Mahmoud Abbas’s Graft Has Undermined the Peace Process

July 28, 2023 | Khaled Abu Toameh
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When the Oslo Accords were signed in September 1993, it was hoped that they would lead to the end of the Israel-Palestinian conflict and the establishment of an enduring system of Palestinian self-government. Their failure to do so has been blamed on many factors, but one of the least noted is the endemic corruption within the Palestinian Authority (PA), established pursuant to the accords in 1994. To Khaled Abu Toameh, this widespread self-dealing is perhaps the greatest impediment to peace:

The allegations of corruption, leveled against the Palestinian Authority almost from day one, severely undermined the credibility of the former PLO chairman Yasir Arafat and his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, in the eyes of their people. . . . One of the main priorities of these two leaders has been to prove that, when it comes to dealing with Israel, they are not “getting into bed with the enemy” for personal profit. Countering this perception has superseded their considerations of making peace with Israel.

From the very beginning of the “peace process” in 1993, many Palestinians saw it as a “transaction” between the Israeli government and the corrupt PLO leadership that was hungry for money after being dumped by many Arab countries as retaliation for supporting the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. After the liberation of Kuwait a year later, the oil-rich emirates and other Gulf states decided to cut off funds to the PLO, causing the organization one of its most serious financial crises.

The Oslo Accords, however, saved the PLO from collapsing once the Arab financial aid was replaced with massive funds by the United States, Europe, and other countries. Many Palestinians observed that the only things the “peace process” brought about were the enrichment of senior PLO officials and their family members and associates who greedily siphoned publicly designated funds to drive luxury cars and build extravagant mansions, particularly in Ramallah and the Gaza Strip.

Western donors’ failure, or refusal, in the first two decades after the “peace process,” to hold the Palestinian Authority accountable for their outlandish abuse of funds was one of the main reasons most Palestinians lost faith in the Oslo Accords. Moreover, it was also one of the primary reasons so many Palestinians were radicalized and ultimately voted for Hamas in the 2006 parliamentary election.

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