Giving $5.2 billion to the Palestinian Authority (PA) will do little to bring real change in the condition of the Palestinian refugees or security in the Middle East. Instead of rebuilding the "shelters" in the refugee camps as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has done for decades, this huge sum of money should go to build new communities, industry and a civilian infrastructure for a viable Palestinian state.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared the U.S. has "worked with the Palestinian Authority to install safeguards that will ensure our funding is only used where and for whom it is intended and does not end up in the wrong hands."
The World Bank recommending that the donors give their "budget support" to the PA directly through its Central Treasury Account. It also suggested direct donations through other organizations such as: "the EU-PEGASE, the World Bank administered PRDP-Trust Fund," and a few others.
The U.S., the World Bank and other donors rely on Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's promise that the money would not reach Hamas or be used for any terrorist activity. Yet, Fayyad, a former Resident Representative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the West Bank and Gaza, has little control over PA funds in Fatah-controlled West Bank, let alone in Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Fayyad himself stated many times that controlling Palestinian finances "is virtually impossible." Moreover, last month, despite Fatah-Hamas bloody disagreements, Fayyad diverted $21.5 million sent from Israel to Gaza to pay PA employees' salaries, to rebuild the houses of Gaza residents that were destroyed during Operation Cast Lead. On March 7th, Fayyad announced his resignation, to facilitate the Fatah unity government with Hamas.
This was not the first time the Fatah-led government was sending money to Hamas. On Jan. 15, 2008, Fayyad's government declared it would give Hamas 40% ($3.1 billion) of the $7.4 billion that was pledged in December 2007 by international donors. Furthermore, in October, 2008, despite the bloody crackdown on Fatah members in Gaza, the PA was paying the salaries of at least 77,000 "loyal employees." Yet, before Hamas took over, there were only 21,000 PA paid loyalists in Gaza. Once the power-sharing negotiations between Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are completed, billions of dollars will go to Hamas, which continue to call for the destruction of Israel.
Since the Oslo Accords, the PA received some $14 billion to $20 billion in international aid, according to a 2007 Funding for Peace Coalition (FPC) report to the British Parliament. Each Palestinian received $4,000 to $8,000 per year. However, of the $7 billion pledged international aid, only $5 billion were spent to assist more than 5 million Tsunami victims in more than 15 countries on two continents.
If the newly pledged $5.2 billion are distributed, each of the 4 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza would receive $1,300 dollars. In comparison, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), provided in humanitarian aid for 2.5 million Darfur refugees from 2003 to 2006 -- only $100 per person annually.
The PA uses a large amount of the aid it receives to support the terrorist activities against Israel. Each Palestinian or Israeli Arab, imprisoned in an Israeli jail, is entitled to financial assistance from the Palestinian Authority, if he (or she) was sentenced for activity connected to the "struggle against the Israeli occupation."
Jonathan Dahoah-Halevi documented at least $40 million per year, paid to at least 11,600 (in march 2008) Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails. In addition, the PA uses its budget to assist thousands more released prisoners and pay bonuses to the families of suicide bombers. Thus, foreign aid to the PA should be given only when the PA publicly denounces terrorist activities against Israel and stop the support to the terrorists.
The billions of dollars poured into Gaza since Israel pulled out in 2005, have resulted in the strengthening of the radical Islamic Hamas. It keeps the Palestinians under its thumb poor and oppressed and uses their children and women as human shields. Hamas strives not only for the destruction of Israel. It hosts other terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, and uses the Gaza Strip as training grounds. With Iran's help, it threatens to undermine pro Western regimes in the region.
The only way to ensure the $5.2 billion produces a real change to the lives of the impoverished Palestinian in Gaza, create a viable Palestinian state and stability in the region, is by conditioning this money on the PA's cessation of all terrorist activities. Moreover, to ensure the funds do not reach Hamas and are used properly, the money should not be administered by any Palestinian organization, or Hamas supporting UNRWA , but by an international monitoring group.
Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld is Director of American Center for Democracy and author of Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed -- and How to Stop It.
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