Palestinian Authority’s financial crisis ‘could come to end next month’

PA finances have been hard hit as a result of its fractious relationship with Israel. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 15 October 2020

Palestinian Authority’s financial crisis ‘could come to end next month’

  • Teachers from a number of schools in Hebron and the West Bank have been staging protests after having only received part of their monthly salaries since May

GAZA CITY: A union leader has urged striking West Bank teachers to “be patient with the government” amid assurances that the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) ongoing financial crisis could soon be resolved.

Secretary-General of the Teachers Union Saed Erzikat has warned that worker representatives would “not be able to protect any teacher” taking part in unauthorized industrial action from the prospect of arrest.

Teachers from a number of schools in Hebron and the West Bank have been staging protests after having only received part of their monthly salaries since May.

PA finances have been hard hit as a result of its fractious relationship with Israel and the US over what it describes as “plans to liquidate the Palestinian cause.”

Five months ago, the PA found itself unable to meet its monthly financial obligations, most notably the payment of wages, after it stopped receiving tax revenues on goods entering Palestinian territories, collected by Israel on its behalf. The taxes are estimated to make up more than 60 percent of the PA’s income.

A number of teachers were arrested after taking part in strikes, which union officials have distanced themselves from.

Erzikat said that the union was in constant contact with the PA on the issue of salary payments adding that the financial crisis would come to an end next month. But the official warned that the union would “not be able to protect any teacher, and all teachers must abide by the attendance at their schools.”

However, so-called United Teachers’ Movement protesters described the union as a “government front that does not care about teachers.”

Teacher and activist Khaled Shabita, who was one of those arrested, said teachers had a right to peacefully strike and it was wrong of the PA to question their “patriotism” for taking part in industrial action.

“We want a free country, and we want a decent life. Employees face a difficult choice. Do they not have the right to live in dignity, just as much as having the right to fight for the freedom of their country from occupation?” he told Arab News.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Ishtayeh, previously told public servants, “do you want a homeland or money?”

Education affairs writer, Ismail Muslimani, said workers, including teachers, had the right to strike. “The scene has become complicated and the scale of the tragedy is great, and the employee is not obliged to pay the price of failed policies,” he added.

International mediation efforts are reportedly underway to get a resumption of tax income for the PA. The authority’s monthly salary bill is about 550 million Israeli shekels ($162 million) for about 136,000 employees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Average monthly government expenditure would normally be expected to top 1.1 billion shekels.

Economist Ayman Abu Aisha said: “If the Palestinian Authority succeeds in obtaining an Arab loan, then it will not need the tax revenues that are collected by Israel, but if it does not succeed, then the option of receiving the revenues will be its last resort to solve its financial crisis.”


US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

Updated 22 October 2020

US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

  • Intelligence director: “These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries”

WASHINGTON: US officials accused Iran on Wednesday of being behind a flurry of emails sent to Democratic voters in multiple battleground states that appeared to be aimed at intimidating them into voting for President Donald Trump.
The announcement at a rare, hastily called news conference just two weeks before the election underscored the concern within the US government about efforts by foreign countries to spread false information meant to suppress voter turnout and undermine American confidence in the vote.
The activities attributed to Iran would mark a significant escalation for a nation that some cybersecurity experts regard as a second-rate player in online espionage, with the announcement coming as most public discussion surrounding election interference has centered on Russia, which hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 election, and China, a Trump administration adversary.
“These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries,” said John Ratcliffe, the government’s top intelligence official, who, along with FBI Director Chris Wray, insisted the US would impose costs on any foreign countries that interfere in the 2020 US election and that the integrity of the election is still sound.
“You should be confident that your vote counts,” Wray said. “Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.”
Wray and Ratcliffe did not describe the emails linked to Iran, but officials familiar with the matter said the US has linked Tehran to messages sent to Democratic voters in at least four battleground states that falsely purported to be from the neo-fascist group Proud Boys and that warned “we will come after you” if the recipients didn’t vote for Trump.
The officials also said Iran and Russia had obtained voter registration data, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Ratcliffe said the spoofed emails were intended to hurt Trump, though he did not elaborate on how. An intelligence assessment released in August said: “Iran seeks to undermine US democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections. Iran’s efforts along these lines probably will focus on online influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-US content.”
Trump, speaking at a rally in North Carolina, made no reference to the press conference but repeated a familiar campaign assertion that Iran is opposed to his reelection. He promised that if he wins another term he will swiftly reach a new accord with Iran over its nuclear program.
“Iran doesn’t want to let me win. China doesn’t want to let me win,” Trump said. “The first call I’ll get after we win, the first call I’ll get will be from Iran saying let’s make a deal.”
Both Russia and Iran also obtained voter registration information, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Asked about the emails during an online forum Wednesday, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said she lacked specific information. “I am aware that they were sent to voters in multiple swing states and we are working closely with the attorney general on these types of things and others,” she said.
While state-backed Russian hackers are known to have infiltrated US election infrastructure in 2016, there is no evidence that Iran has ever done so.
The voter intimidation operation apparently used email addresses obtained from state voter registration lists, which include party affiliation and home addresses and can include email addresses and phone numbers. Those addresses were then used in an apparently widespread targeted spamming operation. The senders claimed they would know which candidate the recipient was voting for in the Nov. 3 election, for which early voting is ongoing.
Federal officials have long warned about the possibility of this type of operation, as such registration lists are not difficult to obtain.
“These emails are meant to intimidate and undermine American voters’ confidence in our elections,” Christopher Krebs, the top election security official at the Department of Homeland Security, tweeted Tuesday night after reports of the emails first surfaced.