It’s not unexpected, none of it. But this makes it no less tolerable. The happenings at the "donor" meeting of 90 nations and agencies in Paris.
The international community is rushing to bankroll the PA. Abbas was looking for $5.6 billion over three years, but the nations and organizations of the world are so eager to be on board that they’ve pledged $7.4 billion (though there’s no guarantee it will all materialize); for the year 2008, the US has pledged $550 million and Europe and the Japanese $800 million.
Condoleezza Rice participated, undoubtedly with great relish. She urged generous support, saying, "The Palestinian Authority is experiencing a serious budgetary crisis. This conference is literally the government’s last hope to avoid bankruptcy."
How does one avoid becoming infuriated in the face of this? There was — as was entirely predictable — no demand for accountability. The PA is rife with corruption and mismanagement. But let’s hear those pledges for funds to save the Palestinians from themselves.
One example of mismanagement will suffice here: The PA payroll is severely bloated. Tens of thousands of people beyond what had been stipulated at Oslo were put on the rolls of the security forces by Arafat; there were was supposed to be 30,000 in these forces and ended up 80,000. This offering of "proteczia," this bribery, was his style. As one Palestinian explained, "Arafat wanted to provide jobs for as many Palestinians as possible…The international community was anyway paying the salaries."
But since Abbas replaced Arafat this hasn’t changed. In fact, now PA authorities are afraid to let all of the excess people go, because once unemployed they will be disgruntled and might end up with Hamas. So the international community will pay a bloated payroll. The majority (70%) of the funds will go for expenses such as this, not for development at all.
What is more — guaranteed — some of those payroll funds will end up in the hands of terrorists, because terrorists have been put on the PA payroll. A good number of them don’t even show up for work.
And corruption? As Ephraim Inbar put it in July: "…billions of euros transferred to the PA have been squandered and misused. The PA…[is] quite ingenious in siphoning parts of the aid to those members least in need of outside support."
Abbas even received a letter recently from an anti-corruption "young Turk" of the Fatah party who’s in prison. He, backed by hundreds of others, implored Abbas to get his own house in order before negotiating with Israel.
But never mind…rush to help the poor Palestinians . Don’t ask them hard questions, that wouldn’t be politically correct.
One of the most serious mistakes being made here is the assumption that pouring money into Palestinian coffers will promote civil reform — that it will "fix" things. The hard reality is that over the last several years the Palestinians have received per capita more money in international support than any other people. By the light of this reasoning, they should be doing marvelously well now. But as it is, they have no civil infrastructure in place.
Of course, we are being told that the reason the Palestinians haven’t thrived and made something of themselves is because of the "occupation," which is nonsense. After Oslo we pulled out of Palestinian population centers; they were free to develop in a host of ways, but did not.
And today there was the despicable arrogance of Abbas, who plays his role so well. Said he:
"I’ll be eager to implement all our commitments under the road map, and I expect the Israeli side to do the same, comprehensively, and without excuses, by us or by them.
"I expect them to stop all settlement activities, without exceptions."
How noble this sounds . But Abbas is afraid to leave Ramallah for fear of physical harm. His security officers have admitted that the forces are incompetent and have no orders to go after gunmen associated with Fatah. Abbas cannot honor his commitment under the roadmap to eliminate terrorist infrastructure. But he makes demands of us.
Abbas is quoted as having said today that he won’t negotiate with Hamas, but what I’m reading is that he won’t negotiate "based on a fait accompli," which I take to mean their takeover of Gaza. He’s been saying this all along, and Hamas has been signaling willingness to undo part of that takeover. I see Abbas’s statement today as a ploy to satisfy donors and no more. Several times already I’ve relayed credible reports indicating that Fatah is talking with Hamas with an eye to reconciliation.
Abbas also alluded to the dire conditions in Gaza (which he said was headed for "catastrophe"); he made a bid for international support for Gaza, which would mean reducing the isolation of Hamas.
(Cynic that I am, in my head I can hear Abbas advising the Hamas leaders, "Keep a low profile here and I’ll see if I can get something for you, too.)
John Bolton gave an interview on Arutz Sheva radio today. He said that the NIE report was more political than intelligence-based, and was meant only to undercut President Bush’s policies on Iran.