THE SPINE DECEMBER 18, 2007
This morning's Times, like most other news sources, reports that at an international conference in Paris presided over by Nicolas Sarkozy -- a gathering which Jacques Chirac would have never been allowed to chair -- the attendees pledged nearly two billion dollars more than the Palestinian Authority had requested from what is coyly termed the "international donor community." This turned out to be, as the Times reminded, the "most ambitious" such venture since 1996, at which point Yassir Arafat was still ruling the roost from Ramallah and there was absolutely zero progress on arrangements between Israel and the Palestinians. Now, whenever the putative "good guys" announce future contributions, the skeptic in me reawakens...and doubts.Start with the U.S. Condi Rice trolled her sad song: "The Palestinian Authority is experiencing a serious budgetary crisis...This conference is the government's last hope to avoid bankruptcy." But, of course, it may go bankrupt and that's because money designated for the P.A. does not always go to the P.A. There is one consolation: the new prime minister, Salam Fayyad, is trusted by all of the outsiders, including the Israelis. He is a professional, and it is hard to think of him as a patronage dispenser.Still, even the American pledge is a bit dicey, being "misleading, because much of it had been announced previously by the White House but has not been approved by Congress."Rather more reliable are the European nations and especially the Norwegians and Swedes. But, the Times points out, "Many countries do not fulfill pledges that they make at such conferences. Egypt and other Arab countries are known for pledging funds to the Palestinian Authority that they do not deliver." Although, of course, they do weep for the Palestinians.Which is really a bigger story. This narrative is told in a Policy Watch of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy called "Aid to the Palestinians and the Role of Oil-Rich Arabs." It was written by Simon Henderson and the brothers Michael and David Makovsky, serious scholars all. It is actually indecent how these Arab states ignore the Palestinians. Except that, since they are chintzy towards others, it hurts them when their cash is misused which is almost always. And there is no guarantee that their cash won't be misused this time either.