We start with an article by Shoshana Bryen of the Jewish Policy Center, written on July 29 (emphasis added):
“The Palestinians,” she wrote, “face an economic crisis more severe than the World Bank had anticipated.
“…The World Bank blames the world economy and Israel. It does not find fault with Palestinian corruption, an outsized security force, an oversized bureaucracy, an overreliance on other people’s money, or the failure to find things to do that produce income. It declines to consider whether the ongoing Palestinian war against Israel has had an impact on the Palestinian economy.”
“…The World Bank and other donors fall precisely into the trap, treating Palestinian poverty as if it has no relationship to Palestinian government policy…If the Palestinians were nearly as worried about poverty (rather than cash flow) as the World Bank, their leadership would figure out how to produce something people in the real world value and for which they would pay.
An important article, which made significant points about the failure of the PA government, such as it is, to adopt responsible fiscal policies.
Bryen’s article actually followed on the heels of news releases regarding a World Bank assessment of the fiscal situation of the PA (emphasis added) :
“The Palestinian economy’s recent growth is unsustainable because of its heavy reliance on foreign aid…
“For the past two decades, donor countries have propped the Palestinian economy by giving billions of dollars.
“The study’s author, John Nasir, said the Palestinian Authority has made steady progress toward establishing a future state, ‘but the economy is currently not strong enough to support such a state.
“‘Economic sustainability cannot be based on foreign aid, so it is critical for the Palestinian Authority (PA) to increase trade and spur private sector growth,’ he added.”
Well, I thought, on reading these reports, this is going to put a crimp into PA plans for unilateral declaration of a state: The EU is solidly pro-Palestinian, but, struggling with their own fiscal problems, they’re not going to want to be left holding the bag on that state.
But, alas, as logical as my thinking may have been. it seems to have missed the mark. Consider this now, from YNet:
“The Palestinian Authority decided to renew its statehood bid during the upcoming United Nations General Assembly in September.”
Yup, that again! However…
“…political sources in Ramallah say that this year’s campaign will differ from the previous one.
“‘…What will happen in the upcoming September will not resemble last September; it’s a different story this time,’ a Ramallah official told Ynet.
“The difference between the bids is that last year the Palestinians turned directly to the Security Council, which is the only UN body that is authorized to grant the Palestinians the status of a full member in the organization.
“Last year, the Palestinians failed to garner the majority they needed in order to pass the vote at the Security Council.
“This time, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas plans to turn to the General Assembly, where the Palestinians are guaranteed an automatic majority. However, the General Assembly cannot grant the Palestinians full membership, but only upgrade their status to that of a non-member observer state. This status will enable them to seek membership in several UN agencies and at the International Criminal Court.
“Earlier, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki told reporters that Ramallah is seeking to secure 180 votes out of the 193-member body.
“‘We are looking forward to getting 180 votes,’ Malki said. ‘We will become a non-member (observer) state in 2012.’ Once that was achieved, he said, the Palestinians would pursue full UN membership…
“‘This is an ongoing struggle that will not stop and which we will continue to the end,’ Malki said.”
I don’t pretend to understand the presumptive legal fine points of all of this.
When I did research last year, I was told by one international legal expert after another that the UN cannot “declare” a state that does not already exist. The Security Council can recommend membership for a state that is already in existence, and presumably the General Assembly can do the same with regard to observer status. But if the GA were to do this, how would its action confer statehood on an entity that at present is not a state? My own suspicions are that we are looking at a bit of diplomatic/political slight-of-hand, otherwise known as “the UN does as it wishes.” If this is going to play out, I will be following it closely.
Most worrisome here, if this does play out, would be the charges the “Palestinian state” would attempt to press in the International Criminal Court against Israel. We are reminded, as well, of the mischief that the PA has already done as a member of UNESCO. (And yes, with acceptance of the PA as a member, UNESCO creates the legal fiction that it is a “state.”)
But let’s jump to yet another article about the PA — “Why Abbas Wants to Go Back to the UN in September.” This is by Khaled Abu Toameh, an Arab Israeli journalist with superb connections.
