The Palestinian Authority's sorry state
Ramallah is not only liable for its abject mismanagement and economic parasitism. There is a far more basic issue at stake.
Palestinians ride mule cart in Ramallah protest Photo: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
No headlines were generated when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
recently insisted that there would be no peace unless Jews were “evacuated from
Jerusalem, our holy city and the eternal capital of our state.”
Palestinian Media Watch reported, Abbas told the official WAFA news agency and
the daily Al-Hayat al- Jadida that Israel’s “purpose is to achieve its black
goals: Destroying Al-Aksa Mosque, building the ‘alleged Temple,’ taking over the
Muslim and Christian holy sites, and destroying Jerusalem’s institutions in
order to empty it, uproot its residents, and continue its occupation and
While Abbas slanders willfully and fans the flames with
pyromaniac zeal, Israel underwrites him and facilitates his very political
survival. Demonstrators have taken to the streets of Ramallah and other PA
cities to decry the higher cost of living, venting pent-up anger and quite
possibly serving the Hamas agenda as well.
Abbas does his darndest to
perform political acrobatics by seeming to side with the populace, distancing
himself from unpopular premier Salam Fayyad and lowering assorted prices and
levies. This is classic populism and the anti-Israeli invective is a
long-established stratagem to divert attention from the people’s real workaday
Israel has traditionally functioned as the devil in Arab societies
and this is no exception. Hence the protesters spared us no
That said, Israel continues to regard Abbas and his Fatah
stalwarts as the lesser of available evils. To forestall a Hamas takeover, Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has just authorized a NIS 250 million advance on
taxes Israel collects for the PA, among other moves to ease the pressure on cash
Netanyahu wished the PA success in surmounting its
current difficulties, maintaining that this is a joint interest and noting the
global crisis and the problematics in Ramallah’s economic
That, of course, isn’t even a minuscule fragment of the
larger picture. Numerous factors contribute to making the PA an economic basket
case. The notorious corruption at the top is only one. The funds contributed by
overseas benefactors are misspent and do not begin to compensate for chronic
failures to erect a sound economic foundation.
Whenever things get tight,
Ramallah cries out for greater handouts that then promptly disappear down its
drain. When donor economies themselves fall on hard times, such rescue becomes
trickier to attain.
Moreover, dependence on foreign philanthropy is not
conducive to constructing viable self-reliance.
The obligatory mantra for
both the incompetent leadership and the volatile masses is to blame Israel and
so-called occupation for their intractable mess. Israel in its omnipresent role
as the regional bogeyman is the universal Arab glue.
The facts, however,
consistently belie the accepted Palestinian cop-out. Israel is the indispensable
crutch upon which the PA leans. Without Israel propping up the Ramallah-based
economy, things there would be incalculably worse. Thus Israeli taxpayers foot
the PA electricity bills. Ramallah’s arrears amount to a quarter of the Israel
Electric Corporation’s deficit and the shortfall is borne by each and every
But Ramallah is not only liable for its abject
mismanagement and economic parasitism. There is a far more basic issue at
It would be very difficult – if not impossible – for a future
Palestinian state to function as a separate economy from either Israel or Jordan
– between which it is wedged – and Jordan is by no stretch of the imagination a
success story either.
So, while it’s unlikely that the PA will never turn
into a Liechtenstein, it might lurch in the direction of Hamastan.
wouldn’t be surprising to discover that Hamas actively abets the Ramallah
demonstrations, just as radical Islamists elsewhere in the Arab world fomented
the misnamed Arab Spring. Heightened Israeli vigilance is obligatory.