Europe

Tablet: Palestinian Authority Should Help Refugees By Returning Embezzled Aid Money

If Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announces at the United Nations General Assembly next week that the Oslo Accords are dead, as he is expected to do, then he should relinquish the billions of dollars of aid the PA has misappropriated and use it to help real refugees, Liel Leibovitz argued Thursday in Tablet.

Leibovitz asserted that the PA could give up these funds because it wasn’t using them for nation-building or governing, but rather to fund the lifestyles of its leaders. He pointed to a 2013 European Union audit that found that $2.64 billion in European aid had been “lost to mismanagement and corruption” between 2008 to 2012.

The PA should return those funds, Leibovitz argued, but not to the generous countries who donated the aid in the first place.

Abbas should stand up at the General Assembly and announce that he’ll be repaying all of the money he and his cronies have stolen or squandered to the Arab refugees everywhere scrambling for shelter these days. This, too, isn’t much of a stretch. There are currently 560,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria. The international aid agency charged with caring for them, UNRWA, requires $415.4 million to meet its minimum needs. If Abbas gave back only the cash the European Court of Auditors could prove had been misplaced during one four-year period, he could cover that amount more than six times over and get a Nobel Prize to match Arafat’s. …

Instead of throwing good money after bad, let’s treat the billions funneled to the P.A. as a long-term option that has, like Oslo, just expired. We’ve much more deserving recipients waiting on deck in Yarmouk, floating on dinghies in the Aegean, crowding train cars in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. True champions of progressive ideals should love everything about this plan: This is what a righteous redistribution of wealth truly looks like.

If the PA does not do so, Leibovitz wrote, “we may want to question our policy toward Palestinian aid and heed the warning of our smartest Jeremiahs, who, like Jonathan Schanzer, have long been warning that ignoring the question of Palestinian governance, or the lack thereof, is a mistake we can’t afford to repeat.”

 

Schanzer wrote We Really Need to Talk About Corruption, which was published in the December 2013 issue of The Tower Magazine, in which he observed that corruption has been endemic in the PA since its founding.

In 1997, for example, the Associated Press reported that a Palestinian administrative report found “$326 million of the Palestinian autonomy government’s $800 million annual budget had been squandered through corruption or mismanagement.” As scholar Nathan Brown observed in his book Palestinian Politics After the Oslo Accords, the PA’s corrupt practices included “personal use of ministry cards, unaccounted international long distance calls, [and] padded expense accounts. A few were more significant, such as use of border controls to divert business to relatives of senior officials.”

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