It takes us full circle:
“Abbas’s planned visit to New York coincides with a report published last week by the World Bank, disclosing that, because of the Palestinians’ heavy reliance on foreign aid, the Palestinian economy’s recent growth is unsustainable. His renewed efforts to achieve UN recognition also coincide with what Palestinian officials describe as the worst financial crisis facing the government of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
“Because of the crisis, the Fayyad government has not been able to pay full salaries to its 150,000 employees.
“Instead of devoting his efforts to solving the financial crisis and ending the power struggle with Hamas, Abbas has decided that it would be better if he sparked another confrontation with the US by going back to the UN.
“Abbas is hoping to divert attention from his problems at home by embarking on a new ‘adventure’ at the UN. From now until September, he is hoping to keep everyone busy with the new statehood bid at the UN.
“Civil servants who are not receiving full salaries will be asked to stay quiet because their president is too busy waging a diplomatic intifada against the US and Israel at the UN.
“Hamas will be asked to remain quiet and stop criticizing him because Abbas is ‘fighting in the international arena’ to achieve UN recognition of a Palestinian state.
“…Abbas’s decision to go back to the UN is nothing but a ploy designed to avoid internal problems. It is also a way of trying to extort the Americans and Europeans into channeling more funds into his coffers. Abbas’s threat: Give me more money or I will misbehave and file another request with the UN.” (Emphasis added)
Before turning from the issue of Palestinian Arabs, I wanted to share one more article, “Hamas Rising,” by Jonathan Schanzer, Vice President of Foundation for Defense of Democracies. A different take on the matter of the fiscal problems of the PA:
“Countries across the Middle East are opening their coffers to support the Palestinian cause — but the funds are increasingly being diverted in a direction that portends renewed conflict with Israel.
“The U.S.-supported Palestinian Authority (PA), on the one hand, is rapidly heading for the poor house…
“Meanwhile in the Gaza Strip, Hamas…is riding high on the beneficence of its new allies. After a rocky period during which Iran’s largesse to Hamas dried up, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s ongoing slaughter in Syria forced the group’s external leaders to flee from their headquarters in Damascus, the group has regained its footing.
“Hamas has two of the Middle East’s emerging Sunni powerhouses to thank for its change of fortunes.
“Qatar, despite an uneasy alliance with Washington that hinges on hosting a key U.S. airbase and now a new missile-defense station, has quietly become one of the Palestinian Islamist party’s most generous new benefactors…
“Perhaps the greatest beneficiary of Qatari support is Khaled Mashaal, the head of Hamas’s external operations…Indeed, Qatar appears to be the new global headquarters of the Hamas politburo: A June 2012 Congressional Research Service report confirmed Mashaal’s relocation to Doha, noting that the Gulf emirate is the place where he ‘conducts his regular engagement with regional figures.’
“The Qataris also appear to be helping Hamas reintegrate into the Sunni fold. That’s a tall order, considering that Hamas had long been on the Iranian dole…
“Turkey’s Islamist government has also embraced Hamas, both economically and diplomatically…
“It is in Ankara’s interest to keep direct assistance shrouded in secrecy — after all, it has a reputation to uphold among its NATO allies…
“Turkey, like Qatar, has also been an advocate of Hamas in the diplomatic arena for several years now.
“The Palestinian Islamist group also enjoyed a red-carpet welcome in Tunisia, where the Islamist al-Nahda party has taken the reins of power. This was a particularly galling development for the rival West Bank government, given that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Palestinian nationalist organization that Yasser Arafat founded and Abbas now heads, had previously used Tunis as its headquarters in exile.
“With Islamist movements gaining strength across the region, Hamas’s political rival has simply lost its mojo. The Palestinian Authority, created 18 years ago to midwife a two-state solution with Israel that has yet to materialize, is sorely lacking in popular appeal. It doesn’t help that the PA earned a reputation for being corrupt and ossified — two qualities that brought several Arab autocracies to their ends.
“The PA’s Western allies, meanwhile, are becoming less willing to underwrite its activities…”
This, I am afraid, describes the face of things to come. An in-depth review of shifting dynamics in the region, it touches upon matters ultimately more significant to Israel than Abbas at the UN.
More when and as time allows…
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.