Archive for the ‘Palestinian corruption’ category

The end of an era

January 4, 2018

The end of an era, Israel Hayom, Dr. Reuven Berko, January 3, 2018

Most of the Palestinians in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip are waking up. The sparsely attended “days of rage” Hamas and the PA initiated over the issue of Jerusalem signal a disappointing finale because the city used to be an issue that would light up both the Palestinians and Arab nations.

The Gazans are sick of Hamas, and in Judea and Samaria they are tired of the corruption in the PA, and once again an interim government devoted to economic issues that would have Israel’s blessing is being discussed. Some reject the militant candidates for Abbas’ position (Majid Faraj and Mohammed Dahlan) as representatives of the same old organizational approach and would prefer Salam Fayyad, who has already proven his ability to make the vision of a flourishing Palestinian society a reality. That might work well for us.

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In the late 1990s, author and political commentator Fouad Ajami published his book “The Dream Palace of the Arabs: A Generation’s Odyssey,” in which he laid out the failures in the worldviews of Arab leaders and their self-criticism as the reason for their lack of achievement.

Two decades later, as 2017 was drawing to a close, the Palestinians’ dream palace sustained three serious blows in quick succession. First, U.S. President Donald Trump declared that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This was followed by the Likud Central Committee’s decision to annex the settlements and the Jordan Valley. Finally, the Knesset passed a law that removes the teeth from any future peace deal involving Jerusalem (by requiring a special majority of 80 MKs to vote in favor of handing any part of the city over to any foreign government).

If the Palestinians were to look at them in a sober light, they would see that the U.N. resolutions that followed Trump’s announcement were meaningless. In light of the continuing historic drama that began with the landmark Balfour Declaration, the U.N. resolutions condemning Trump’s announcement carried no operative significance and merely served as a faint echo of the detached institution’s fading anti-Israelism.

The latest provocations from Hamas are not a lust for battle, but an expression of how desperate and lost – operatively, politically, and ideologically – the organization is. This beaten and battered group made an immense investment in missiles and attack tunnels, at a heavy cost to its people. These have become a pointless burden. Hamas is currently in a political situation in which the world is sick of Islamism, and the entities that aid and abet it (Qatar, Iran, and Turkey) are bogged down in their own domestic troubles.

The Palestinian Authority is at the end of an era. PA President Mahmoud Abbas is trying fruitlessly to use a diplomatic atmosphere that is hostile to Israel to wring concessions out of it, while simultaneously avoiding direct negotiations with Israel or recognizing it as a Jewish state. The PA is wasting time trying to paint Israel as an apartheid state through a South Africa-style boycott movement, while continuing to coordinate on security because it is afraid of Hamas.

The Israeli convoy is moving on while the PA is gritting its teeth over absurd demands (Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital and a “right of return” for Palestinian refugees), not realizing the effect the processes at work in the world are having on their delusional dreams. Indeed, Islamist terrorism, the Iranian threat, the breakdown of many countries in the region, the masses of Muslim refugees into sinking Europe, the persecution of Christians in the Middle East – these are the factors that have sidelined the Palestinian problem, which was never the cause of the regional unrest.

As these developments take place, Abbas is claiming that the U.S. is sponsoring an Israeli strategy to eradicate the Palestinians and their irrefutable right to kill off the peace process. A range of voices in Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Hamas – responded to Trump’s declaration and Israel’s decision about Jerusalem and the settlements with the language of a declaration of war that demands that they revoke any recognition of Israel and the peace process and resume resistance (the armed struggle).

Most of the Palestinians in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip are waking up. The sparsely attended “days of rage” Hamas and the PA initiated over the issue of Jerusalem signal a disappointing finale because the city used to be an issue that would light up both the Palestinians and Arab nations.

The Gazans are sick of Hamas, and in Judea and Samaria they are tired of the corruption in the PA, and once again an interim government devoted to economic issues that would have Israel’s blessing is being discussed. Some reject the militant candidates for Abbas’ position (Majid Faraj and Mohammed Dahlan) as representatives of the same old organizational approach and would prefer Salam Fayyad, who has already proven his ability to make the vision of a flourishing Palestinian society a reality. That might work well for us.

White House Puts Palestinians, United Nations in Crosshairs

February 13, 2017

White House Puts Palestinians, United Nations in Crosshairs, Washington Free Beacon, February 13, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump holds a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe following their talks at the White House in Washington on Feb. 10, 2017. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

U.S. President Donald Trump holds a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe following their talks at the White House in Washington on Feb. 10, 2017. (Kyodo)

White House officials, as well as senior sources in Congress, told the Free Beacon that the move is part of a larger effort to solidify U.S. support for Israel and counter a range of last-minute moves by the former Obama administration aimed at severing U.S.-Israel ties.

