Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is well aware that the Arab states are no longer willing to serve as a cash machine for ingrates. Under the current circumstances, the Palestinians are more likely to succeed in cajoling money from duped Western donors than from their loving brothers. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
The Arab states continue to lie to the Palestinians. At the last meeting of Arab foreign ministers in the Egyptian capital of Cairo, the Arabs "affirmed their commitment to support the budget of the state of Palestine by activating the resolution of the Arab summit in Tunisia to provide a $100 million safety net [to the Palestinians] each month."
The Arab foreign ministers announced their decision after listening to a speech by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who complained that his government was facing a financial crisis because of Israeli and US measures.
Abbas was referring to Israel's decision to deduct payments made by the Palestinian Authority (PA) government to families of security prisoners and "martyrs" from tax revenues that Israel collects each month on behalf of the Palestinians.
Earlier this year, the Israeli government announced it is deducting hundreds of millions of shekels from the tax funds it collects on behalf of the Palestinians because of the PA's policy of paying salaries to terrorists and their families. The decision was in accordance with an Israeli law passed in July 2018. Under the law, the payments made by the PA government would automatically be frozen by the Israeli government, in accordance with the Paris Protocol, an agreement signed between Israel and the PLO in 1994 that allows Israel to collect and transfer to the PA government the import taxes on goods that were intended for the Palestinians.
The law also requires the Israeli Defense Ministry to provide the cabinet with data on the amount the PA pays terrorists and their families. Israel's Finance Ministry will then withhold that amount from the tax funds it transfers.
Abbas was also referring to the steep cuts in US financial aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the PA government.
Abbas went to the Arab League meeting in Cairo with the seeming hope that the Arab countries would help him overcome the severe financial crisis his government has been facing in the past few months. He was apparently hoping that the Arab countries would implement the decision of the Arab summit held in Tunisia in late March to provide financial aid to the Palestinians.
As it turns out, however, both the Arab summit in Tunisia and the Arab League meeting in Cairo have given the Palestinians nothing but empty promises and meaningless statements of support and solidarity with the Palestinian cause.
Earlier this week, Abbas revealed during a meeting of his cabinet in the West Bank city of Ramallah that despite the pledges of financial support from the Arab states, the Palestinians still have not received any funds. He further disclosed that he had asked the Arab countries for a loan -- a request which he said has also been ignored by the Arab states.
"We asked our Arab brothers to provide us with a financial safety net," Abbas said, referring to his speech at the Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo.
"But we're not pinning high hopes on them. God willing, something will happen. We asked for $100 million each month. We told them to consider it a debt, which we will pay you back. However, we haven't received an answer even regarding the debt request."
At this point in his speech, Abbas became aware that his remarks were being broadcast live on Palestine TV. It was at that moment that he stopped speaking about the failure of the Arab states to fulfill their promises to the Palestinians. What happened was that Abbas realized that his criticism of the Arab states was likely to enrage the Arab heads of state.
Abbas understood that he had made a grave error in calling out his Arab brothers for their tightfistedness. This was a massive mistake because his Arab brothers do not tolerate any form of criticism. For them, Abbas should only be criticizing Israel and the US. Sure enough, to avoid a crisis with the Arab countries, Abbas's official news agency, Wafa, deleted from its report about his speech the critical remarks he had made about the Arab states.
The Palestinian news agency evidently does not want Palestinians to know that their Arab brothers are refusing to help them financially. It appears, instead, to want the Palestinians to believe that Israel and the US are solely responsible for the financial crisis facing the Palestinian Authority government. In fact, this is how the Palestinian propaganda machine has long been functioning. This is the old Palestinian blame game: always make Israel or the U.S. appear responsible for the suffering you inflict on your own people.
The Arab betrayal of the Palestinians is not new. Instead of supporting their Palestinian brothers, the Arab states have been cutting aid to them. According to one report, Arab financial aid to the Palestinians has dramatically dropped in the past two decades. Another report revealed that donations from the Arab world to the Palestinians has been slashed over the past few years by 50%. A mere quarter of the PA's 2017 budget of approximately $3.7 billion has come from Arab states, the report said.
The Palestinians are right to believe that the Arab world no longer cares about them and their problems. The Arab countries have their own problems, particularly financial ones. Most Arab countries seem sick of the Palestinians and see them as ungrateful, particularly after the PLO's support for Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait – one of several wealthy Arab countries that funded the Palestinians to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars in the 70s and 80s.
The PLO's support for Saddam Hussein was a wake-up call for Kuwait and many Arab countries, who are now telling the Palestinians: "Here's some tough love: you spit in our faces, we cut off your allowance."
Like most Palestinians, Abbas is well aware that the Arab states are no longer willing to serve as a cash machine for ingrates. Under the current circumstances, the Palestinians are more likely to succeed in cajoling money from duped Western donors than from their loving brothers. From the Palestinian leaders' point of view, however, this is an inconvenient truth best hidden from their people.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.