Just one week before the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia held a hearing entitled Promoting Peace? Reexamining U.S. Aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA), the PA was engaging in corruption and deceit.
On July 6th, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced that even though his government is in a “financial crisis,” the PA is nevertheless prepared for statehood. Due to the crisis, PA civil servants only received half of their June salary, which the Prime Minister blamed on Arab countries. “Fayyad said the PA had received only $331 million of the $970m promised by donors, including some Arab countries.”
As a response, Bassam Zakarneh, chairman of the Palestinian Authority Workers’ Union, which is barred from the PA-controlled media, launched an attack and investigation on Fayyad. Zakarneh told the Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper that he discovered Fayyad is giving money to the wives of ministers and officials in the “context of support for the poor and families of martyrs.” Zakarneh noted in basic terms that Fayyad is giving money to “people he is close with” under the guise of “social aid.”
Zakarneh explained that there is no real crisis: “There is no crisis that obliges the government to pay half salaries. There are tax revenues worth NIS [Israeli shekel exchange rate] 350 million, local taxes worth NIS 150 million and a $40 million grant from the European Union. All this money is in the hands of the government.”
Like Fayyad, PLO Secretary-General Yasser Abed Rabbo blamed the crisis on Arab countries and tried to divert attention with promises of statehood, and anti-Israel propaganda. Abed Rabbo claims the PA cannot rely on negotiations to “end the occupation” and that “the crisis would not prevent the PA from proceeding with its plan to ask the United Nations in September to recognize a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines.”
Committee members and witnesses presumably came to the hearing on Tuesday, July 12, 2011 with the knowledge of these events. Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) asked Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Jacob Walles to justify giving aid to the PA, given that it’s been 18 years since the Oslo Accords, saying, “it’s hard to believe Israel has a partner for peace.” Walles responded, “I believe that President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad are committed to peace.” Walles also said that “we’ve seen improvement in security” and that “we believe it’s in our national interest.”
Chabot responded, “Many of us are skeptical over this aid. What are the implications if Fayyad is not the next Prime Minister?”
Walles answered, “We have faith in Fayyad. I don’t want to get into helping the PA choose their next PM… It’s not about choosing the individual; it’s about the organization as a whole.”
According to Bassam Zakarneh, even Palestinians don’t have faith in Fayyad. How can the United States?
The second witness, Lt. General Michael Moeller, described the new Palestinian National Army, its National Security Forces, as a fundamental reason to provide aid to the PA. Moeller supported this by saying, “Israelis approve of U.S. funding to the PA.”
Israel is willing to take great risks for peace; therefore, the country is willing to approve of the aid, but that doesn’t mean that the people don’t have grave concerns at the same time. When journalist Dana Lewis interviewed Israeli Deputy P.M. Dan Meridor on the training initiative, Meridor expressed skepticism and unease: “If the whole thing collapses, who knows what these weapons will be used for… I am not playing down the risks, but if we don’t agree to anything, and leave the situation unresolved terror may erupt”.
Unfortunately, Meridor has good reason for concern. The PA has not renounced violence, said Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY). The PA needs to stop “winking at terrorism here and there,” he added, such as naming squares, schools, and stadiums after notorious terrorists.
When Hamas came up in the hearing, the third witness George A. Laudato, Special Assistant to the Administrator for the Middle East, commented, “We do not work with Hamas, but we monitor [them] very closely.”
Walles claimed, “We have not seen any direct Hamas involvement in the Flotilla.”
According to the Jerusalem Post, Walles is wrong: “Hamas leader from Holland Amin Abu Rashid has been seen in recent days training with a Gaza-bound flotilla crew in Greece, according to a report by Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf on Thursday. Rashid, described as the ‘brain’ behind the flotilla, helped arrange the purchasing of the Dutch boat expected to be used in the expedition, De Telegraaf reported.”
Walles also confirmed that the U.S. gave $77 million dollars in aid to Gaza, but said, as if to justify the aid, “everything goes through Israeli checkpoints.”
It all comes back to what Chairman Chabot said when he opened the hearing:
“The Palestinian Antiterrorism Act of 2006 very clearly stipulates conditions that must be met in order for U.S. assistance to continue, including that any Palestinian government accept the three Quartet principles: Acknowledging Israel’s right to exist, renouncing violence, and agreeing to abide by past agreements. No U.S. taxpayer money can or should go to a Palestinian government that does not embrace these three simple principles.”
Therefore, no U.S. taxpayer money should go to Gaza or the Palestinian Authority since Fatah, Mr. Abbas’s party in the West Bank, and Hamas in Gaza have signed a reconciliation agreement and do not acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, nor have they renounced violence or abide by past agreements.
It looks like the committee will take this issue to a vote in the fall, but at that point, the Palestinian Authority may have already declared statehood at the UN, an act we can only hope Obama will veto.