The Palestinian Authority is currently embroiled in a largely self-inflicted
financial crisis so bad that it could lead to what one high-ranking Fatah
official recently referred to as a “popular explosion.”
instead of taking responsible steps to remedy the situation, the PA has chosen a
tried-and-true tactic – blaming Israel.
Last month, for instance, Ahmed
Assaf, the spokesman for Fatah, the largest faction in the PLO, claimed that the
current financial crisis was the result of Israel’s decision to confiscate
Palestinians’ tax and customs revenues.
About the same time, PA Prime
Minister Salam Fayyad called on Palestinians to launch what he called an
“economic intifada” against Israel and boycott all Israeli goods. Both Assaf and
Fayyad claimed that Israel’s “seizing” of PA tax revenues was a form of
punishment for the Palestinians successful November 29 UN bid for nonmember
Palestinian leaders have conveniently refrained from
voicing the truth: Revenues “seized” by Israel were used to cover Palestinians’
outstanding debts to the Israel Electric Company. The Arab Jerusalem Electric
Company, which provides Palestinians with electricity, buys power from the
Israel Electric Company.
As The Jerusalem Post’s Palestinian affairs
correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh has reported, Palestinians – particularly those
living in refugee camps – have either avoided paying their electricity bills (as
well as their water and municipality bills) or have been regularly stealing
Apparently out of an inflated sense of entitlement,
Palestinians believe the international community – particularly the Americans
and the Europeans – should foot their bills. Others, rightfully distrustful of
corrupt PA officials, don’t want to see their hard-earned money
Meanwhile, the PA has utterly failed to enforce the law,
particularly in the refugee camps. Instead of launching a more aggressive
crackdown against Palestinians who don’t pay their bills, the PA, with Fayyad’s
backing, decided to cancel all outstanding electricity bills for Palestinians
living in the West Bank. At the same time, Fayyad lashed out at Israel for
daring to collect Palestinian debts to the Israel Electric
Another factor completely under Palestinian control that is
exacerbating the financial crisis is the tremendous amount of waste in the PA
budget, funded almost exclusively by international donors – particularly
Americans and Europeans. For instance, each month the PA sends $120 million to
the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Most of the money goes to paying the salaries
of about 80,000 PA civil servants living in Gaza who stay at home and don’t
The practice, aimed at maintaining a PA toehold in Gaza, has been
in effect since Hamas’s violent 2007 coup.
In addition, just this weekend
Fatah spent more than one million dollars for celebrations marking the 48th
anniversary of the “launching of the revolution” – a reference to the first
armed attack carried out by Fatah against Israel.
Palestinians are fed up
with the hypocrisy in calls by high-ranking PA officials to boycott Israel. For
instance, Fayyad lives with his family in east Jerusalem and enjoys the
municipal services provided by Israel. And as reported by the Post’s Abu Toameh,
top PLO and Fatah officials do their shopping and receive services from
Israeli-owned businesses both in the West Bank and in Israel.
some 40,000 Palestinians with permits to work in Israel and tens of thousands
more who profit from doing business with Israel heed these leaders’ call to
launch a boycott? Doing so would only deepen the economic crisis.
of choosing a path of self-empowerment and accepting responsibility for their
own fate, Fayyad and other Palestinian leaders have opted yet again for the
well-traversed road of self-victimization. Apparently, Palestinian leaders in
the West Bank believe they will succeed in deflecting growing anger and
frustration on the Palestinian street and redirect toward Israel. We hope they
However, even if the present Palestinian leadership is pushed
out of power by popular demand, the most likely candidate to fill the vacuum
will be Hamas.