The good news is that the Palestinian Authority has established an anti-corruption court in the West Bank.
The bad news is that the court has been established seventeen years after the signing of the Oslo Accords and the creation of the Palestinian Authority.
The decision to establish an anti-corruption court in the West Bank should be welcomed as a positive development.
But the question needs to be asked: Why now?
There is much doubt as to whether the new court would be able to look into allegations regarding the involvement of dozens of senior Palestinian officials in the theft of public funds.
Many of these officials continue to hold senior posts in the Palestinian Authority and the ruling Fatah faction. Any attempt to press charges against these officials could stir instability in the Palestinian Authority and create a lot of problems for President Mahmoud Abbas, who is already facing criticism from a growing number of Fatah leaders because of what they believe is his willingness to make concessions to Israel in the peace talks, and his failure to get rid of many icons of financial corruption.
If the Palestinian Authority is indeed serious about fighting corruption, it should start by cleaning its house from within. The judges of the anti-corruption court should be given unlimited powers to look into cases against any suspect, regardless of his or her job and political affiliation.
Will the court, for example, have the authority to look into a case against one of Abbas's sons or Arafat's widow, Suha?
Judging from the experiences of the past, that is unlikely to happen and the new court will go down into Palestinian history as another public relations stunt designed to milk more money from the West.
Moreover, it Is unlikely that the court would ever be able to determine what happened to billions of dollars that were given to Arafat and many of his cronies during the first years of the Oslo Accords process. Palestinians believe that some of the money remains in secret Swiss bank accounts or in the hands of former Arafat cronies who live in the West Bank and assorted countries.
There is much doubt as to whether the new court will be able to answer the question that many Palestinians have been asking themselves for many years: What happened to billions of dollars in international aid that were given to the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat?
The decision is clearly aimed at showing Western donors that the Palestinian Authority is serious about combating financial and administrative corruption.
But setting up a court in Ramallah is not enough. In the past, the Palestinian leadership promised to take serious steps against corruption, but has not done much. About five years ago, the Palestinian Authority even passed an anti-corruption law, but until now, no one has heard of a case where a senior official was charged.
Although the government of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has, in recent years, taken a number of positive steps toward reforming Palestinian Authority institutions, a majority of Palestinians remain skeptical.