he would arrive bearing gifts of cash.
The Gaza visits broke years of diplomatic quarantine on the Islamist group, which refuses to recognize Israel or relinquish its arms, and increased the isolation of the dovish, Western-backed Ramallah government.
West Bank officials have watched with worry as Arab uprisings have diverted wealthy neighbors' attention away from their beleaguered cause and boded well for Hamas as Islamist governments take root in the region.
Abbas has accused Israel of "piracy" after it with held customs revenues it collects on the Palestinians' behalf, citing months of utilities bills Ramallah owes Israeli companies.
As West Bank employees have gone on strike protesting delays in their salaries, President Abbas has mooted giving up power and compelling Israel to take on the Palestinians' affairs