Thursday, July 12, 2012

12-Jul-12: Secret bank accounts, sweetheart deals for insiders, incredible riches for the president's sons: why would any Palestinian Arab politician ever give this up for... peace?

Mahmoud Abbas
Corruption at the very highest levels of the Palestinian Arab pyramid has gotten a fresh round of attention with the flurry of activity this past week around the possibility that the body of arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat is going to be exhumed. But for anyone paying attention to the astonishing ease of access to large wads of money and especially foreign aid by Palestinian Arab political insiders, it's obvious that monumental dishonesty and embezzlement in the Palestinian Authority were not buried with the dead Arafat.

Arafat's grieving widow Suha has for years embodied the brazenness and venality [see our post from May 16, 2012] that characterize the exploitation by higher-up Palestinian Arabs of those lower down.

Arafat's successor Mahmoud Abbas has been the focus of enquiring investigators this week. Here are three pungent extracts from reports that remind us again of the practical reasons why peace, reconciliation and mutual understanding with the Palestinian Arabs are, and remain, so elusive.

Start with the following testimony given on Tuesday to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, of the US Congress. The speaker is Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies:
In the aftermath of the Hamas coup in Gaza in 2007, during which the terrorist group overran the Palestinian Authority (PA) and seized control of the territory, Washington panicked. We threw all of the resources at our disposal at Mahmoud Abbas in the belief that he was the moderate alternative to Hamas. Yet in providing him with cash, intelligence, military assistance, and other valuable services to shore up his rule, we convinced Abbas that there was virtually nothing he could do, short of starting a war with Israel, that could prompt Washington to challenge his authority.Over the last five years, Abbas’ rule has reflected his complete sense of security. He has refused to engage in bilateral talks with the Israelis. He has attempted to declare a state unilaterally—outside the scope of the Palestinians’ international agreements—at the United Nations. And in the process, he has consolidated both economic and political power to the extent that few, if any, Palestinians can challenge his rule. The West, consumed with other challenges, including a teetering European economy, Iran’s nuclear program, and the Arab Spring, has given Abbas a free pass.
[This testimony is published today in an aptly-named monograph: "Chronic Kleptocracy: Corruption Within The Palestinian Political Establishment"]

Just how noxious this Mahmoud Abbas free pass has been can be seen in an item published yesterday by Adam Kredo of the Washington Free Beacon:
PA President Mahmoud Abbas has allegedly deposited nearly $13 million in U.S. taxpayer aid into a secret bank account, according to testimony presented to the House Foreign Affairs Committee Tuesday by several Middle East experts during a hearing on "Corruption within the Palestinian Political Establishment." Abbas has enriched himself during his seven years in office through secret land deals, and helped his two sons earn millions through their stakes in companies that profit from U.S. assistance, the experts said.Elliott Abrams, a former national security adviser for George W. Bush, recounted, "I can tell you from my own experience, as an American official seeking financial assistance for the PA from Gulf Arab governments, that I was often told, 'Why should we give them money when their officials will just steal it?'" "We have not one program dedicated to fighting corruption and to assisting those Palestinians who are doing so," Abrams said. "Why do we not make it a stated and central goal of our aid?"
Kredo's article is called "Lifestyles of the rich and Palestinian: PA President Stealing Millions in Aid, Middle East Experts Say". These people are called kleptocrats for good reason. Now the Palestinian Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, writing for the Gatestone Institute today, explains "Why Abbas Will Never Make Peace With Israel":
What are the chances that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would ever sign a peace agreement with Israel? The answer: zero. Abbas, who is in his late 70s, has been in power since 2005 even though his term in office formally ended in January 2009. If Abbas did not sign a peace agreement with Israel when he was a legitimate president during his earlier four-year term in office, he is most unlikely to strike any deal with Israel now that he does not have a mandate from his people... Abbas, like his predecessor Yasser Arafat, chose to turn down a generous offer that could have seen Israel relinquish control over most of the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Abbas is not interested in reaching any deal with Israel: he knows that such a move would require him to make concessions. Abbas knows that Israel will never give him 100% of his demands; that is enough for him to refuse to sign any historic agreement. Like Arafat, Abbas does not want to go down into history as the first Palestinian leader to make concessions, especially on sensitive issues such as refugees and Jerusalem... Today, Abbas is not in a position that allows him to sell to most Palestinians any agreement he reaches with Israel. Even if he were to bring home an agreement that includes 100% of his demands, most Palestinians would still receive it with full skepticism because it would be coming from a leader who does not have a mandate to make even the slightest concessionUnder the current circumstances, the wisest thing to do would be to maintain the status quo until the emergence of a new Palestinian leader who would have the true courage to make peace with Israel.
As for Abbas and his sons, their interest in preserving the status quo is tragically self-evident.

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