Halpern: The true Palestinian economy


I'm thinking

Issue of August 28, 2010/ 18 Elul 5770

The international media is so concerned with covering the resumption of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians and so consumed with the opening of an operational nuclear power plant in Busher that another very important, but less media sexy story, has been virtually ignored.

The overwhelming bulk of Palestinian aid dollars comes from the United States and the European Union.  In real terms, 78% of the Palestinian budget is supplied by the US and the EU and only 22% is from Arab nations.

As of August, only $583.5 million has been donated to the Palestinians.  In 2008 Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates combined to donate a whopping $525.9 million to their Palestinians cousins.  This year the Saudis have given over only $30 million and the UAE has given – not a single cent.

The fact that the Arab world does not deem it significant enough to step forward and honor their commitments to the Palestinians turns the United States and the European Union into patsies, suckers.

Let’s do some math:  If the US is giving half of the 78% of $583.5 million and the EU is giving the other half in an even split, 78% of $583.5 equals $455.  Half of $455 million equals $227 million.  The US share comes to about $227 million.

There are about 2.4 million Palestinians living in the West Bank, including Jerusalem.

That’s absurd.

It gets worse.  Of the 148,000 Palestinian government bureaucrats, including teachers, 67,000 live in Gaza.  And they all receive pay checks signed by the Palestinian Authority – on money deposited into the account by Uncle Sam.  The money is a safety net for the Gaza economy.  So, yes, US tax payer dollars support the Palestinian Authority and then the PA subverts the dollars so that the US is also, even if inadvertently and unintentionally, supporting Hamas.   That the PA helps support arch enemy Hamas in Gaza is another story for another time.

Given the amount of money that the Palestinians are getting from the United States, given that the US and the European Union are almost the sole supporters of the PA, you would think that Abbas and his Fatah government would be in the proverbial pocket of the US, that they would answer to the beck and call of the US, that they would jump as high and through as many hoops as the US demanded of them.

But US foreign policy is not like that.

And given the comparatively paltry funds that the rest of the Arab world has given the Palestinians, you would think that the United States would insist that they step back and butt out of the machinations and negotiations the United States is attempting to orchestrate between the Palestinians and Israelis.

But the Arab world is not like that.

There is no actual Palestinian economy.  They live almost exclusively on the dole, they live off donations.   The Arab world has virtually abandoned them.  But as long as the United States continues to support them – financially and diplomatically, the Palestinians will continue to make demands.

It makes no sense.  That’s what makes it so scary, that’s what makes this story so important.