Some Reasons for Cutting Aid to the Palestinian Authority

Jan. 10 2018

The White House has recently raised the possibility of cutting funding for UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for caring for Palestinian refugees and their descendants; it has also threatened to cut direct aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) for its incitement to violence and violations of the Oslo Accords. To Jonathan Tobin, this is a reasonable approach:

Aid to the PA is seen as necessary to prop up the only available interlocutor for peace with Israel. We’re also told that funding the PA is a necessary part of its security cooperation with Israel.

There are elements of truth to these assertions. If the PA were to collapse, that would likely lead to Israel’s having to reassert direct control of the West Bank rather than the current situation in which the majority of Palestinians are governed by the corrupt Fatah party led by Mahmoud Abbas. But the PA’s need for cash to prop up its kleptocracy is exactly why the U.S. should be using its financial leverage to make clear to Abbas that a quarter-century of his organization’s holding the U.S. hostage in this manner can’t continue. Abbas’s threats of dissolving the PA are bluffs that should have been called long ago.

The same is true of security cooperation [between the PA and Israel]. Abbas relies on Israel to ensure his survival against the plots of his Islamist rivals as much, if not more, than the Israelis rely on the PA to help keep terror under control in the West Bank. . . .

American governments have tolerated [the status quo] because they felt there was no alternative. But . . . you don’t have to be a supporter of President Trump or of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to understand that [the U.S.] is right to demand that if the Palestinians want U.S. money they must, at the very least, come back to the negotiating table and cease funding and fomenting terror.

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More about: Donald Trump, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, UNRWA

 

Jerusalem’s Economic Crisis, Its Arabs, and Its Future

Oct. 18 2018

The population of Israel’s capital city is 38-percent Arab, making Arab eastern Jerusalem the largest Arab community in the country. Connected to this fact is Jerusalem’s 46-percent poverty rate—the highest of any Israeli municipality. The city’s economic condition stems in part from its large ultra-Orthodox population, but there is also rampant poverty among its Arab residents, whose legal status is different from that of both Arab Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. Haviv Rettig Gur explains:

Jerusalem’s Arab inhabitants are not Israeli citizens—in part because Palestinian society views acceptance of Israeli citizenship, [available to any Arab Jerusalemite who desires it], as acceptance of Israeli claims of sovereignty over the city, and in part because Israel is not eager to accept them, even as it formally views itself as having annexed the area. Nevertheless, they have a form of permanent residency that, unlike West Bank Palestinians, allows them unimpeded access to the rest of Israel. . . .

There are good reasons for this poverty among eastern Jerusalem’s Arabs, rooted in the political trap that has ensnared the Arab half of the city and with it the rest of the city as well. Right-wing Israeli political leaders have avoided investing in Arab eastern Jerusalem, fearing that such investments would increase the flow of Palestinians into the city. Left-wing leaders have done the same on the grounds that the Arab half would be given away in a future peace deal.

Meanwhile, eastern Jerusalem’s complicated situation, suspended between the Israeli and Palestinian worlds, means residents cannot take full advantage of their access to the Israeli economy. For example, while most Arab women elsewhere in Israel learn usable Hebrew in school, most Arab schools in eastern Jerusalem teach from the Palestinian curriculum, which does not offer students the Hebrew they will need to find work in the western half of the city. . . .

It is not unreasonable to argue that Jerusalem cannot really be divided, not for political reasons but for economic ones. If Jerusalem remains a solely Israeli capital, it will have to integrate better its disparate parts and massively develop its weaker communities if it hopes ever to become solvent and prosperous. Arabs must be able to find more and better work in Jewish Jerusalem—and in Arab Jerusalem, too. Conversely, if the city is divided into two capitals, that of a Jewish state and that of a Palestinian one, that won’t change the underlying economic reality that its prosperity, its capacity to accommodate tourism and develop efficient infrastructure, and its ability to ensure access for all religions to their many holy sites, will still require a unified urban space.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli economy, Jerusalem