One often-cited key to peace between Israel and the Palestinians is economic development. To that end, there seems to be broad agreement about the importance of extending development aid to help the Palestinians build the physical and social infrastructure that will enable the emergence of a sustainable, prosperous society. But few have seriously questioned how much money is sent and how it is used.
Such assistance will only promote peace if it is spent to foster tolerance and coexistence. If it is used to strengthen intransigence it does more harm than good—and the more aid that comes in, the worse the outcome. This is exactly what has been transpiring over the past few decades. Large amounts of foreign aid to the Palestinians are spent to support terrorists and deepen hostility.
For years the most senior figures in the Palestinian Authority have supported, condoned and glorified terror. “Every drop of blood that has been spilled in Jerusalem,” President Mahmoud Abbas said last September on Palestinian television, “is holy blood as long as it was for Allah.” Countless Palestinian officials and state-run television have repeatedly hailed the murder of Jews.
This support for terrorism doesn’t end with hate speech. The Palestinian regime in Ramallah pays monthly stipends of between $400 and $3,500 to terrorists and their families, the latter of which is more than five times the average monthly salary of a Palestinian worker.
According to data from its budgetary reports, compiled in June 2014 by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the PA’s annual budget for supporting Palestinian terrorists was then roughly $75 million. That amounted to some 16% of the foreign donations the PA received annually. Overall in 2012 foreign aid made up about a quarter of the PA’s $3.1 billion budget. More recent figures are inaccessible since the Palestinian Authority is no longer transparent about the stipend transfers.
Embarrassed by public revelations of the misuse of the foreign aid, in August 2014 the Palestinian Authority passed the task of paying stipends to terrorists and their families to a fund managed by the Palestine Liberation Organization, also led by Mr. Abbas. Lest there be any doubt as to the purely cosmetic nature of the change, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah made assurances as recently as September 2015 that the PA will provide the “necessary assistance” to ensure these terror stipends.
This procedural ruse apparently calmed the consciences of donor governments that continue to transfer aid. It is difficult to think of another case in which such a forgiving attitude would be taken regarding foreign aid to an entity that sponsors terror.
This situation is particularly disturbing given the disproportionate share of development assistance the Palestinians receive, which comes at the expense of needy populations elsewhere. According to a report last year by Global Humanitarian Assistance, in 2013 the Palestinians received $793 million in international aid, second only to Syria. This amounts to $176 for each Palestinian, by far the highest per capita assistance in the world. Syria, where more than 250,000 people have been killed and 6.5 million refugees displaced since 2011, received only $106 per capita.
A closer look at the remaining eight countries in the top 10—Sudan, South Sudan, Jordan, Lebanon, Somalia, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo—is even more alarming. CIA Factbook data show that these countries have a combined population of 284 million and an average per capita GDP of $2,376. Yet they received an average of $15.30 per capita in development assistance in 2013. The Palestinians, by comparison, with a population of 4.5 million, have a per capita GDP of $4,900.
In other words, though the Palestinians are more than twice as wealthy on average than these eight countries, they receive more than 11 times as much foreign aid per person. The Democratic Republic of Congo is a case in point: Its 79 million people have a per capita GDP of $700, yet they receive only $5.70 in aid per person.
Between 1993 (when the Oslo Process began) and 2013, the Palestinians received $21.7 billion in development assistance, according to the World Bank. The Palestinian leadership has had ample opportunity to use these funds for economic and social development. Tragically, as seen in Hamas-run Gaza, it prefers to use the funds on its terrorist infrastructure and weaponry, such as cross-border attack tunnels and the thousands of missiles that have rained down in recent years on Israel.
In Judea and Samaria, the “West Bank,” the situation is equally disturbing. Aside from funding terrorists and investing in hate speech, the PA stubbornly refuses to remove hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from “refugee” rosters, deliberately keeping them in a state of dependence and underdevelopment for no purpose other than to stoke animosity toward Israel.
It is difficult to come away from these facts without realizing the deep connection between the huge amounts of foreign aid being spent, the bizarre international tolerance for patently unacceptable conduct by the Palestinians and the lack of progress toward peace on the ground.
Donors to the Palestinians who support peace would do well to rethink the way they extend assistance. Money should go to economic and civic empowerment, not to perpetuate a false sense of victimhood and unconditional entitlement. It should foster values of tolerance and nonviolence, not the glorification and financing of terrorism.
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