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 protest 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
Palestinians protest 370
(photo credit: 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.”
As 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 Judaization.”
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 woes.
Israel has traditionally functioned as the devil in Arab societies and this is no exception. Hence the protesters spared us no invective.
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 strapped Ramallah.
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 management.
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 Israeli household.
But Ramallah is not only liable for its abject mismanagement and economic parasitism. There is a far more basic issue at stake.
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.
It 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.