JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel’s foreign minister has threatened to expel the UN’s special envoy for offering to help transfer Qatari funds to the Gaza Strip, Channel Two television reported.
Avigdor Lieberman said Robert Serry, the world body’s special envoy on the Middle East peace process, had first tried to convince the Palestinian Authority (PA) to transfer $20 million (14.7 million euros) from Qatar to resolve a pay crisis for Hamas employees in Gaza, the broadcaster reported Saturday.
But after Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas refused to do so, the rightwing ultra-nationalist Lieberman charged, Serry proposed UN help in making the transfer.
Serry rejected the allegations, saying in a statement that the Palestinian authority had approached him “informally” on the matter.
“In considering any UN role on the issue of payments of salaries in Gaza that has potentially destabilising effects on security in Gaza, I made it clear that we would only be able to be of assistance if acceptable to all stakeholders, including Israel,” he added.
Israel had been kept informed of all the discussions, he insisted.
Lieberman told AFP he was seeking an “urgent meeting” on Sunday about the row in which Israeli television reported the foreign minister would propose that Serry be declared persona non grata in Israel.
“We look upon Robert Serry’s behaviour with the utmost seriousness, and strong measures will be imposed,” Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP.
“The foreign ministry issues diplomatic visas and can also withdraw them,” he added.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement the premier told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon he opposed the transfer of Qatari funds to Hamas, which he accuses of kidnapping three young Israelis in the West Bank on June 12.
On June 13, the gas-rich Gulf state of Qatar said it would help the new Palestinian unity government pay former employees of Islamist movement Hamas’s disbanded Gaza government.
Doha said it would contribute a total of $60 million while the PA grapples with a pay row, the first challenge for a government formed to try to end years of Palestinian rivalry.
The dispute erupted when the PA’s Gaza-based staff received their salaries but their Hamas counterparts did not. This prompted Hamas to demand that employees from its disbanded Gaza government be taken onto the PA payroll.
The PA, which previously refused to adjust the salaries of Hamas officials because they were named after Fatah forces were ousted from the Gaza Strip in 2007, announced the creation of a special fund to pay wages while the government discussed how to resolve the issue.