By JPOST EDITORIAL
Instead of choosing a path of self-empowerment and accepting responsibility for their own fate, Palestinian leaders have opted yet again for the well-traversed road of self-victimization.
The Palestinian Authority is currently embroiled in a largely self-inflicted financial crisis so bad that it could lead to what one high-ranking Fatah official recently referred to as a “popular explosion.”
Unfortunately, instead of taking responsible steps to remedy the situation, the PA has chosen a tried-and-true tactic – blaming Israel.
Last month, for instance, Ahmed Assaf, the spokesman for Fatah, the largest faction in the PLO, claimed that the current financial crisis was the result of Israel’s decision to confiscate Palestinians’ tax and customs revenues.
About the same time, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad called on Palestinians to launch what he called an “economic intifada” against Israel and boycott all Israeli goods. Both Assaf and Fayyad claimed that Israel’s “seizing” of PA tax revenues was a form of punishment for the Palestinians successful November 29 UN bid for nonmember state status.
Palestinian leaders have conveniently refrained from voicing the truth: Revenues “seized” by Israel were used to cover Palestinians’ outstanding debts to the Israel Electric Company. The Arab Jerusalem Electric Company, which provides Palestinians with electricity, buys power from the Israel Electric Company.
As The Jerusalem Post’s Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh has reported, Palestinians – particularly those living in refugee camps – have either avoided paying their electricity bills (as well as their water and municipality bills) or have been regularly stealing electricity.
Apparently out of an inflated sense of entitlement, Palestinians believe the international community – particularly the Americans and the Europeans – should foot their bills. Others, rightfully distrustful of corrupt PA officials, don’t want to see their hard-earned money squandered.
Meanwhile, the PA has utterly failed to enforce the law, particularly in the refugee camps. Instead of launching a more aggressive crackdown against Palestinians who don’t pay their bills, the PA, with Fayyad’s backing, decided to cancel all outstanding electricity bills for Palestinians living in the West Bank. At the same time, Fayyad lashed out at Israel for daring to collect Palestinian debts to the Israel Electric Company.
Another factor completely under Palestinian control that is exacerbating the financial crisis is the tremendous amount of waste in the PA budget, funded almost exclusively by international donors – particularly Americans and Europeans. For instance, each month the PA sends $120 million to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Most of the money goes to paying the salaries of about 80,000 PA civil servants living in Gaza who stay at home and don’t work.
The practice, aimed at maintaining a PA toehold in Gaza, has been in effect since Hamas’s violent 2007 coup.
In addition, just this weekend Fatah spent more than one million dollars for celebrations marking the 48th anniversary of the “launching of the revolution” – a reference to the first armed attack carried out by Fatah against Israel.
Palestinians are fed up with the hypocrisy in calls by high-ranking PA officials to boycott Israel. For instance, Fayyad lives with his family in east Jerusalem and enjoys the municipal services provided by Israel. And as reported by the Post’s Abu Toameh, top PLO and Fatah officials do their shopping and receive services from Israeli-owned businesses both in the West Bank and in Israel.
Why would some 40,000 Palestinians with permits to work in Israel and tens of thousands more who profit from doing business with Israel heed these leaders’ call to launch a boycott? Doing so would only deepen the economic crisis.
Instead of choosing a path of self-empowerment and accepting responsibility for their own fate, Fayyad and other Palestinian leaders have opted yet again for the well-traversed road of self-victimization. Apparently, Palestinian leaders in the West Bank believe they will succeed in deflecting growing anger and frustration on the Palestinian street and redirect toward Israel. We hope they are wrong.
However, even if the present Palestinian leadership is pushed out of power by popular demand, the most likely candidate to fill the vacuum will be Hamas.