January 18, 2001 Special Dispatch No. 178

The Delay in Arab Aid for the Intifada

January 18, 2001
Palestinians | Special Dispatch No. 178

"The Intifada of Al-Aqsa" engendered solidarity for the Palestinian cause throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds, and encouraged Arab and Islamic leaders to convene urgent summits in support of the Palestinians. Resolutions were taken at the Arab summit in Cairo and the Islamic summit in Qatar, to provide financial support for the Palestinian Intifada and to establish two funds: "The Al-Aqsa Fund" and the "Intifada Fund."

According to reports in the Arab media, the contributions from the Arab countries and other sources totaled seven hundred million dollars, although it appears that only a very small part of this money actually reached the Palestinians. Palestinian representative to the Arab League, Muhammad Sbeih, even claimed that in comparison to the material aid given by EU countries, the Arab aid is "modest and very poor."[1]

Lack of Arab Trust for PA

The main reason for the delay of financial aid to the PA seems to be the Arab countries' fear that the funds will not reach their destination, given what is known about PA corruption. Therefore, instead of promptly transferring the money to the Palestinian leadership, some Arab donor countries decided to transfer the funds directly to those eligible.

Columnist Dawoud Al-Shiryan discussed this problem in an article in the London-based Al-Hayat daily and came to the conclusion that: "The Palestinian people is the victim of the lack of trust between the Arab regimes and the PA."[2]

PA spokesmen utterly rejected the claims against the PA and saw them as an offense to the PA's independence and honor. Palestinian Undersecretary of Culture, Yahya Yikhlaf, for example, stated "The behavior of the Arab leaders on the issue of money is like that of the [British] Mandate." According to Yikhlaf, "The regimes and the institutions that collected the funds...claim that the PA is not worthy of spending them because of its corruption, and therefore take it upon themselves to transfer the money directly to its destination..."

"The Palestinian people," adds Yikhlaf, "knows what its immediate needs are, and the donors should turn to the correct address, namely the PA. The PLO paid a heavy price for its independent national decision [-making], and the Arab regimes must not exploit breaches caused by mistakes and deeds of [certain] individuals. [At the same time], the PLO and the PA will have to close these breaches and to adopt a transparent financial policy that end these rumors."

"We should reject the humiliating aid that hurts our national pride; moreover, we must establish criteria for the use of these funds ... We must publicize in the media the [details] of our spending and present to the Arab public clear accountability."[3]

Palestinian columnist Hussein Hijazi, sim;larly argue: "It is the right of every Arab country to determine for itself the destination of its aid, be it the families of the martyrs or hospitals. However, the only [lawful] address for distributing the funds is the PA, as it is the political body that represents the Palestinian people."[4]

"Most official Palestinian spokes-people deny the accusations of misuse of funds by the PA. The Palestinian representative to the Arab League, Muhammad Sbeih, blamed Israel for spreading these rumors: "These claims are part of the propaganda war that Israel launched in order to harm the reputation of the PA and beseige it politically, financially, and in the media. The source of this information is, unfortunately, [Deputy IDF Chief of Staff] General Ya'lon..."[5]

A few Palestinian critics of the PA pointed to corruption among the PA leadership. For example Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), Hussam Khadr stated: "We hope that the funds will reach the eligible people and that some of them will be allocated to strengthening the financial and national infrastructure, rather than the personal [infrastructure] of PA officials... As for the funds that have [supposedly] already arrived -- nobody knows a thing about them. This is a mystery which no one can solve, not the Minister of Finance, nor the government, nor any other institution."[6]

PLC Member Hassan Khreiseh proposed a practical way of overcoming the lack of trust in view of "The problem of financial corruption and the [PA's faulty] administrative functioning: The surest way to distribute [the donations] is through popular institutions... If the funds ever arrive, we will have to establish two complementary bodies, one popular and another official [for the purpose of distribution]."[7]

A Gap Between Arab Leaders and Public

"The Intifada of Al-Aqsa" revealed the existence of a large gap between the public in Arab countries, who were incited by the events and wanted a fierce Arab response against Israel, and the Arab leaders, who tried to maintain the status-quo. Regarding aid to the Palestinians, however, the Arab leaders heeded the pressures of the public.

Palestinian Undersecretary of Culture, Yahya Yikhlaf, criticized the Arab leadership: "There is no doubt that many of the Arab regimes are evading their commitments to the Palestinian people by casting doubt on the competence of the PA to use the funds [appropriately]. Other Arab governments [decided to] contribute because of pressure from their public [but then] set terms that have kept the funds from reaching Palestinian society..."[8]

The Palestinian weekly Al-Manar reproached the Arab leaders that do not want to aid the Palestinian Intifada, claiming that they they intend to force the Palestinians to accept a political settlement with Israel. According to this article, the real reasons for the delay in granting funds to the Palestinians is"American-Israeli pressure to limit the scope and delay the transfer of the donations..."

"The [Arab] governments know that the aid will help the Intifada and the PA, and for a long time now they do not want this..."

"All these declarations [by Arab leaders] about donations to the Palestinians were aimed, no more and no less, at quieting the Arab public's rage. The withholding [of the donations] is aimed at weakening the PA, suffocating the Intifada and increasing the pressure on the Palestinian people."[9]

[1] Al-Quds (PA), December 19, 2000.

[2] Al-Hayat (London), December 13, 2000.

[3] Al-Intifada (PA), December 1, 2000.

[4] Al-Ayyam (PA), December 1, 2000.

[5] Al-Quds, December 29, 2000.

[6] Al-Massar (PA), December 1,2000.

[7] Al-Massar, December 1, 2000.

[8] Al-Intifada, December 1, 2000.

[9] Al-Manar December 11, 2000.

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