Corruption Charges Fuel Move to Cut US Aid to PA
The Palestinian Authority said the Obama administration has warned it will cut aid if it goes to the United Nations again for recognition. In Congress, opposition to aiding the Palestinian Authority was fueled by charges that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has “lined his pockets.”
Khaled Mesmar, a Palestinian Authority official of the Political Committee of the Palestinian National Council, admitted on Tuesday that the United States has “threatened to cut off financial aid to the Palestinian Liberation Office in Washington if the Palestinian leadership submitted another membership bid to the United Nations.”
He said the threat was delivered through official channels during a recent visit to Ramallah by an American envoy.
Mesmar said that the PA took the threats seriously but has not yet decided to go ahead with another appeal to the United Nations Security Council for membership, which would entail recognition of the Palestinian Authority as an independent country based on its own definition of borders.
Abbas dropped a bid last year when it was clear he would lose, although by one vote.
Mesmar also said that the Obama administration threatened to cut off aid unless it drops all pre-conditions for talking directly with Israel over the status and borders of the PA. Abbas has said “negotiations” with Israel can begin if Jerusalem stops all building for Jews in areas claimed by the Palestinian Authority. It wants the talks based on a foregone conclusion that it be granted its self-defined territorial borders.
Meanwhile, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a subcommittee hearing Tuesday under the unwieldy name of “Chronic Kleptocracy: Corruption within the Palestinian Political Establishment."
In testimony posted live on its website, committee chairman Steve Chabot, a Ohio Republican, asserted that the West is making a mistake by looking at “the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza, but instead of highlighting the ways that the Hamas terrorist leadership mismanages the local economy or gives Israel justifiable cause for concern, we are told that an Israeli blockade is to blame.
"Similarly, instead of calling attention to the omnipresent and insidious corruption within the PLO and Fatah leadership in the West Bank, we are told that Israeli settlements, many of which will surely not be a part of any future Palestinian state, are the true problem.”
He charged that reports indicate Abbas “line[s] his own pockets as well as those of his cohort of cronies, including his sons…who have enriched themselves with U.S. taxpayer money.”
Elliott Abrams, former advisor to President George E. Bush and now a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told the subcommittee, “Listen to the words of the man who was charged with rooting out public corruption, Fathi Shabaneh, and who resigned in 2010:
‘In his pre-election platform, President Abbas promised to end financial corruption and implement major reforms, but he hasn’t done much since then. Unfortunately, Abbas has surrounded himself with many of the thieves and officials who were involved in theft of public funds and who became icons of financial corruption.’”
Abrams warned, “If we turn a blind eye to corruption, and to persecution of those who expose it, we are in a very real way contributing to the problem and undermining those Palestinians who wish to build public integrity into their system.”