NY Times empathizes with PA's financial woes, ends up blaming Israel
The Palestinian Authority is beset by a deep financial crisis, as the New York Times reports in a dispatch by Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner ("Before a Diplomatic Showdown, a Budget Crisis Saps Palestinians' Confidence" July 28, page A4).
But after reporting the PA's dire shortage of cash -- wages cut for 150,000 PA workers, ministries losing electricity for failing to pay bills, Palestinians maxed out on credit, the garbage piling up in a "severe economic crisis, leading many to a sense of foreboding and despair" -- Bronner stops short of laying out the entire picture of why the Palestinians have gotten themselves in such a bind.
The immediate cause of the crisis is obvious -- Arab regimes, including oil-rich Saudi Arabia and Gulf emirates, are reneging on their financial commitments to the PA. Bronner points a finger at "foreign -- especially Arab -- donors." Actually, it's all because Arab regimes have pulled back. Israel continues to send hundreds of millions of dollars in tax receipts to the PA, the European Union hasn't halted its generosity, and neither has the United States, although Congress is signaling that it may cut off aid if Abbas persists in seeking unilateral statehood at the UN..
So why would Arab leaders leave the PA in the lurch at a critical moment when Mahmoud Abbas is seeking a unity accord with Hamas and proclamation of unilateral statehood at the UN General Assembly?
Bronner hints that some Arab leaders may not be enamored with Abbas taking such initiatives, but fails to explain exactly which Arab leaders and why. For example, he reports that Saudi Arabia sent $30 million to the PA -- one tenth of PA expectations. But why would the oil-rich Saudis, who just gave $1 billion to Jordan, renege on their financial pledges to the PA? Bronner leaves us in the dark.
Could it be that the Saudis, who are the last major bulwark against Iran's drive for regional hegemony, are disturbed about Abbas's readiness to legitimize Hamas in a unity deal that would give Hamas, an Iranian surrogate, a half slice of Palestinian governance? Could it be that the Saudis attach a higher priority to containing Iran than in keeping the Palestinians financially afloat?
Bronner shies away from probing these questions or drawing some conclusions. He evidently doesn't want to stir the pot too much.
Better and easier to pin the blame on Bronner's old reliable target: Israel. When the PA louses up important development projects, "the Palestinians reply that the main problem is Israel," he writes.
So instead of pinning responsibility on the Palestinians for having gotten themselves in such a pickle, Bronner ends up with a weepy quote from Mohammad Mustafa, chairman of the Palestinian Investment Fund: "We are in a financial crisis, thousands of our people are in Israeli jails, we can't cross our borders. How long can the world ask us to wait?"
As Abba Eban famously remarked: "The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity." But that's not the mindset of Bronner and the New York Times. With them, it's always someone else -- Israel, the U.S., the Arab world -- who's responsible for the Palestinians' plight -- never the Palestinians themselves for failing to pursue realistic paths to peace with Israel.