Those even-handed Euros are always at the forefront of the drive for Mideast peace.
The European Union continues to pour oodles of aid money into an economically and politically corrupt Palestinian Authority. Less known is the fact that liberal amounts of these funds serve to promote the most extreme Palestinian aspirations and political goals, including the right of return.
European Union External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten would have us believe that EU assistance to the Palestinians is mainly humanitarian; that it is carefully monitored; and that it is a lever for reform. In a letter to The Jerusalem Post on July 18, Patten added that “the EU has no reason to be ashamed of its efforts to maintain the Palestinian Authority as a valid interlocutor for Israel, in order to prevent a slide into even greater chaos and anarchy.”
I’m glad that Patten believes his own platitudes; otherwise, he should resign. After all, Patten is behind the 1.42 billion euros that the EU has dished out to Palestinians since 1994, not including about 1 billion euros more that has been contributed directly by various European states. In fact, the EU has provided about one-quarter of all international assistance to the Palestinians over the past eight years, according to a study to be published this fall by Dr. Gil Feiler of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.
However, if you open up the EU aid books some of the information is available on the Web site of the EU Delegation in Tel Aviv (www.eu-del.org.il) a different, much less likable picture emerges.
To begin with, only half the annual EU aid to the Palestinians is allocated for “humanitarian purposes”; in 2002, for example, about 113 million out of 232 million euros. This includes assistance to the PA, to Palestinian NGOs, and to UNWRA for emergency food aid, post-injury rehabilitation, psycho-social support, health services, cash assistance to “special hardship cases,” water, electricity, shelter, non-food humanitarian items, environmental services, education, infrastructure, interest subsidies for the private sector, etc.
By propping up the present PA regime, Chris Patten’s EU is prolonging “chaos and anarchy,” not preventing it.
I have no problem with this, despite the fact that the EU has never provided similar assistance to innocent, terrorized, and traumatized Israeli citizens who also could use help in post-injury rehabilitation, psycho-social support, cash assistance to special hardship cases, and so on. The EU is entitled, after all, to help one side of this conflict more than the other. The real problems start with the other half of EU aid to the Palestinians, moneys allocated to sustaining the PA Israel’s “valid interlocutor” according to Patten.
Forty-five percent of EU aid (totaling about 110 million euros committed for 2002) is devoted to covering the salaries of the PA’s bloated municipal, social, and security bureaucracies. Indeed, two-thirds of the PA’s $90 million monthly budget is devoted to salaries. Ten percent of this budget (about 9 million euros) is transferred monthly by the EU.
This bloated bureaucracy is the mainstay of Yasser Arafat’s regime — a corrupt, violent regime; a regime unwilling to compromise with Israel but willing to cooperate with Hamas and Jihad; a regime that boasts the largest “police force” per capita in the world for which the EU is paying but which nevertheless is unwilling to stop terrorism against Israelis.
Even more infuriating is the fact that Patten’s aid administrators willfully ignore the corruption. According to documents captured by the IDF during Operation Defensive Shield, the PA employs a crafty double-reporting system to skim off funds for non-salary purposes (meaning terrorism), totaling as much as 14 percent of the $60m. a month it gets from international donors for the payment of salaries.
The PA’s cunning works like this: It overreports its real salary needs by one-third; it manipulates exchange rates in order to manufacture unreported surpluses by delaying payment to its employees; it pads the employee rolls with hundreds of Fatah activists; and it deducts 1% to 2% from the salaries of security forces personnel as “Fatah membership fees.” These fees are then used to finance local militias and direct terrorist activities, according to the unassailable documents captured by the IDF.
It gets worse.
About 5% of EU funding for the Palestinians is devoted, ostensibly, to the “promotion of peace.” These funds have been allocated, however, mainly to organizations that suborn, not promote, Mideast peace; groups that encourage, not curb, radical Palestinian demands and goals.
Under the rubric of the MEDA Democracy Promotion and People to People–Permanent Status Issues programs, the EU lavishes funds on the most viciously anti-Israel “human rights” groups, including Al-Haq, LAW, Adala, and other “promoters of democracy” (over 500,000 euros for 2000, and apparently in 2001 and 2002 as well).
The Israeli Committee against House Demolitions received 250,000 euros, as did Ir Shalem, which seeks to “block Jewish development of sites in the Muslim Quarter, Har Homa, Ras el-Amud, Silwan, near Orient House,” etc. The EU also finances the “monitoring of Israeli colonising activities” (sic) to the tune of 500,000 euros.
Sharing this largesse, strangely, was The Four Mothers Movement to Leave Lebanon in Peace (allocated 250,000 euros in 2000, which was 100 percent of its total project budget). Somehow, the glorious Four Mothers do not strike me as key contributors to Palestinian civil society or to Mideast dialogue. The support they received from the EU, rather, is a striking illustration of the EU’s galling interference in Israeli politics.
As for actual Palestinian-Israeli dialogue (alas, cut short by Arafat’s war in fall 2000), the EU prefers programs run by the very extreme, hard-Left in Israel, such as Peace Now (awarded 400,000 euros) and Oslo architect Prof. Yair Hirschfeld (another 400,000 euros).
Ghassan Hatib’s Jerusalem Media Communications Center, the PA’s main propaganda conduit to foreign journalists, is sumptuously endowed with over 700,000 euros.
My favorite EU grantee is an outfit called The Middle East Center for Legal and Economic Research, which received 300,000 euros “to identify and appraise Palestinian refugee real-estate holdings in Israel.” This clearly encourages Palestinian dreams of “returning” to Israel; or at the very least, it is designed to help the Palestinians demand “compensation” from Israel.
You gotta love that even-handed European Union. Always at the forefront of the drive for Mideast peace.
David M. Weinberg is director of public affairs at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.
© 2002, David M. Weinberg