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The White House is sending a strong signal that it will no longer tolerate Palestinian intransigence at the United Nations or the international body’s long record of anti-Israel action, according to White House officials and sources in Congress who told the Washington Free Beacon that the Trump administration will “unabashedly support Israel” in the months and years ahead.

The Trump administration sent shockwaves through the U.N. late last week when it took a stance against the appointment of a senior Palestinian official to serve in a top post overseeing Libya.

Senior officials at Turtle Bay expressed outrage over the Trump administration’s move to block the appointment of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as a special U.N. representative for Libya. The move was widely supported by U.N. members, and, for a time, the Trump administration.

Sources inside the White House told the Free Beacon that the move was meant to send a signal to the Palestinians that they can no longer manipulate the U.N. system in order to bolster their international clout. This type of action, the sources said, undermines Israel and the ongoing peace process.

White House officials, as well as senior sources in Congress, told the Free Beacon that the move is part of a larger effort to solidify U.S. support for Israel and counter a range of last-minute moves by the former Obama administration aimed at severing U.S.-Israel ties.

The Free Beacon first reported earlier this year that the Trump administration and Congress had already been working on a range of measures meant to boost U.S. support for Israel at the U.N.

“The United States was disappointed to see a letter indicating the intention to appoint the former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister to lead the U.N. Mission in Libya,” Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said in a statement opposing the selection of Fayyad. “For too long the U.N. has been unfairly biased in favor of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel.”

“The United States does not currently recognize a Palestinian state or support the signal this appointment would send within the United Nations, however, we encourage the two sides to come together directly on a solution,” Haley said in a vast departure from Obama administration rhetoric. “Going forward the United States will act, not just talk, in support of our allies.”

A senior White House official familiar with the move told the Free Beacon that the Palestinians will no longer get a free pass to push their anti-Israel agenda and win statehood outside the parameters of the peace process.

“It is so refreshing to have an American ambassador to the United Nations who will unabashedly support our ally Israel,” one senior member of the White House’s National Security Council told the Free Beacon. “The appointment of Salam Fayyad as the official U.N. envoy to Libya would be an incremental step towards unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood by the U.N. absent an agreement with Israel.”

“Ambassador Haley took the only appropriate action and we are looking to supporting her actions any way we can,” the source said.

One senior congressional aide who works on Middle East issues told the Free Beacon that Trump’s approach to the U.N. is centered on backing Israel from any action that could harm its interests.

“The U.N. is not a friend of Israel. After the Obama administration’s eleventh-hour attack on the Jewish state, President Trump is attempting to turn the page,”  the source said. “Our new administration is already pushing back against the U.N.’s rampant bias and reasserting America’s strong support for Israel. This is a good step in the right direction.”

Fayyad, who is widely viewed as a reformer in Palestinian society, appears to have been caught up in a larger battle between the White House and U.N. over the international body’s efforts to delegitimize Israel.

While Fayyad was seen as an acceptable pick for the Libya post, his ties to the Palestinian Authority and its rogue efforts to achieve statehood via the U.N. provoked ire in the White House, sources said.

The White House is determined to keep what it views as the U.N.’s anti-Israel bias in check, particularly after the Obama administration’s last-minute efforts to secure a resolution condemning Israel.

One senior official at a national pro-Israel organization said the Trump administration’s moves would help preserve international agreements barring the Palestinians from seeking statehood outside of the peace process.

“Pro-Palestinian officials at the U.N. thought they had found a clever way to mainstream the Palestinians as legitimate state actors, which is contrary to American policy and violates two decades of signed agreements between the Palestinians and Israel,” said the source, who was not authorized to speak on record. “They figured that the Trump White House would be too worried about optics to take a stand on behalf of our Israeli allies. The White House refused to be intimidated.”

Regional experts tracking the issue think Fayyad could become a lighting rod in a larger matter surrounding U.S. opposition to any U.N. action meant to elevate the Palestinians on the international stage.

Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Free Beacon that the controversy surrounding Fayyad actually benefits Palestinian leaders such as Mahmoud Abbas, who fought against Fayyad’s efforts to eradicate corruption.

“The thing people are not asking is why Fayyad was even considering working the Libya file instead of trying to reform the Palestinian Authority at home,” Schanzer said. “The answer is, Fayyad was pushed out by Mahmoud Abbas in 2013. He and Abbas were in an epic battle over corruption and clean governance and reform. Fayyad lost that battle, as Abbas went full dictator.”

The Obama administration is responsible for allowing Fayyad to be pushed out of the Palestinian Authority, Schanzer said.

“The U.S. refused to come to Fayyad’s defense. I lay this at the feet of the Obama administration,” he said. “Fayyad’s reform and clean governance program was gutted, and when Fayyad created an NGO it was raided by Abbas’ forces—and still the Obama admin refused to lift a finger to help him.”

