Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Hidden Rewards



Aid to Palestinians Rose Despite an Embargo

New York Times - Despite the international embargo on aid to the Palestinian Authority since Hamas came to power a year ago, significantly more aid was delivered to the Palestinians in 2006 than in 2005, according to official figures from the United Nations, United States, European Union and International Monetary Fund.

Instead of going to the Palestinian Authority, much of the money was given directly to individuals or through independent agencies like the World Food Program.

The International Monetary Fund and the United Nations say the Palestinians received $1.2 billion in aid and budgetary support in 2006, about $300 per capita, compared with $1 billion in 2005.

While the United States and the European Union have led the boycott, they, too, provided more aid to the Palestinians in 2006 than 2005. Washington increased its aid to $468 million in 2006, from $400 million in 2005.

The European Union and its member states alone are subsidizing one million people in the West Bank and Gaza, a quarter of the population, as part of their effort to avoid creating a catastrophe from the embargo.

Asked if the European Union could spend any more money on the Palestinians if it recognized the new Palestinian government than it does now, a senior European diplomat laughed and said, “We’d probably spend less.”

One side effect of the redirected aid, some officials said, is that while starvation has been avoided, institutions are withering and a culture of dependence is expanding.

The International Monetary Fund and the United Nations estimate that direct budgetary support to the Palestinian Authority in 2006 was about $740 million, more than double the $350 million in 2004 and 2005.

But Salam Fayyad, the finance minister in the new Palestinian unity government, thinks the Palestinians received at least 250 percent more than that in direct support when cash from Iran and Arab nations is counted, as well as the amount smuggled in by Hamas officials after trips abroad.

“I say the minimum for direct budgetary support was $880 million in 2006 compared to about $350 million the year before,” Mr. Fayyad said. He estimates total aid in 2006 was closer to $1.35 billion.

The United States, Europe and Israel imposed their boycott because Hamas supports terrorism and refuses to recognize Israel, renounce violence or honor existing Palestinian-Israeli agreements. The unstated aim has been to build enough disaffection among Palestinians that they would drive Hamas from power and replace it with Fatah.

.....you ever get the feeling you're being played by those you voted for?