The Paris Peace Conference was not as bad as it could have been. The British and Russian governments sent low level delegations. Some of the wording in UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2334 disappeared, and the assembled agreed to resolve "all permanent status issues on the basis of United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), and also recalled relevant Security Council resolutions." Resolution 242 is the benchmark for Israel's security requirements and its right to legitimacy and permanence in the region. And "recalling" is somewhat different from "planning to enforce."
Most interesting, however, is a three-part section toward the end. The mostly-European plus American gathering:
Expressed their readiness to exert necessary efforts... ensuring the sustainability of a negotiated peace agreement, in particular in the areas of political and economic incentives, the consolidation of Palestinian state capacities, and civil society dialogue. Those could include:
- A European privileged partnership; other political and economic incentives and increased private sector involvement... continued financial support to the Palestinian Authority in building the infrastructure for a viable Palestinian economy;
- Supporting and strengthening Palestinian steps to exercise their responsibilities of statehood through consolidating their institutions and institutional capacities, including for service delivery;
- Convening Israeli and Palestinian civil society fora, in order to enhance dialogue between the parties, rekindle the public debate and strengthen the role of civil society on both sides.
This is an outright admission of failure.
The Paris Peace Conference, January 15, 2017. (Image source: Ruptly video screenshot)
After 23 years and billions of dollars, the Palestinians still lack "infrastructure for a viable... economy." They cannot manage "service delivery." And there is no "civil society" in Palestinian Authority areas able to express dissent or disapproval of Mahmoud Abbas's 12-year power grab of a 4-year presidential term. Gaza under Hamas is worse. And surely you weren't fooled by the inclusion of Israel in that section -- it may be that no country in the world has as vibrant a dissenting civil society at both ends of the political spectrum as does Israel.
The numbers tell the tale.
According to the UN Development Assistance Committee, the main bilateral donors to the Palestinians are the U.S., Japan, Canada, Norway, Germany, Sweden, Spain and France. In addition, UNRWA (which received nearly $3 billion from the U.S. since 1994 -- the year after Oslo), the European Commission (for the EU), and the Arab League also contribute institutionally. In 2013, a combination of countries provided over $1 billion to UNRWA. A 2015 UN report shows that from 2001-2015, the EU alone provided over 1.6 billion euros to UNRWA.
The United States is the leading provider of bilateral development assistance to the Palestinians, having provided more than $4.7 billion since 1994 for programs in the areas of democracy and governance; education; health; and humanitarian assistance; private sector development; and water resources and infrastructure. In 2014, the U.S. provided $100 million in budget support for the Palestinian Authority (PA), along with $414 million in assistance through USAID, and was supplying an average of $100 million annually in support for PA security forces. According to an official of USAID:
"This money has helped build clinics, expand export opportunities, deliver health services, improve the efficiency of your ministries, and much, much more... This commitment highlights the continued support of the American people to address the needs of the Palestinian people."
The United States has provided almost $1.4 billion in budget support over the last 20 years.
"Budget support," for the uninitiated, is a euphemism for money to cover mismanagement, not related to specific programs. According to a 2016 Congressional Research Service document, "From the final year of the George W. Bush Administration until FY2013, the United States provided amounts in aggregate of approximately $1.2 billion to a PA treasury account for the purpose of paying various PA creditors." In addition, $21 million in FY 15 funds that had been withheld over congressional concerns was released in March 2016, and an additional $75 million released at the end of the year.
Trying to aggregate the numbers or split them by country or program is an exercise in frustration. Suffice it to say the numbers above only give an outline of the money flow to a sclerotic and kleptocratic Palestinian Authority. And with all the billions of euros and dollars floating around, in 2017 -- going on 24 years of the Oslo experiment -- even the Europeans and John Kerry acknowledge that the Palestinians have no capacity for self-government.
This is, in part, because there has been no demand by the donor countries for such things as budgetary accountability and transparency, or a free press and civil society in the Palestinian Authority areas to demand more and better of its leaders. The PA pays Hamas employees' salaries, although Qatar has announced that it will take over "government" salaries in Gaza. The PA also pays terrorists and their families with foreign donations. And then there's the matter of Palestinian corruption and outright stealing.
The Trump Administration will have a lot on its plate beginning this week. But if it really wants to help the cause of Israel's security, legitimacy and acknowledged permanence in the region, it would do well to insist that U.S. taxpayer dollars be spent accountably or not at all. "Not at all" looks like a generally viable proposition until the Palestinians get their financial, as well as political, house in order.
Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director of the Jewish Policy Center.