A Billion Reasons to Continue the Conflict

Bibi Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas can surely agree on two issues. First, neither wants to see a Palestinian state established. Second, both must repeat, at every international diplomatic forum, that the establishment of a Palestinian state is exactly what they want.

When Netanyahu says he favors establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes Israel as a Jewish state, his intention is clear— such a state cannot feasibly exist. No Palestinian leader could possibly accept a smaller, less well-armed and, so, less powerful state than the state of Israel. On the other hand, Abbas’s inability to prevail upon the UN Security Council by pleading the Jordanian version of peace was predictable. This ‘failure’ paved the way for him to file a motion for recognition at the International Criminal Court.

If these facts describe the case, shall we consider again the rhetorical question— why does Abbas not really want a Palestinian State? This question comes with 31 billion ready-made answers.

From the Oslo Accords until today, the Palestinians have received over $31 billion in donations from the international community. These funds were designed, of course, to help Yasser Arafat and his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, build a sound infrastructure for the West Bank and Gaza. Instead, Palestinian leaders have done anything and everything with that money with the sole exception of using it to assist the Palestinian people. In fact, Abbas’s personal and family fortune is estimated, currently, at between half a billion to one billion dollars. Does this make sense to anyone?

Everyone knows the Palestinian leaders are stealing money outright. Yet, amazingly, all parties still contribute, literally, to this situation. Why is this happening? The Palestinians have convinced the world they are victims of a European colonialism that has been carried out by the State of Israel. Blame Europe; blame the UN; blame the US and, of course, above all, proclaim that Israel deserves blame.

All parties are blamed except the one with direct responsibility to manage the budgets created by the financial aid given to the Palestinians. The truth is plain— Palestinian leaders are the guilty party.

Ignoring the Signposts

Recently, I took a “tour of signposts” in and around Jericho. Dozens of roadside signs stand near dozens of empty and neglected fields. Each is decorated with festive lettering in English and Arabic.  A typical one reads, “Thank you to the citizens of the United States, Japan and Germany, as well as to the Ministry of Construction and Housing of the Palestinian Authority.  An agricultural and technological enterprise will be built here. Budget: $50 million. Estimated date of conclusion – 2009″.  Sign after sign appears. Empty field after empty field appear as well.

Palestinian leaders erect a new sign, cut a new ribbon and celebrate with a new ceremony. Then, the new money disappears. Remarkably, all of this takes place, repeatedly and openly, for everyone to see, yet no one is ashamed.

Then again, imagine what might happen if Abbas invested this money in infrastructure for road construction and the development of modern, job-creating industries, instead of transferring the money into his own pocket or for paying salaries to Hamas.

Crashing Abbas’ Party

Imagine again, if you can, that honest policies were put in place, accompanied by real and sincere negotiations with Israel that issued in the signing of a peace agreement. Once such a Palestinian state landed on its feet, her people would stand a good chance of making their rapid escape from poverty, while sharing still better future prospects.

Ah, but should that happen, the flow of foreign financial aid will dry up, bringing the private celebrations and parties of Abbas, his family and their associates to a final end. This result is simply unimaginable.

I know— from personal friendships with Arabs in East Jerusalem— that quite a few speak behind the scenes, in whispers, of their hopes for a “Palestinian Spring”. They do not propose by this a ‘spring of opposition’ against the Jewish state, but rather against corrupt Palestinian leadership. Until this authentic, internal opposition emerges into public view and succeeds, both diplomatic sides will replay their games of “make believe” and we may be certain that no Palestinian partner with a sincere desire to resolve the conflict will come forward.