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For the Palestinians, Those Arab ATMs Are No Longer In Service

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For decades, the Palestinian Arabs have viewed the Arab states — that is, the rich Arab states of the Gulf that have been dutifully supporting them — as reliable funders, ATMs with flags. No longer. The story is here.

Arab aid for the Palestinian Authority plummeted by 85% in 2020, the New Arab reported Wednesday.

According to the report, while in the first seven months of 2019 Ramallah received $267 million from Arab states, this year’s figure was a mere $38 million.

Coupled with a slump in other foreign funding, this has resulted in PA’s coffers shrinking by some 70%, the report said.

While the decline comes amid the coronavirus pandemic, the report noted that PA officials suspect it could be linked with the recent normalization accords between Israel and two Arab states.

The pandemic has wreaked havoc even with the rich Arab states of the Gulf, for it has led to an enormous drop in demand for, and therefore in the price for, oil. But other developments are even more to blame. First, the Palestinians are no longer the center of Arab attention or sympathy. Many of the Arab states are determined to look after their own national interests, and that means, for some of them, increasing ties to Israel, while concomitantly lessening their support for the Palestinian Arabs. The most obvious example of this is the UAE, which on August 14 announced that it would be “normalizing” relations with the Jewish state. The Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi and his fellow Emiratis have thus publicly recognized the value of Israel as a military ally against the threat of Iran, not only in the intelligence shared by Israel about Iran, and the help it can now provide the Emiratis in the fields of cyberwarfare and cybersecurity, but also in the indispensable Israeli effort to delay Iran’s nuclear program.

The Emiratis have watched with admiration as Israel has been running circles around Iran. First, in 2010, Israel launched Stuxnet, a computer worm which infected Iran’s computers, that then caused more than 1,000 centrifuges to speed up and destroy themselves. Second, Israeli agents managed to assassinate, in separate incidents, four of Iran’s top nuclear scientists. Third, Israeli agents managed in the middle of the night to blast their way into a nondescript building in Tehran, where they then blow-torched their way through 32 different steel doors, then found and made off with 50,000 pages of documents and 163 computer discs – the entire Iranian nuclear archive – and took that half-ton of material out of Iran to Israel, where analysts have poured over it, discovering a great many nuclear sites that Iran had kept hidden from the IAEA. Fourth, this summer there was an explosion – an act apparently of sabotage on the ground, not cyberwarfare – that destroyed most of a building that housed a plant for manufacturing advanced centrifuges. That destruction alone has set back Iran’s nuclear program by at least two years. And there have been a dozen other mysterious explosions around Iran, at least some of which are believed to have been at sites connected to the nuclear program, that could only have been learned about from the Iranian nuclear archive that Israel now possessed. The Emiratis are deeply appreciative of all that Israel has accomplished, both for itself and for its Gulf allies, in slowing down Iran’s nuclear progress.

Among the Arab states, only those in the Gulf have had the wherewithal to bankroll the Palestinian Arabs, and as the Iranian threat draws them ever closer to Israel, at the same time it draws them ever farther from the Palestinians, who are now viewed as constantly needy, ungrateful for the huge sums they have already received from other Arabs, and indifferent to the national interests of the Gulf states that have been supporting them so lavishly. The Emiratis had their dim view of the Palestinians confirmed when, after the UAE had announced its normalization of ties with Israel, Mahmoud Abbas denounced the Emiratis with spittle-flecked fury, and Palestinians filled social media with videos showing them defacing, and stomping on, both photographs of Emirati Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed and the Emirati flag. That is likely to keep the spigot of aid from the UAE to the Palestinians permanently closed. As for the Saudi Crown Prince, Muhammad bin Salman, he is reported to have exasperatedly told Mahmoud Abbas to “take whatever deal the Americans offer.” The Saudis, too, appear to have definitively turned off the aid spigot. So far only. Kuwait still comes through, and Qatar – at the request of the Israelis, who do not want Gaza to descend into impoverished chaos – also contributes to the upkeep of Hamas in Gaza.

PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki was cited as saying that Arab states have failed to live up to the decision to provide Ramallah with a financial safety net of some $100 million, ratified at various summits.

To which those Arab states can reply:

1) Neither the leaders in Ramallah, nor those in Gaza City, have ever expressed any gratitude for the billions we have already showered on the Palestinians. They pocket that aid as if it is owed them. It is not.

2) The corruption and extravagance of the Palestinian leaders in Ramallah does not bespeak impoverishment. Mahmoud Abbas has amassed, with his sons Tarek and Yasser, a fortune of $400 million. He recently bought a $50 million plane for his exclusive use. He lives in a $13 million palace in Ramallah. We do not contribute to the PA in order that Mahmoud Abbas can live in a palace, with his private plane, and his huge portfolio of stocks, European real estate, and Swiss bank accounts.

He is not alone in his rapacity. Dozens of other PA officials live in million-dollar villas in the “Diplomats’ Compound” in Ramallah. Hundreds of relatives of this permanent ruling class – Abbas is in the fifteenth-year of his four-year term as President — have also been placed in well-paid government sinecures. Let the PA leaders practice a modicum of thrift and self-denial, before coming to us with their hands out yet again in alms-for-the-poor fashion.

3) The Grand Theft of aid has been even greater in Gaza. Just two Hamas leaders, Khaled Meshaal and Moussa ibn Marzouk, have stolen at least $2.5 billion apiece from the aid money meant for the Palestinians they supposedly care about.

4) You Palestinians have drawn closer to our main enemies, Turkey and Iran, without consulting us, and our interests. Erdogan has neo-Ottoman designs on several Arab states, with Turkish troops now in Libya, Iraq, Syria, but you maintain cordial relations with him. For its part, Iran is building a Shi’a crescent from the Gulf to the Mediterranean, which fills the Sunni Arab states with dread.. But that project has not prevented Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders from sending condolences to Tehran after the death of Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani; Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh delivered a tribute to Soleimani in Tehran, the only non-Iranian allowed to speak at the funeral service. For his part, Mahmoud Abbas held a posthumous service in Ramallah honoring Soleimani and denouncing his American assassins. The Palestinian Arabs were the only Arabs – outside of Syria –who did not celebrate the death of Soleimani.

According to the the New Arab, US President Donald Trump told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he urged the wealthy Arab nations to slash the funding for Palestinians.

Those “wealthy Arab nations” scarcely needed any prompting by President Trump. They have become increasingly fed up with the Palestinians who see them only as those “ATMs with flags.”

For the Palestinians, those Gulf Arab ATMs are no longer in service. They should try an ATM machine belonging to another bank, possibly one in Tehran or Istanbul.

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