Bret Stephens of the Jerusalem Post offers “a short history” of the Palestinian Authority’s corruption. Stephens reports that “according to a recent study by the International Monetary Fund of Palestinian public finances, the President’s Office annually consumes eight percent, or $74 million, of the Palestinian Authority’s published budget. Of that sum, some $40 million is spent on wages; the rest is for Yasser Arafat to dispose as he pleases.” On top of that are Arafat’s slush funds, “composed largely of monies pilfered from the EU and Israeli transfer payments, the kitty is estimated to contain anywhere between $300 million (according to Forbes) to $4 billion (according to Rawya Shawa of the Palestinian Legislative Council), and is distributed across bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, Switzerland, North Africa and – at least in the late 1990s – at the Hashmonaim branch of Bank Leumi in Tel Aviv.”
As is always the case, this kind of corruption brings with it the lawlessness and repression required to pull it off. Thus, Stephens reports:
“In 1999, Muawiya Al-Masri, a member of the PLC from Nablus, gave an interview to a Jordanian newspaper in which he denounced PA corruption. For his trouble, he was attacked by a gang of masked men and shot three times. ‘No minister can appoint a driver or a delivery boy in his ministry without the president’s consent,’ he said after the attack. ‘There is no institutional process. There is only one institution – the presidency, which has no law and order and is based on bribing top officials.’ That same year, Abdel Sattar Kassem, a political scientist also from Nablus, signed the Petition of the 20 – ‘to stand against this tyranny and corruption.’ He was jailed for six month. ‘I am fighting alone,’ he told this reporter after his release. ‘Our people are not up to their historic responsibility to defend those who would defend their rights.'”
President Bush challenged the Palestinian people to cast aside the corrupt, repressive, and perenially ineffective Arafat, promising (mistakenly in my view) to promote the creation of a Palestinian state if they did so. Again, however, the Palestinians were not up to it.
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