The Nature of the Abbas Regime
The nature of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority has turned most Palestinians against the PA president and has led most Jerusalem Arabs to prefer Israeli sovereignty. It has also catapulted Hamas to prominence on the Palestinian street.
The Abbas regime has been characterized by a rare combination of endemic corruption, kleptomania (“Mr. 20%” is Abbas’ nickname), nepotism, hate education, incitement, terrorism, an anti-U.S. and pro-Venezuela, Russia and China worldview, noncompliance with internal and external agreements, and egregious violations of civil liberties. All this has fueled Muslim emigration and the flight of Christian Arabs from Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Ramallah.
The nature of the Palestinian Authority has been shaped since its establishment in 1993 by the late Yasser Arafat, by Abbas and by other Palestinians imported from terrorist camps in Sudan, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya and Tunisia, imposing themselves ruthlessly upon the indigenous Arabs of Judea and Samaria. In 2003, I was rebuked by a prominent Palestinian: “We shall never forgive the Jewish state for imposing upon us the Tunisia-based PLO Sodom and Gomorrah.”
Irrespective of the nature of the Palestinian Authority, the U.S. has been, by far, its largest single-state donor (averaging $500 million annually, in economic and security assistance). In addition, the U.S. has led the pack of donors to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency ($250 million in 2014), which has not reduced the threat of incitement or hate-education-driven Palestinian terrorism. It has not inclined Palestinians toward peaceful coexistence with the Jewish state, nor has it advanced the cause of democracy and human rights in the Palestinian Authority.
In September 1993, on the eve of the conclusion of the Oslo Accords, Elias Freij, the Christian mayor of Bethlehem, and other Christian leaders from Bethlehem and Beit Jala (unsuccessfully) implored then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to refrain from transferring both towns — which were included in the Jerusalem District during the Ottoman, British and Jordanian rule — to the emerging Palestinian Authority. They expected severe oppression of Christian Arabs by the Palestinian Authority, which would cause Bethlehem and Beit Jala to be “top heavy on churches, but very low on Christians.” And indeed, Bethlehem’s Christian majority has been reduced to a 15 percent minority.
Before the signing of the Oslo Accords, I introduced the New York Times‘ William Safire to a former mayor of Beit Jala, Farah al-Araj, who predicted that “the current state of affairs will produce a larger community of Beit Jala Christians in Belize than Christians left in Beit Jala.” In 2015, Christian emigrants from Beit Jala achieve prominence in Belize, politically and financially, while those remaining in Beit Jala are oppressed religiously and physically.
Abbas’ stashed accounts and nepotism were highlighted by the anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian Stephen Lendman, who accused Abbas of “bribes, secret investments and hidden bank accounts … earning $1 million monthly. … Abbas holds several Jordanian accounts … not under any national or international scrutiny. … Abbas urged Moscow to supply him with a new advanced presidential jet. … His sons, Tarek and Yasser, profit handsomely from all PA projects.”
According to Jonathan Schanzer, “The conspicuous wealth of Abbas’ own sons, Yasser and Tarek, has become a source of quiet controversy in Palestinian society. … Yasser enjoys a monopoly on the sale of U.S.-made cigarettes … chairs a Palestinian engineering conglomerate … boasting $35 million annual revenues. … Tarek is just as ambitious in the business world.”
Bassam Eid, the founder of the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, concludes that “the Palestinians need strong democratic institutions and an end to human rights violations. … [However], Abbas runs a corrupt dictatorship, using international funds to consolidate his own administration, rather than to develop the Palestinian economy. In east Jerusalem, the PA is so mistrusted that most Palestinians would prefer to live under Israeli rule.”
American interests, morality and common sense should prompt the U.S. Congress to condition further foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority on dramatic transformation of its conduct.
This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.