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Palestinians Find the Aid Cupboard is Bare

Palestinians Find the Aid Cupboard is Bare
The good times for the Palestinian Authority are over.
By Hugh Fitzgerald

The Palestinians were once the favored recipient of foreign aid, as billions of dollars were heaped upon them every year from so many the donors – the United States, Western European countries, and the Gulf Arab states. But since 2014, there has been a steady, precipitous drop in that aid, and now, so far in 2022, there has been no foreign aid coming in for the P.A at all. A report on the colossal drop in aid is here: “Foreign cash aid to Palestinian Authority so far this year: $0,” Elder of Ziyon, April 21, 2022:

Estephan Salameh, who is the advisor to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas for aid coordination, says that no foreign countries have paid a red cent so far this year of their pledges to help the Palestinian budget.

He said, “We expect to receive 200 to 300 million dollars in international financial support for the Palestinian government treasury this year, but so far none of those financial pledges have arrived.”

Speaking to Voice of Palestine Radio, Salameh said that in 2021, the Palestinian Authority only received 10% of the amount it had gotten in 2013 and 2014. That was when the EU and Arab governments didn’t care about accountability or transparency.

In 2015, as the donor nations began to insist on an end to the colossal corruption in the PA, and made the momentous decision to cut their aid until “accountability and transparency” were instituted, they steadily turned down the spigot of aid until, with the PA still unable or unwilling to come clean about its finances, by 2021 the PA was receiving only 10% of what it had been getting just seven years before. And now, one-third of the way through 2021, the PA has received no aid from foreign donors.

A donors’ conference, scheduled to be held on May 5 in Brussels, will attempt to garner international support for the Palestinian treasury, and the Palestinians hope to convince attendees to pressure Israel to stop reducing tax revenues in the amount that the Abbas regime uses to pay terrorists and their families, which is a significant portion of the PA budget. In 2021, the PA paid some $270 million as rewards to terrorists.

“Obliquely alluding to the well known corruption in the PA that has prompted the huge drop in aid, Salameh added, “”We are implementing a comprehensive reform plan, especially in the financial and economic sectors.”

Which they have said for many years.

First, the conference in Brussels on May 5 will be taking place when all eyes will be on Ukraine, and the tens of billions of dollars it needs to continue to fight its war, which may go on for months, and for humanitarian aid — housing, medicine, food — needed to support the five million Ukrainian refugees who have already fled the country at this point, with millions more expected in the coming months. Donor countries will be thinking about the Ukrainians, who are genuine refugees, and comparing them to the Palestinians in both Hamas-run Gaza and in the PA-run parts of Judea and Samaria, who have been living off the international dole for decades, and clearly believe it is their due to be supported indefinitely — an assumption that now infuriates donors.

The drop in aid began in 2014 when the tales of massive corruption in the PA began to spread. By now everyone knows that Mahmoud Abbas, with his two sons Tareq and Yasser, has amassed a $400 million fortune, but it took quite a while for that information to leak out to the Western donors and be confirmed by them. Then there are the lesser sums, measured in the millions of dollars, of aid money to which Abbas loyalists have been allowed to help themselves. There is also rampant nepotism, with extravagantly-paid sinecures provided to the relatives of those loyalists, and that too has become better known as complaints by ordinary Palestinians themselves reach the West. The same corruption, on an even grander scale, has taken place in Gaza, where two Hamas leaders, Khaled Meshaal and Mousa ibn Marzouk, have managed to acquire at least $2.5 billion apiece, while 600 “Hamas millionaires” live in grand style in Gaza, away from the prying eyes of the impoverished populace. No wonder there is no longer any enthusiasm for pouring money into the pockets of the Palestinian leaders, who take so much for themselves, or to support ordinary Palestinians, who have become the welfare queens of international aid.

Another reason for the drop in aid from the United States is the Taylor Force Act, passed by Congress in 2018, which prohibits aid being given to the P.A. as long as its “Pay-For-Slay” program remains in force. That program commits to the PA to giving large monthly stipends to imprisoned terrorists and to the families of terrorists who died while committing their attacks. The Bidenites in 2021 sent some money to the PA by describing it as “humanitarian aid” and therefore exempt from the Taylor Force Act, but has not done so in 2022, perhaps calculating that a Congressional challenge to its continuing to give aid to the Palestinians would be risky in an election year.

Then there is the EU, which for a long time has been a generous supporter of the PA, but no longer. For the last several years, the EU has demanded that the PA remove the antisemitic and violent content from its schoolbooks. The PA promises to do so, without fail, and then, year after year, does nothing. At some point the EU was bound to stop the farce, and in 2022, that is what has happened. No money has yet been sent this year by the EU to the PA, and the EU has vowed no money will be sent, until the revised or replaced textbooks have appeared in the schools.

The Palestinian spokesman lamenting the lack of foreign aid doesn’t dare to mention that all the PA has to do to satisfy the EU, and have the tap of its aid turned on again, is to remove the antisemitic hate from those schoolbooks. So simple, and yet, so impossible a task for those raised up in such hate themselves, and whose raison d’ėtre is the destruction, by degrees, of the Jewish state. So far, the EU has given no signs of backing down on conditioning any more of its aid to the PA on the revision or replacement of those schoolbooks. After so many years of massive corruption within the PA, and of its failing to deliver on its solemn promises to clean up its textbooks, the EU no longer sees the PA as a worthy recipient of its aid. Besides, the EU is now overwhelmed by the immediate and enormous need to help Ukrainians, both those who have lost their homes but remain, displaced, inside the country, and those who have fled Ukraine altogether.

The Gulf Arabs have also slashed their aid to the PA – down to nothing – for other reasons. They have grown sick of the constant whining by the PA for more aid. In 2018, when Mahmoud Abbas was het again complaining to the Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MbS) of the need for more aid being given to the PA, an exasperated MbS told Abbas “just accept whatever deal the Americans offer you.” In other words, stop holding out for the impossible, and stop bothering me with your demands for more money. The Saudis feel they have done enough.

The other Gulf state that has been a major donor to the Palestinians, the UAE, has been similarly disenchanted with the PA. The Emiratis were furious when the PA bitterly criticized them for joining the Abraham Accords in 2020, and since then has withheld its formerly generous contributions. Bahrain another donor to the PA, has also cut off its aid for the same reason – the criticism directed at it by the PA for joining the Abraham Accords.

These are the varied reasons why the Americans, the Europeans, and the Gulf Arabs have chosen to cut their aid to the PA down to zero in 2022. A donor’s conference on renewing aid to the PA is be held on May 5. I doubt if much will come of it. The PA is not going to end its corruption and nepotism; that’s the glue that keeps the PA together. It is not going to change its textbooks as it has promised the Europeans it would do so over many years. Where would the Palestinians be if they stopped inculcating antisemitic attitudes in their young? And the Palestinians will never reconcile themselves to the Abraham Accords and those who have joined it. Renewed aid from the Gulf Arabs is a Palestinian pipe dream.

Perhaps this is the year that Mahmoud Abbas will finally end the PA’s Pay-For-Slay program, in order to have Israel transfer to the PA the tax money it has been withholding in an amount equal to what the PA spends on its “Pay-For-Slay” program. That will bring in a few hundred million dollars. It’s a start. But the really good times for the PA, in the years leading up to 2014, when billions of dollars in aid were flowing in, from America, from Europe, from the Gulf Arabs, will not come again. And the Palestinians must know it.

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