The Systemic Corruption in the Palestinian Authority

April 13 2018

The Coalition for Accountability and Integrity, a Palestinian group that monitors corruption in Gaza and the West Bank, recently released its annual report. Praising the organization as an exemplar of Palestinian civil society, Elliott Abrams summarizes its conclusions:

The rule of law is weak both because the parliament never meets to pass laws and due to executive interference. . . . Government jobs, which are prized due to the weak private economy, are awarded on the basis of cronyism rather than merit. . . . While there is a high import duty on automobiles, it is often escaped by big shots. . . . The security services continue to be bloated at the top, as under Yasir Arafat. . . .

Moneys are spent on non-existent entities, and here’s the best example: “salaries and raises were paid to employees of an airline company that no longer exists on the ground.” That is Palestine Airlines, about which the report says this: “The Palestinian treasury paid salaries to hundreds of employees in the ‘Palestinian Airlines,’ which is a governmental company that has a board of directors, headed by the minister of transportation. . . . The budget for this ‘company’ is included in the budget of the Ministry of Transport and Transportation with no details.” A non-existent airline—whose employees were not only paid salaries but given raises. . . .

The report also covers Gaza, where there is plenty of Hamas corruption. . . . The report is a tribute to the Coalition for Accountability and Integrity, because the text is long and detailed. Its very existence is a reminder that Palestinian civil society remains strong and continues to struggle with the political parties, movements, and leaders that dominate political life—and have so often been a curse to Palestinians.

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More about: Hamas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinians, Politics & Current Affairs

The U.S. Should Recognize Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan Heights

July 19 2018

Since the 1970s, American governments have sporadically pressured Jerusalem to negotiate the return of the Golan to Syria in exchange for peace. Had Israel given up this territory, Iranian forces would now be preparing to establish themselves on its strategically advantageous high ground. Michael Doran, testifying before the House of Representatives, argues that for this and other reasons, Congress should recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. (Video is available at the link below.)

Between 1949 and 1967, [the period during which Syria held the Golan], thousands of clashes erupted [there]. By contrast, ever since Israel took control of the Golan Heights in June 1967, they have served as a natural buffer between the two belligerents. The last 70 years serve as a laboratory of real life, and the results [of the experiment conducted therein] are incontrovertible: when in the hands of Syria, the Golan Heights promoted conflict. When in the hands of Israel, they have promoted stability. . . .

From the outbreak of the [Syrian] civil war, Iran and Russia have worked aggressively to shape the conflict so as to serve their interests. The influence of Iran is particularly worrisome because, in the division of labor between Moscow and Tehran, Russia provides the air power while Iran provides much of the ground forces. . . . Thanks to Iran’s newfound ground presence [in Syria], it is well on the way to completing a so-called “land bridge” stretching from Tehran to Beirut. There can be no doubt that a major aim of the land bridge is to increase the military pressure on Israel (and Jordan, too). . . .

Would Americans ever consciously choose to place Iranian soldiers on the Golan Heights, so that they could peer down their riflescopes at Jewish civilians below? Is there any American interest that would be served by allowing Iran to have direct access to the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s primary water reservoir? Would it ever be wise to place Iranian troops [where they could] serve as a wedge between Jordan and Israel? The answer to all of these questions, obviously, is no. And the clearest way to send that message to the world is to pass a law recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

As for the claim that the Jewish state’s seizure of the Golan in 1967 violates international law, Doran notes that Washington undermined this claim with its attempts in the 1990s to broker a deal between Jerusalem and Damascus:

The ready American (and Israeli) acceptance of the June 4, 1967 cease-fire line [as the basis for such a deal] is nothing short of startling. That line . . . leaves Syria in possession of territory along the shores of the Sea of Galilee and elsewhere that it acquired by force in 1948. In other words, to win over its enemy, [Syria], the Clinton administration dispensed with the principle of the impermissibility of the acquisition of territory by force—the very principle that the United States has remained ever-vigilant in applying to its ally, Israel.

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More about: Congress, Golan Heights, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy