Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why Is the U.S. Government Rushing to Give the PA More Aid?

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By Barry Rubin

The U.S. government is rushing an additional $150 million to the Palestinian Authority (PA) so that it can have a balanced budget. Funny, the United States doesn't have a balanced budget and the same government doesn't think that's a problem.

Moreover, the PA doesn't really tax its own people. The U.S. taxpayer is thus subsidizing its free services at the rate of about 50 cents per American. Since the PA actually rules a little over two million people (since it doesn't control either the Gaza Strip or east Jerusalem), this aid infusion alone provides each Palestinian there with about $75.

As if that isn't enough, though, one of the reasons the PA has run out of money is that it is spending $3.4 million for a museum to Yasir Arafat, a man who--among other things--once ordered the murder of the U.S. ambassador and deputy chief of mission in the Sudan and also rejected peace with Israel, destroying President Bill Clinton's heroic efforts to achieve a solution to the conflict. Arafat and his colleagues also stole hundreds of millions of dollars previously paid by U.S. taxpayers. Maybe the PA should collect that money if it needs additional funds. And here's a preview of what will be in the museum, based on what the PA teaches young Palestinians about him.

For more on Arafat see here. One can easily imagine what this museum will say about terrorism (endorsing), Israel (hating), and America (reviling).

I'm not advocating a cut-off in U.S. aid to the PA. Such assistance is indeed in the U.S. (and also Israeli, for that matter) interest. Having Hamas overthrow Fatah to take control of the PA would be a step for the worse and it is better if the West Bank's economy develops and living standards there are raised.

But it is not so clearly productive to be rushing to give the PA even more money despite its high levels of corruption and mismanagement; paying a lot of the money into the Gaza Strip which (whatever the intentions) strengthens Hamas rule there, refusal to negotiate with Israel or reduce incitement to violence and extremism. The administration seems most willing to use U.S. aid as leverage to get concessions from Israel but never seems to consider this in regard to the PA.

Like this administration's efforts toward a number of hostile countries, the U.S. government gives the impression that the PA is doing the United States a favor by taking its money. [For a broader view on this problem, see this article by Bret Stephens.] Here it is November 2010 and after almost two years the Obama Administration can't even get the PA to negotiate with Israel yet at a moment of financial crisis in America is eager to subsidize that regime to the extent that it doesn't even have to tax its own citizens.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports, http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.

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