The Poor Palestinians

Israel has been getting hammered by the State Department for refusing to turn over tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority and thereby allegedly contributing to the financial collapse of the PA. Israel says that it sees no reason to hand money over to the Palestinians who are fomenting violence and killing its citizens. The tax revenues should not be the issue; however, the Palestinian economy is in shambles because of corruption and the financial problems the PA is having should be solved by taking measures that have nothing whatsoever to do with Israel.

First, Israel is absolutely correct in withholding money so long as the violence continues. The government must use whatever tools it has to demonstrate to the Palestinians that the inability or unwillingness to stop the violence has a cost. Economic sanctions may be severe, but they are still a milder response than a military one.

The shortfall in Palestinian income is not simply due to the Israeli action. On the contrary, the international community has been reluctant to follow through on promises of aid to the PA because it is clear to everyone that the money is not going to help the people, but to line the pockets of Arafat and his cronies. The Arab countries suspended the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars, collected as donations, meant for the PA. The justification for the Arab states' action is their concern that the funds will be embezzled and encourage further corruption in the PA.

If the PA is really in such dire straits, why doesn’t it take the steps necessary to reduce costs and cover expenses? Every day we read in American newspapers about major companies laying off thousands of workers. Instead of whining about not having money to pay 36,000 policemen, why don’t they fire half. This would not only save them money, but put themselves in compliance with the Oslo agreements.

The Palestinians also have billions salted away in foreign bank accounts, let them use that money for a bailout. They also have opened “embassies” around the world even though they have no state. Let them close these missions and sell the property to pay their bills.

If the PA is ever going to be a viable state, it is going to have to live within its means, learn to budget effectively and eliminate corruption, and it can’t depend on charity from others or it will be another Third World welfare state. Given that the Palestinians have been the only people on international welfare for the last 53 years, perhaps they have just come to expect it.

The most disturbing aspect of the PA’s financial crisis is that the Palestinians have not responded rationally. The expectation of the peace process was that cooperation and coexistence would foster an improvement in the economy and living conditions of the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israelis believed it was in the Palestinians’ self-interest to make peace, but that has not turned out to be the case. They are willing to sacrifice their well-being for the pursuit of war against Israel. This is even clearer in the case of the Islamic fundamentalists who don’t care a whit about economics and will pursue their jihad against the Jews as long as a Jewish state exists.

So long as most Palestinians, or at least the leadership, prefers murdering Israeli men, women and children to earning a living and supporting their families, peace will be an illusion. It is time the United States and other nations stopped fostering that illusion and put the blame for the PA’s economic crisis and the collapse of the peace process where it belongs — solely on the shoulders of Yasir Arafat.