Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The road to Hamastan

Every day brings more news of anarchy and chaos in PA-administered areas as the experiment in Palestinian Arab nationhood goes its merry way.

Today's items include an interesting op-ed from the Telegraph showing how Gaza is doing:
The first sign of just how dodgy security has become came when Said Ghazali, The Daily Telegraph's local man in Jerusalem, and I arrived at the Palestinian side of the crossing to learn that our regular driver - stocky, dependable Ashraf - would not be there to meet us.

He had a reasonable excuse. He has the bad luck to belong to the Masri clan, who are currently engaged in a blood feud with their rivals, the Kafarnehs. The toll so far is five dead and 70-odd wounded. Yesterday a Kafarneh was injured in a shooting attack and Ashraf thought it prudent to leave his cab in the garage.

We found another driver and set off for Rafah, the scene of an extraordinary outbreak of anarchy last week. A mob killed two Egyptian border guards and bulldozed concrete walls in a successful attempt to force the authorities to release a man suspected of kidnapping the British aid worker Kate Burton and her parents.

On the way, we passed through the town of Khan Younis. The main road was blocked by what I took at first to be an election rally.

Wrong. The Masri boys were at it again, this time wading into the Tahas, their sworn enemies in the southern end of the Strip.

The action in the main street was confined to fists and boots, but, as we turned into a parallel street to detour round the mob, we ran into a gun battle, with the rivals trading Kalashnikov fire from opposing blocks of flats. The cars in front of us sped up a bit, but 50 yards from the shooting, life was going on as normal.

Most Gazans grew up with gunfire. Before, it was only the Israelis they had to worry about. Now they are shooting each other. The security forces are no help. Their rivalries are the cause of much of the bloodshed.
At the end of a day like yesterday, I would normally retire to the UN Beach Club, a low-rise concrete joint whose seediness is more than compensated for by its views of the Mediterranean. And, of course, the fact that it is the only place in Gaza where you can get a drink.

Yesterday the Beach Club was still there. But the bar wasn't. Unknown saboteurs arrived at dawn a few days ago, tied up the guards and planted a bomb that reduced the interior to matchwood.

The way things are going in Gaza, it seems unlikely that the dear old Beach Club will be re-opening its doors any time soon.
More heartening news from the World Bank:
The PA is on the verge of functional bankruptcy. The failure to make the salary payment in full and on time will affect hundreds of thousands of people who feed at its table, and the tens of thousands of suppliers and merchants who earn their living from its employees. They will join the masses of unemployed. According to the World Bank, the unemployment rate in the territories exceeds 20 percent, with a rate of about 30 percent in the Gaza Strip, over 40 percent in the southern part of Gaza and among young people (ages 16-25) in southern Gaza, the favorite source of cannon fodder for Islamic Jihad, unemployment reaches the alarming rate of 70 percent. The bankruptcy of the PA following the elections, Roberts warns, could generate a shock of unimaginable dimensions.

"The Palestinian government needs the continued assistance of the international community," Roberts declares, "and to secure that, it must begin to assume its responsibilities." Raising salaries at a time when resources are unavailable for this, he notes, is precisely the opposite of demonstrating responsibility and reliability. The direct consequence of this move was a decision by the Bank, supported by the European Commission, to freeze $60 million for funding the PA's operating budget. According to Roberts, this far-reaching step was taken because the Palestinians did not fulfill their commitments on budget control. Were the donors not to hold the PA responsible, they would lose the confidence of their taxpayers that enough control can be exercised to prevent the money from being used to finance acts of terror.

Roberts notes that the amount of assistance the Palestinians are getting - $5 billion in five years, or $300 per capita annually - is the highest granted to any entity since World War II. "To maintain the deep involvement of the donors, and their diplomatic attention, as well as the desire of the private sector to invest additional money, the PA must improve its performance," Roberts states. Unfortunately, he continues, Yasser Arafat's departure has not brought about a dramatic change for the better - in fact this last year has witnessed serious deterioration in internal law and order and budget management.
And even the PA's friends are getting a bit upset:
Egypt threatened to withdraw its support for the Palestinian Authority if the PA did not act to control the rampant anarchy in the Gaza Strip, according to a report in the London Arab newspaper Al Quds.

The report claimed that following the incident at the Rafah border crossing in which two Egyptian soldiers were killed, Egyptian authorities delivered the threat to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas as part of a specially delivered message.

Egypt also threatened to withdraw its support for the peace process if the PA did not take the proper steps to restore order to Gaza.
The countdown to the Islamic Republic of Hamastan is well underway.