Arab sources

Donations are being held up, because of Palestinian corruption

July 8, 2004

July 2004 may be seen as a turning point in the game of overseas aid for the Palestinians. We have already noted how Palestinians are openly accusing the established their leadership of theft.

Now, it is the turn of the Egyptians. What is gradually emerging from the talks between Egyptian intelligence chief, General Omar Suleiman, and Chairman Arafat in Ramallah on June 23, is that the Egyptian team demanded real reform from the PA. There are two Arab sources for this information; the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi and the Jerusalem Post reporter, Khaled Abu Toameh.

To summarise the reports: -

1) The Egyptians have a list of 70 corrupt Palestinian leaders, who have diverted overseas taxpayers' money and who must be dismissed.

2) PA security forces must be reduced from 12 to 3 groupings, which Chairman Arafat will not run.

The British newspaper, citing a PA source, noted that the Egyptians had made matters perfectly clear to Chairman Arafat. Donors are unwilling to cough up more funds until fundamental reforms have been undertaken. They already "estimate that hundreds of millions of dollars did not arrive at their destination".

And here lies the catch. Donors, and in particular the EU, have long claimed that: -

(a) Financial contributions have produced reforms. (A classic example is Mr C. Patten's speech on June 19, 2002.)

(b) There has been none or minimal financial irregularities. (See the majority report of MEPs. It is time to admit. Either donors have been blind up to now or they have been deliberately disguising parts of the truth.

The Funding For Peace Coalition is under no doubts as to which explanation is more plausible. Even as this report was being prepared, a member of our team had an off-the-record conversation with a European diplomat. The attaché made it perfectly clear that most of the previous European claims about reform had very little base to them.

A report from the World Bank in March 2003 noted that nearly half the Palestinian population was living in poverty. It further observed that along with less Israeli restrictions, Palestinian reform was one of the prime remedies to help resolve the problem. With the rare exception of the Palestinian Finance Minister, no reforms have been forthcoming for years.

And for years, donors have given away billions. Palestinians have remained poor. Their leaders have remained rich. And there has been money available to finance the violence, both guns and books of hatred.

The Palestinian Arabs deserve better. Peace deserves a chance.

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