British Conservative leader blasts PA parley as 'pointless'
The Jerusalem Post - 19 January 2003
By Douglas Davies
LONDON - Opposition Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith has criticized the British government for "fiddling with pointless conferences while suicide bombers are malignantly burning their way through Israel."
Addressing a Jewish audience at a breakfast meeting on Friday, he said last Tuesday's conference on Palestinian reform in London, which was initiated by Prime Minister Tony Blair, "offers little hope."
"The British government has demonstrated once again that it does not understand the balance that is needed for peace to develop between Israel and the Palestinians," said Smith. Labor ministers must realize, he said, that "cosmetic grandstanding solutions and ill-thought-out conferences do more harm than good to a process which requires, above all, even-handedness.
"And that applies also to the prime minister's approach to meeting Israeli ministers," he said, an apparent reference to Blair's refusal to meet with Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last month but his decision to host Labor Party leader Amram Mitzna in London this month.
Duncan Smith attacked Blair for "giving support" to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat through a Palestinian conference, "while refusing to see the Israeli foreign minister."
"This does not seem very balanced," he said. "It will not advance the prospect of peace. But it is also very disturbing to contemplate the possibility that our taxpayers' money could be financing the bombs and explosives used to attack Israeli civilians."
He noted that Conservative European parliamentarian Charles Tannock is fighting to secure the support of 157 fellow legislators, the number required to establish a European parliamentary committee of inquiry, to investigate whether European Union aid to the Palestinian Authority is being diverted to fund terrorist attacks.
Tannock, he said, had told him, "We are not even sure who is actually monitoring the 10 million euros given every month given to the Palestinian Authority. The European Commission keeps stating that the International Monetary Fund 'provides a monitoring role,' but the director of external relations at the IMF said, 'The IMF does not monitor foreign assistance to the PA.' "
"There is also disturbing speculation," said Duncan Smith, "that the PA hides funds by exaggerating the number of employees they pay, by manipulating currency exchange rates, by forcefully deducting salaries for 'Fatah membership fees.' This must be investigated and it is the British Conservatives that are leading the fight to set up a committee to answer these questions."
He said it was "very disappointing" that not one Labor legislator in the European parliament had agreed to add his name to the list seeking an investigation into "the possible funding of terrorism against Israel... It is time for a reality check. You cannot appease terror."
Israel, he said, stands "in the front line [of] the war on terror [and] is a lighthouse of democratic values in a troubled region." He was troubled that it is "lambasted time and time again by those on the one hand who wish to appease terrorists, suicide bombers, and their ilk and, on the other, who use attacks on Israel to hide behind a veil of thinly disguised anti- Semitism."
While he was not uncritical of Israel, he added: "My party understands the difference between democracy and dictatorship. Israel's fight against terror deserves support."