Tuesday, October 04, 2011

$200 Million In Aid Held Back From Palestinian Arabs--And For Good Reason

According to The Independent, the $200million cut in US aid to Palestinian Arabs is a punishment of Abbas--threatening food aid, health care, and support for efforts to build a functioning state.

JTA is reporting that U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is holding back nearly $200 million in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.

However, that same JTA article points out:
Such holds on NGO money have been held in the past pending oversight to show that the NGOs are not working with terrorist groups. Ros-Lehtinen in recent weeks has expressed concern that a tentative agreement to unite the Palestinian Authority with Hamas is already in effect. Hamas is the U.S.-designated terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip
Here is the summary of the Congressional Research Service report on US Foreign Aid to the Palestinians, which echos the same concerns of US aid ending up in the hands of Hamas:

Since the establishment of limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the mid-990s, the U.S. government has committed over $4 billion in bilateral assistance to the Palestinians, who are among the world’s largest per capita recipients of international foreign aid. Successive Administrations have requested aid for the Palestinians to support at least three major U.S. policy priorities of interest to Congress:
• Combating, neutralizing, and preventing terrorism against Israel from the Islamist group Hamas and other militant organizations.
• Creating a virtuous cycle of stability and prosperity in the West Bank that inclines Palestinians—including those in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip—toward peaceful coexistence with Israel and prepares them for self-governance.
• Meeting humanitarian needs and preventing further destabilization, particularly in the Gaza Strip.
Since June 2007, these U.S. policy priorities have crystallized around the factional and geographical split between the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. A May 2011 power-sharing agreement between Fatah and Hamas has raised concerns among some Members of Congress about continuing U.S. budgetary and security assistance to a PA government that could be subject to the approval of a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (Hamas) that claims to reserve the right to violently oppose Israel’s existence. Prospects for implementation of the power-sharing agreement remain unclear. Some observers question the extent to which Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are likely to integrate their political decision making and security practices, and also question the credibility of the one-year timeline put forward for PA presidential and legislative elections. Furthermore, some U.S. lawmakers have raised the possibility that U.S. aid to the PA could be affected by Palestinian efforts to seek international recognition of Palestinian statehood outside of negotiations with Israel, particularly at the United Nations in the fall of 2011.

From FY2008 to the present, annual U.S. bilateral assistance to the West Bank and Gaza Strip has averaged over $600 million, including annual averages of over $200 million in direct budgetary assistance and over $100 million in non-lethal security assistance for the PA in the West Bank. Additionally, the United States is the largest single-state donor to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). However, whether UNRWA’s role is beneficial remains a polarizing question, particularly with respect to its presence in Hamas controlled Gaza.

Because of congressional concerns that, among other things, funds might be diverted to Palestinian terrorist groups, U.S. aid is subject to a host of vetting and oversight requirements and legislative restrictions. U.S. assistance to the Palestinians is given alongside assistance from other international donors, and U.S. policymakers routinely call for greater or more timely assistance from Arab governments in line with their pledges.
A power-sharing or “unity” PA government possible in the wake of the May 2011 Fatah-Hamas agreement will not be eligible for U.S. aid if Hamas is included in the government and does not change its stance towards Israel—possibly subject to some limited exceptions. Even if the immediate objectives of U.S. assistance programs for the Palestinians are met, lack of progress toward a politically legitimate and peaceful two-state solution could undermine the utility of U.S. aid in helping the Palestinians become more cohesive, stable, and self-reliant over the long term. [emphasis added].
But that is not the only way US money may be used for terrorists.

Back in July, Palestinian Media Watch reported on Palestinian Authority glorification of terrorists and paying salaries to terrorists with US money

The basic points:
1. New PA law enacts payment of monthly salaries to terrorists in Israeli prisons:
A law signed and published in the official Palestinian Authority Registry in April 2011 puts all Palestinians and Israeli Arabs imprisoned in Israel for terror crimes on the PA payroll to receive a monthly salary from the PA. [Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 15, 2011] This new law called PA Government Resolution of 2010, numbers 21 and 23, formalizes what has long been a PA practice.

2.  Recipients of the monthly salary:
The PA has defined by law which Palestinians would be considered "prisoners": 

"Anyone imprisoned in the occupation's [Israel's] prisons as a result of his  participation in the struggle against the occupation." [Ch. 1 of Law of Prisoners, 2004/19, passed and published by the PA Chairman and Government, December 2004.
The Prisoners' Centre for Studies, www.alasra.ps, Accessed May 9, 2011]
According to the PA definition, more than 5,500 Palestinian prisoners serving time for terror related offenses are recipients. [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 14, 2011] Palestinian car thieves in
Israeli prisons will not receive a salary, but every terrorist in prison including murderers are on the PA payroll. The salary goes directly to the terrorist or the terrorist's family, and
prisoners receive salary from the day of arrest. [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 15, 2011]

3. Hamas and Fatah terrorist prisoners receive monthly salaries:
“The PA's Ministry for Prisoner Affairs said that its policy had always been to pay salaries to prisoners and their families ‘regardless of their political affiliations.’” [Jerusalem Post, May 20, 2011].

4. Total amount that the PA pays in salaries to prisoners monthly: 
Total: 17,678,247 Shekel ($5,207,000) a month, based on May 2011. [Life and the Market, supplement to Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, June 19, 2011]

5. Terrorists in prison receive higher average salary than PA civil servants and military personnel

Salary recipientsAverage monthly salary
Civil servant2,882
Military personnel2,704

[Life and the Market supplement to Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, June 19, 2011]

6. PA salary payments to prisoners is dependent on foreign funding 
The new PA law stipulates that payment of salaries "will be implemented... on the basis of available sources of funding." [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 15, 2011] Accordingly, it is the contributions by the US and other foreign donors to the PA general budget that facilitates the payment of monthly salaries to the terrorist prisoners.
Not only is the US aid fungible in the abstract sense, the new PA law mandating the payment of salaries to terrorists explicitly states that the payments depend on the availability of funds--US aid to the Palestinian Authority facilitates the payment of terrorist salaries; withholding of US directly cuts down on the payment of those terrorist salaries.

Also of note, Elder of Ziyon writes that there are conditions to the US aid the Palestinian Authority receives:
Interestingly, among the official limitations on the money to the PA is this one:
No aid is permitted for a future Palestinian state unless the Secretary of State certifies that the governing entity of the state

1. has demonstrated a firm commitment to peaceful coexistence with the State of Israel;

2. is taking appropriate measures to counter terrorism and terrorist financing in the West Bank and Gaza in cooperation with Israel and others; and

3. is working with other countries in the region to vigorously pursue efforts to establish a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace in the Middle East that will enable Israel and an independent Palestinian state to exist within the context of full and normal relationships.

This restriction does not apply to aid meant to reform the Palestinian governing entity so that it might meet the three conditions outlined above. Additionally, the President is permitted to waive this restriction for national security purposes.
So when the US said that it might cut funding to the Palestinian Arabs if they declare a state unilaterally and avoid negotiating and adhering to the Oslo process, it is not a threat (and certainly not "blackmail") - it is an explicit pre-condition for US aid!11
And we all know: if there is anyone who understands preconditions--it's the Palestinian Authority!

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