by Khaled Abu Toameh
The Palestinian Authority has announced that it is facing a severe financial crisis, largely due to the failure of Arab countries to fulfill their promises to help the Palestinians.
Because of the failure of the Arab countries to provide financial aid to the Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority is almost entirely dependent on US and EU contributions.
The financial crisis in the Palestinian Authority raises doubts as to whether the Palestinians are indeed ready for statehood. If the Palestinian Authority has to ask Americans and Europeans to pay salaries to its civil servants, how can it demand an independent and sovereign state from the United Nations in September?
What other country in the world depends on foreign aid to support its civil servants and employees?
In addition, the Palestinian Authority should launch a real and serious investigation to find out what happened to hundreds of millions of dollars that went missing under Yasser Arafat. Many Palestinians believe that the stolen money could resolve the current crisis and improve their living conditions.
The Palestinian Authority should at least show the US and the EU countries that it is making an effort to restore the money and punish those responsible for embezzlement. Future aid to the Palestinians should be contingent on the Palestinian Authority leaders' proving that they have done their utmost to get the money back.
If the Palestinian leadership does not comply and continues to ignore the issue, as it has done for the past few years, then the US and the EU should reconsider their policy of funding the Palestinian Authority without holding it accountable.
The US and the EU also have every right to demand that the Palestinian Authority stop inciting against Israel and the West: this incitement has only radicalized many Palestinians. There is no reason why Western donors should be funding the same propaganda machine that is calling for their death.
So far, however, the Palestinian Authority does not seem to be serious about tracing the missing funds or softening its tone. Even worse, some of the Palestinian officials who were involved in financial corruption are continuing to serve in the Palestinian Authority as if nothing has happened.
And they are at the same time continuing to incite their people against Israel, the US and other Western countries.
The Palestinian Authority will not meet any of these demands unless it comes under pressure from the US and the EU.
Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced that, because of the crisis, his government would pay only half-salaries to employees and civil servants. His aides say they do not know when the crisis will end.
Palestinian officials in Ramallah point out that with the exception of three countries – the United Arab Emirates, Algiers and Qatar – the rest of the Arab world has failed to meet its financial obligations to the Palestinian Authority.
"We have received less than 10% of what the Arab world has promised us over the past 15 years," the officials say.
The Arab world's attitude toward the Palestinian Authority in particular, and the Palestinians in general. should not surprise anyone who has been following Palestinian-Arab relations.
Most of the Arab countries, especially the oil-rich Gulf states, stopped giving the Palestinians money after the PLO supported Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in the early 1990s.
Until then, the Arabs, including Kuwait, used to give the PLO billions of dollars a year. The Palestinians have since been paying the price of the mistake the PLO made when it embraced Saddam Hussein and congratulated him on the "liberation" of Kuwait.
After the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, many Arab countries promised to resume financial aid to the Palestinians at the request of the Americans and Europeans.
Almost every Arab summit that has been held since then has approved hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians. But the Arabs have since failed to fulfill their promises, leaving the Palestinians entirely dependent on American and European donations.
If the Egyptians were able to lay their hands on huge sums that were deposited in Western banks by Hosni Mubarak and his sons and top aides, there is no reason why the Palestinian Authority should not follow suit and try to retrieve the missing funds.
And the US and EU should exert pressure on the Arab countries to help their Palestinian brothers: there is no reason why wealthy Arab countries should not be helping the Palestinians as they pledged to do.
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