The Palestinian Authority announced this week that it has spent nearly $7 billion on the Gaza Strip since 2007, when Hamas violently seized control of the regional coast. This means that since 2007, according to Fatah spokesman Ahmed Assaf, about $120 million has been going to the Gaza Strip. He revealed that the Palestinian Authority continues to pay salaries to some 80,000 "civil servants" in there-- but he did not elaborate on the nature of their work.
The West Bank's Palestinian Authority government, headed by Salam Fayyad, has appealed to the donor countries to increase the financial aid to strengthen the Palestinian economy, especially in the Gaza Strip. But before the donors take any decision, they really should ask Fayyad and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas about the $7 billion they have already spent on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip over the past four years: Where is it?
These revelations came on the eve of a meeting of donor countries in Brussels to discuss financial aid to the Palestinian Authority. The $7 billion that has been invested in the Gaza Strip by the Palestinian Authority has, ironically, helped Hamas solidify its control over the area. In other words, Fayyad and Abbas are funding their rivals in Hamas who terrorized them out of the Gaza Strip in June 2007. The Palestinian Authority is continuing to spend millions of dollars on the Gaza Strip at a time when its leaders are not even permitted to visit there; Mahmoud Abbas cannot even visit his home in Gaza.
The billions of dollars that the Palestinian Authority claims its has spent over the past five years, all from Europe and the United States, should have transformed the Gaza Strip into the Middle East's Singapore. These huge funds should have ended the suffering of the 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip. But despite all billions of dollars that have been poured into the area, the Gaza Strip remains a base for jihadists and various terror groups. As bad, the funds have done virtually nothing to solve the severe problem of unemployment and poverty in the Gaza Strip.
The donors, for example, have the right -- as well as the fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of Europe whose hard work was what bankrolled this transfer of wealth -- to know which "civil servants" in the Gaza Strip receive salaries, and if they include members of Hamas's security forces. Even more urgently needed is for the donors should check on whether some of the money is being used to finance the manufacturing of rockets and missiles and the purchase of weapons from Iran, Sudan and Egypt.
These billions are not only helping Hamas to stay in power, they are absolving Hamas of its responsibilities as the ruling government to be able to take care of its constituents. The Europeans, the American and the Palestinian Authority are also wrong if it thinks that the funds will have a moderating effect on the residents of the Gaza Strip. The people there will take the money from the Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank, but at the end of the day they will still vote for Hamas or Islamic Jihad.
The donor countries really must insist that the Palestinian Authority reconsider its policy of facilitating Hamas's continued control over the Gaza Strip. And they need to make sure that their money is not ending up in the hands of terror cells and armed groups.
Hani Abbas is a Jerusalem-based Palestinian journalist