by Joseph Puder
At least one Palestinian leader is honest enough to blame his “brotherly” Arab states for the cash crisis faced by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah. PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, in an interview with the Associated Press on Sunday, January 6, 2013 complained of an “unprecedented financial crisis” in the PA, largely due to the “Arab countries’ failure to dispatch promised millions of dollars in aid.” Ironically, it is the Jewish state of Israel that the Palestinians regularly vilify and seek to destroy, which hitherto, provided the financial wherewithal to the PA by transferring $100 million in tax rebates to Ramallah, an amount that covers a third of the PA monthly operating costs.
On November 29, 2012, the U.N. General Assembly upgraded the Palestinian status to non-member observer state, and last week the U.N. changed the way it refers to Palestinians from merely being “Palestine” to the “State of Palestine.” Israel hoped to negotiate in good faith with the Palestinian Authority and its President, Mahmoud Abbas, but the Palestinians circumvented the peace process by going directly to the U.N. in defiance of the Obama administration and Israel. That resulted in Israel cutting off subventions of $100 million to the PA coffers. The Israeli government withheld the money to settle the PA debt to Israeli companies.
Mahmoud Abbas, not content with changing how the U.N. now refers to Palestine, has ordered the words “Palestinian Authority,” the current operative designation, to be changed to the “State of Palestine” on all public documents in Palestinian-controlled areas, including ID cards, driver licenses, and passports.
While Abbas is busy with conferring new titles on his PA, his Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has to deal with the PA insolvency. The 22-nation Arab League promised to make up the funds Israel cut off in December. Mohammed Sobeih, an Arab League official, claimed that letters have gone out to individual member states, urging them to pay the promised $100 million. Fayyad, however, contended that PA financial problems rest with the delinquent Arab donors who failed to fulfill their pledge of support in accordance with Arab League resolutions. Fayyad made it clear that the EU and the U.S. have delivered on their commitments to the Palestinians, but he accuses the Arab states of not meeting their pledges.
The Arab states have stuck to the familiar rhetoric of Western responsibility for the Palestinian plight, and therefore the West should pay for the Palestinian Authority upkeep as well as the Palestinian Arab refugees cared for by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). In fact, it was the Palestinian leadership and leaders of Arab states that encouraged the Palestinian plight in 1948, and are largely responsible for the Palestinian refugee problem. The Arab states moreover, refused to absorb the Palestinians, and have used them for propaganda purposes. Kuwait has expelled 450,000 Palestinians in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, while Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria have refrained from giving the Palestinians citizenship. It is the same Arab states who have encouraged the Palestinians to resist accommodation with the Jewish State, and gave lip-service to the Palestinian cause, while they fall short on deeds when it comes to helping the Palestinians.
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy 2005 report revealed that “Arab states pledged $999 million in aid for 2004, of which $572 million was pledged by Arab members of OPEC (other than Iraq). Only $107 million of this aid was actually delivered. That left $892 million still owed by Arab states, including $467 million from OPEC members (other than Iraq). The largest amounts pledged, but not delivered, were from Libya ($148 million), Kuwait ($140 million), Iraq ($132 million pledged while Saddam Hussein was still in power), Egypt ($105 million), and Algeria ($86 million).”
According to Fayyad, the PA has reached a critical point at which it is unable to pay the salaries of about 150,000 government employees. Fayyad pointed out to the Associated Press that as a result of the crunch, the number of poor Palestinians will increase to 50% of the PA population. Additionally, private banks will no longer extend loans to the government, while the PA deficit is effectively over $1.5 billion.
The Palestinian Authority or as Mahmoud Abbas wants it called, the “State of Palestine” is unsustainable without foreign support. Not being endowed with oil or any other natural resources, the Palestinians, led by Yasser Arafat, aggravated their situation further by launching an Intifada against Israel in September, 2000. It resulted in Israel restricting Palestinian movement, including work permits inside Israel, and impacted trade. The PA depends on foreign aid and is seemingly unable to wean itself off.
At the core of the PA economic problems is the use of public sector employment as a mechanism for political patronage as well as local job creation. The public sector alone continues to expand while investments in the private sector are virtually non-existent; this causes an imbalance that outstrips fiscal revenues.
A World Bank report (December 2004) concluded that the PA “needs to reinvigorate its program of governance reform in order to create an internal environment more attractive to private investors. Doing that will require that the PA complete the cycle of popular elections it has embarked on, control lawlessness, develop a solid judicial system and address concerns about transparency and corruption.”
Pan-Arabism is a figment of the imagination with respect to the Palestinians. The plight of the Palestinians is used by the Arab regimes only when it can promote their political ends. These regimes champion the Palestinian cause mostly as a way to attack Israel. This serves to draw away attention from the misery of their people, and conversely, hide the success of the tiny Jewish state. The Arab regimes refuse to criticize one another or admit to their ill treatment of the Palestinians, and their hypocrisy is revealed in the deafening silence when the plight of the Palestinians no longer suits their needs. The Arab antagonism towards integrating Palestinian refugees into their societies has led to the denial of basic Palestinian rights to work and live, and in some cases has culminated in the outright violent expulsion of Palestinian families.
The welfare of the Palestinian people depends on responsible leaders able to focus on economic prosperity instead of seeking to eliminate the Jewish state. In fact, only close economic cooperation with Israel, which entails an end to terror and hate by the Palestinians, will bring about economic growth and political stability. It will also end Palestinian dependency on Western charity and on the Arab states that failed them.
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