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Pledging Billions to the PA in Paris

18 December 2007

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Yesterday’s Paris conference collected $7.4 billion in pledges from donor nations for the Palestinian Authority. Over the next several years these funds are to be used to keep the “moderate” PA, led by President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and PM Salam Fayyad, from total financial collapse. One third of the funds are for development. US Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice warned that such monies were needed to “avoid bankruptcy” while Abbas spoke of “risking disaster” should the monies not be forthcoming. The US will give $555 million and the EU $650 million. Arab countries made pledges but are not expected to necessarily pay up. Hosting the conference French Pres. Nicholas Sarkozy asked for Israel to allow much freer movement for Palestinians in the West Bank (meaning a removal of roadblocks) provided Israel’s security was not threatened. Turning to the Palestinians he insisted they must ensure “law and order” over their own people if there was to be any chance of success. Here lies the Achilles Heel.

Theoretically the conference was a success, in reality there is little chance the Fatah led PA will do much. At the moment there are thousands of PA police employed throughout the West Bank but they are of little significance. Nablus, the most populous Palestinian city is the heart of terrorism, whether perpetrated by the Hamas, Islamic Jihad or rejectionist Fatah groups such as the Al-Aksa Brigades. Another 300 PA police are already deployed in Nablus but make little difference. They are expected to patrol the streets between 6AM and midnight giving a feeling of security to the population and holding down crime. This is a limited success but the big issue they are not confronting – the Hamas/Jihad underground. This job is left to the Israeli army from midnight to 6AM when the PA police are confined to their barracks. The PA police refuse to confront the Hamas/Jihad for if they did they would surely lose. More than ever the West Bank population is pro-Hamas.

Despite the fact that economist trained PM Fayyad is honest and is working to better the Palestinian lifestyle and raise the standard of living through infrastructure development, investments, jobs and security, he barely stands a chance. Monies donated to the Palestinians in the 1990s were siphoned off by Arafat and his officials leading to losses of billions of dollars. Most of those officials are still part of the PA today. Fayyad promises that will not happen again. Some 70% of the funds will go to pay salaries, keep the PA afloat and assure funding for the security forces.

If the Hamas takeover in Gaza is any indication the Palestinian security forces (if we can call them that) are the biggest problem. They are not particularly loyal to the PA, many may secretly support Hamas, many if not most have their first loyalties to family and clan while others are considered hopelessly corrupt. The better armed they are, the more weapons and ammunition will find its way to the Hamas/Jihad and when the final battle comes the PA police will melt away, either scurrying back to their villages or actively joining their adversaries.

It makes no difference whether it be Annapolis, Paris or Moscow (future conference). The Palestinian People and certainly their activists want the Hamas/Jihad. They voted as such in the January 2006 elections and the latest opinion polls prove their preferences have not changed. Furthermore, the non-recognition and eventual destruction of Israel are seen as sacred objectives by most.

With dozens of rockets fired into Israel from the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip in the last few days and the continuous calls made for Israel’s extermination by Hamas leaders PM Ismail Haniya (of the Gaza Strip) and Khalid Mashal (in Damascus) there is no better evidence that all talks of peace, no matter how well intentioned, will get nowhere. The IDF is dealing with the Hamas/Jihad in the West Bank not only because the PA police are not seen as capable of doing so, but because they are not motivated to nor do they believe they should take on the challenge.

Everyone is going through the motions of making peace and throwing money (or at least pledging it) at the problem is the easiest solution. There will only be a chance of peace – slim as it might be - should the Palestinians reject the Hamas/Jihad Islamists and Fatah Al-Aksa Brigades instead of embracing them.