Palestinian journalists frustrated with inability to cover PA corruption

January 13, 2017

Palestinian journalists frustrated with inability to cover PA corruption, al-Monitor

"PalestinianPalestinian journalists take part in a protest in front of the Reuters office, Gaza City, Gaza, Apr. 22, 2008. (photo by REUTERS/Ismail Zaydah)

Palestinian journalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are closely following the unfolding case of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu allegedly receiving favors or gifts. Their interest is not prompted only by glee at the possible downfall of the Israeli leader they despise, but also by appreciation and envy of Israeli democracy and press freedom that enable the questioning of the prime minister under caution and the investigative reporting against him by the media.

No journalists in Gaza — no matter how senior — would even think of criticizing the leaders of Hamas, and in the Palestinian Authority (PA), criticism of any kind against President Mahmoud Abbas, or exposure of corruption in the PA, could result in the journalist’s arrest.

“We all known there’s terrible corruption in the PA,” a senior veteran journalist from Ramallah, the seat of the PA in the West Bank, told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “We know hundreds of stories about senior PA officials and about Abbas’ sons, but we can’t publish them or even talk openly about them.”

According to various reports, the PA has for years been plagued by corruption. The governmental structure put in place by the late Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat did not include control and supervision mechanisms. Every Palestinian in the West Bank and Gaza knows full well that those closest to the seat of power often enjoy a lifestyle incompatible with the salary of a PA official.

“We saw PLO activists who arrived [in the West Bank and Gaza] from Libya and Tunisia [in the 1990s] with only the clothes on their backs, and a few months after the PA was established they were already driving around in Mercedes cars, wearing Italian suits and building ostentatious villas,” the journalist claimed. “To this day they are all rich, taken care of and no one can say a word or even ask where such wealth came from.”

European Union states that donate hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to the PA have tried to establish supervisory mechanisms over the funds they provide, but according to Palestinian journalists who spoke with Al-Monitor, the top PA levels were more devious than all the oversight mechanisms, and they found loopholes through which to funnel some of the money into their own pockets.

The criticism discussed behind closed doors does not relate only to past malfeasance. A senior journalist who works for an Arabic language media outlet notes in a conversation with Al-Monitor that the sons of the Palestinian president are also mentioned among those making a fortune out of their family connection to Abbas.

Tareq Abbas, for example, is the director of a company that in the past employed Mohammed Rashid, a close confidant of Arafat and his moneyman, who was subsequently convicted by a Ramallah court of stealing millions of dollars from a Palestinian investment fund and from the PLO coffers, and transferring the money to bank accounts in various places around the world. Since the “cleaning of the stables” after Arafat’s death in 2004, Abbas’s son Tareq has been serving as a director in the Palestinian investment fund that manages hundreds of millions of dollars, so that his father has almost complete control over the fund without anyone in the PA being allowed to express opposition or question its management. In 2012, Foreign Policy ran a story about the fortunes of Abbas’ sons in which the investigative reporters wondered whether there was any connection between the wealth they were accumulating and their family connection.

“We know the answer,” a Palestinian journalist told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “Everyone knows that Tareq and Yasser Abbas immediately win every bid they put in, whether directly or through straw men.”

The journalist said that reporters have learned not to ask “unnecessary” questions, lest they lose their jobs, at best, or are sent to jail in a worst-case scenario. The media learned the limits of what was permissible and what was not in the affair of Mahmad Hadifa, an independent journalist who published a series of investigative reports about the goings on in the Palestinian Ministry of Economy in Ramallah. Hadifa was arrested by Palestinian security forces after the stories ran and was threatened, even though no one claimed his reports were false. On the contrary, he touched on issues troubling Palestinians in the West Bank and exposed irregularities in the most important economic office in the PA.

“Sometimes you can see criticism against Abbas’ sons or senior PA officials on social media,” another journalist told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “But never in a way that might disclose the identity of the writer. Usually the critics are cautious and they ask rhetorical questions, but everyone knows what they mean.”

Only few such investigative reports were published — for instance investigative stories about corruption in the PA were published by Reuters and The Associated Press. The Palestinian researchers and reporters who helped to compile these stories were not named. In 2009, Reuters reported that firms run by Abbas’ sons won US government aid contracts to repair roads in the Palestinian territories, and AP published leaked documents in 2015 allegedly exposing corruption by senior PA officials.

None of the people mentioned in the reporting were questioned or lost their jobs; coverage of the reported affairs in the Palestinian media was limited on orders from high up.

Many Palestinians who have been exposed to Israeli reporting about the investigations into Netanyahu’s alleged wrongdoing — which play prominently in the Palestinian media — are asking whether receiving gifts such as cigars and champagne constitute sufficient cause for his indictment, conviction and resignation. Some of the journalists with whom I spoke claim that receiving gifts is standard practice in the PA and is not considered a criminal offense.

“If we were able to talk about each and every present, and this were to result in an investigation and conviction,” said a senior journalist in the PA on condition of anonymity, “we wouldn’t have a functioning Palestinian Authority because everyone would already be in jail.”