Thursday, April 24, 2014

EU Unrestrained Support of the PA Is Inimical to Peace

By Joseph Puder, FPM

In his ploy to avoid negotiations with Israel that might actually force him to make such minimal concessions as “ending the conflict” with Israel, and recognizing Israel as the “state of the Jewish people,” Mahmoud Abbas, Chairman of the Palestinian Authority (PA) can count on the European Union (EU) to support him.

That support has been both financial and political. Financially, the EU has written a virtual “blank check” for the Palestinians to use with no accountability.

Politically, the EU has deemed the Palestinians as “underdogs,” deserving uncritical support. In both cases, EU support for the PA has done little to advance a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Whether it is misplaced guilt, or fear of Arab terrorism, the EU continues to sink unaccounted billions of European taxpayers Euros into the corrupt administration of Mahmoud Abbas. According to the United Kingdom’s Sunday Times, the Palestinian Authority squandered nearly 1.95 billion euros ($2.64 billion) in European aid through corruption and mismanagement between 2008 and 2012.

The Sunday Times reported that billions of euros in European aid to the Palestinians may have been misspent, squandered or lost to corruption, according to a damning report by the European Court of Auditors, the Luxembourg-based watchdog. EU investigators who visited sites in Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank noted “significant shortcomings” in the management of funds sent to Gaza and the West Bank. Gaza is controlled by Hamas, which is classified as a terrorist organization by the EU. The auditors, according to the Sunday Times, complained about lack of measures to mitigate “high level” risks, such as “corruption, or of funds not being used for their intended purposes.”

Since the creation of the PA in the aftermath of the Oslo Accords, signed on the White House lawn in September, 1993, the EU has become the largest donor to the PA. As such, it has a responsibility to its taxpayers, who in recent years have suffered the debilitating effects of the global recession, austerity, and chronic high unemployment. The EU also has a moral responsibility to insure that its funds are not diverted to support terror, and human rights violations. The ostensible reason for the EU’s assistance to the PA is to help advance a lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis.

Michael Theurer, chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control, writing in the Wall Street Journal (April 9, 2014) revealed in the findings of the European Court of Auditors last December that “since 2007, a considerable number of PA civil servants in Gazahave received their salaries partly funded through EU aid – even though they were not going to work due to the political situation in Gaza.” Theurer questioned how this contributes to peace building. He also asked how the EU can preserve its credibility back home when it pays salaries to people who don’t work, while millions of European citizens are unemployed?

The Court of Auditors also found that the EU paid “insufficient attention to the fungibility of the funds provided to the PA. There is reason to believe, the report noted, that EU financial assistance has allowed the PA to use its own general budget to support terrorist or criminal activities.” In addition, the PA allocates a significant portion of its budget to paying salaries to Palestinians convicted of terrorism. These salaries are five times higher than the average salary in the West Bank. Convicted terrorists also receive large grants from the PA.

An investigation by the EU anti-fraud commission into PA funding of terrorist activities, conducted in 2005, allegedly found no conclusive evidence of armed attacks financed by the European Commission’s contributions to the budget. These allegations could not be dismissed, however, given the fact that the internal and external audit capacity of the PA is largely underdeveloped.

The removal of Salam Fayyad as Finance Minister and Prime Minister has essentially ended the PA’s opportunity for transparency and the fight against corruption and mismanagement.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that in 2012, the PA payments to convicted terrorists in Israeli prisons, and to the families of deceased terrorists, including suicide bombers, accounted for more than 16% of the annual foreign donations and grants to the budget of the PA. Israel considers PA payments to Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons and their families to be “funding terrorism.” In 2012, the PA Ministry of Prisoner Affairs transferred $75.5 million to terrorists imprisoned by Israel and their families, out of a total budget of $3.1 billion, according to Israeli government figures. In February, 2014, the Palestinian Minister of Prisoner Affairs announced an allocation of 30 million euros to current and former terrorist prisoners and their families.

Responding to the EU’s calls that its funds not go to convicted terrorists, PA Minister of Prisoner Affairs Issa Karake said on PA-TV, (November 4, 2013) “The Europeans want their money that comes to us to remain clean – not to go to families of those they claim to be terrorists. They (the Europeans) need to renounce this occupation mentality. These prisoners are heroes, fedayyeen (self-sacrificing fighters) who fought so that they could live in dignity. We appreciate the people of the revolution and are proud of them.” Calling the murderers of unarmed civilian men, women, and children heroes is a perversion of reality that even the Europeans cannot accept.

The Europeans prefer to ignore the possibility that their funding, however indirect, supports Palestinian terror against Jews, and hate education that is rivaled only by Nazi Germany. States like Israel and organizations such as Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) have time and again shown how EU funding has facilitated hate literature and hate teaching in Palestinian schools. EU money has also been used to fund anti-Semitism in the Palestinian media. In the PA broadcasts, Jews have been described as apes, rats and crows. TV discussions that negate the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel, and characterize Israelis as bloodthirsty colonialists are not only hateful, they are inimical to peacemaking and amity between Arabs, Jews, Palestinians and Israelis.

Michael Theurer asked how the EU can ensure that its financial assistance to the PA will help advance peace and stability in the region, while promoting freedom, democracy and the rule of law. And, he ponders how the EU can guarantee that its funds won’t be used to reward terrorism. Theurer responded at least partially to some of his questions by asserting that at the plenary of the European Parliament in early April, 2014, a resolution was passed calling for greater transparency in EU aid to the PA.

It is easy to conclude however, that hitherto, the EU’s unrestrained financial support to the PA has done little to promote freedom, democracy, and the rule of law, and has above all been inimical to peace between the Palestinians and Israel.

Posted by Ted Belman

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