Where did the PA’s money go? (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By BARRY RUBIN 06/04/12)
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Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad says that his
regime is short of funds. And meanwhile a reader asks me: “Can you
please explain to me why 20 years after Oslo and billions in dollars
in foreign aid, the Palestinian Authority still has not built modern
hospitals? Or rather, why do the donor countries pour money down the
PA drain without expecting even some face-saving results?”
Good question. Short answer: Swiss bank accounts.
In other words, a huge amount of the money has been stolen.
There is nothing more distasteful than rulers of a people –
especially a poor people – who complain about their subjects’
suffering at the same time that they profit from it.
Of course, when some foreign observer sees Palestinians in poor
conditions they blame Israel, thus furthering the cause of the same
leaders who, by their intransigent policies, ensure that the
The personal wealth of PA “president” Mahmoud Abbas is estimated at
Add onto that millions of dollars for a large number of PA and Fatah
senior officials and you get the idea.
I have seen the villas of the PLO leaders in Tunis and the PA leaders
in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. I have followed in detail the saga
not only of Yasser Arafat’s personal stash but also how he used
corruption to sustain his political control. And his heirs mostly
continue to run the Palestinian movement.
It is easy to forget that the PA has existed for 18 years and
governed virtually every Palestinian there starting about 16 years
ago. That’s a long time. And while Israel can be accused of
harassment and putting up various roadblocks, its part in this
problem has been limited.
Indeed, Israeli actions that have hurt the PA’s economy have arisen
in direct response to episodes of terrorism, violent confrontation,
and allout wars started by the PA.
PA leaders have received more aid money per person than anyone else
in history and yet the results have been remarkably unimpressive. The
leaders have looted the money and used it as political pay-offs to
buy patronage. By patronage I mean paying off the proportionately
huge security forces that guard the PA and provide jobs for its
supporters and benefits for political supporters.
NOTE THAT in recent years the aid money has gone mostly to the West
Bank only, though some of it is used to pay PA employees in the Hamas-
ruled Gaza Strip to keep them loyal, even if these people just stay
at home. In other words, the level of aid has stayed the same but the
number of people being supported generally has been cut in half.
Yet the PA cannot provide jobs for most of its people or build good
institutions. Luxury apartments are going up but not hospitals,
schools and infrastructure improvements.
Even though the PA economy is doing well – how could it not do so
given the tidal wave of aid? – the regime cannot even enforce its own
law forbidding Palestinians from working on Jewish settlements on the
Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is respected in the West as a relatively
honest, professional and moderate guy who tries to stop the thievery.
He is totally powerless in political terms.
The leaders of Fatah have been working endlessly to get rid of Fayyad
so they can have unrestricted access to the loot again, while Hamas
also wants to fire him. Only the demands of the Western money donors
have kept him in office. But for how much longer will that be true?
Why does the world not pay attention to this massive theft,
inefficiency and misappropriation of funds? Simple.
The money is not being given for development purposes but for
political purposes; to keep the PA going and to make sure that Hamas
doesn’t take over the West Bank. That’s why President Barack Obama,
with Israeli government support, has just overridden Congress to
release even more US aid to the PA. He also has not objected to the
PA using that money to pay its former bureaucrats in the Gaza Strip,
thus indirectly benefitting Hamas, too.
Giving money to the PA supposedly supports the cause of peace and
therefore is considered sacrosanct in the West, even though the PA
isn’t negotiating for peace. From a cynical Western leadership
standpoint it can be said that at least the funding keeps things
relatively quiet in the face of lots of other troublesome issues in
Thus, they overlook the PA’s partnership deal with Hamas – which is
not working out so well anyway – and remained passive until the very
end about the PA’s violation of its own commitments to seek
unilateral independence at the UN.
The left-controlled media and academia don’t like Israel and
generally refuse to criticize the PA because it is allegedly
the “moderate,” “peace-loving,” “good guy” and victim. The
Palestinians, after all, are non-Christian, non-Western, and – in the
bizarre parody of reality prevalent today, “non-white.”
And so the Western taxpayers give the money, the PA leaders steal or
use the money for political purposes, and the average Palestinian
suffers more from this situation than from the largely
extinct “Israeli occupation.” If, as seems to be true, Fatah has
finally pried control over the money from the hands of Fayyad, whose
sin was honesty, the situation would get much worse. (© 1995-2011,
The Jerusalem Post 06/04/12)
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