Tag Archives: European Union

How the Palestinian Authority Fleeced the European Union

Author: Ilya Dubinsky

The European court of auditors recently recommended that the European Commission stop wasting money on Palestinian Authority employees – who do not come to work. The report where this recommendation is found is quite the read.

 

Palestinians are directly funded by the EU through a program called “Pegase DFS (direct financial support).” Between 2007 and 2012, the Palestinians received 1.4 billion Euro – not in some lousy trifles as flour or diesel fuel, but in hard cash.

 

According to the report, since 1994, the EU and some of its country-members have provided the Palestinian people (to be precise, some certain representatives of the Palestinian people) with financial support of nearly €5.6 billion.

Only after 18 years, in 2012, was an audit held. UNRWA, a UN agency of similar persuasion, had its first independent audit at its jubilee 50th anniversary. These audits are no doubt a Zionist plot.

The auditors, admittedly, do show compassion to Palestinians and condemn vile crimes of the Zionist regime. For instance, the report finds that the PA’s fiscal difficulties “are to considerable degree due to the continuing restrictions placed on it by Israel.” But the report does reveal some startling truths.

The Palestinian Authority, for example, receives funding through ENPI (the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument). Besides the PA, the Instrument provides funding to Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Lybia, Moldova, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, and Ukraine. The total population of these countries is 284 million people and out of this number, Palestinians, including Gaza denizens, comprise 1.5 percent. But since Palestinians need the money much more than, say, Syrian refugees fleeing a civil war, the PA receives 20 percent of the total ENPI funding.

This ridiculous amount is only 40 percent larger than the annual budget of Sydney, Australia, a city of roughly the same population. Where has this money gone?

According to the audit, the money was first allocated in 2004 to support economic and political reforms. By 2007, other funding had increased significantly. The reforms themselves, however, didn’t go so well; at the time of audit, there was a new, much better action plan being written. In other words, the PA never committed to actually reform anything, they just took the money.

There once was a show called “Supermarket Sweep,” in which the participants went on a timed race through a supermarket, stuffing their shopping baskets with goods and groceries and were allowed to keep whatever they could grab. This, more or less, is the picture that comes to mind when one reads about the annual process of budgeting aid for the Palestinian people.

Pegase’s funding is decided upon nearly blindly, and there is no accountability. This is all in the report.

But don’t think that the money is disbursed at random. Not at all, there are strict rules and procedures for selecting only the worthy civil servants of the PA who can receive it. How many people get their salaries thanks to Pegase? According to the audit, between 2008 and 2012, the number of civil servants and pensioners who were regularly receiving part or all of their salary via Pegase had increased from 75,502 to 84,320 (by 11%), which comprises approximately one half of the total of 170,000 employees and pensioners of the Palestinian Authority. At the same time, the total average monthly salary of these people had increased by 37 percent.

The audit says that the PA tries hard to limit the growth in public sector employment to a modest 3,000 people yearly. However, even this increase in workforce is an additional burden on the already overstretched PA budget, because Palestinian leaders make no effort to reform the PA or make structural changes.

The fact that in Gaza employees do not show up for work, but do collect their paychecks, is by now well known. When the board of auditors selected at random 10 employees from Gaza for interviews, three admitted openly that they do not work.

It is not clear how, if at all, this has been explained by the Palestinians. I believe it wasn’t. How can you explain to these Europeans, strangers to the hardships of Israeli occupation, why you need free money?

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Obama’s Iran nuke deal quietly collapses

Less than a month after it was hailed as “a great diplomatic coup,” the so-called Geneva accord to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions seems to have come unstuck.

The official narrative in Tehran is that Iran signed nothing. “There is no treaty and no pact,” says Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham, “only a statement of intent.”

Originally, Iran’s official media had presented the accord as a treaty (qarardad) but it now refers to a “letter of agreement” (tavafoq nameh).

The initial narrative claimed that the P5+1 group of nations that negotiated the deal with Iran had recognized the Islamic Republic’s right to enrich uranium and agreed to start lifting sanctions over a six-month period. In exchange, Iran would slow its uranium enrichment and postpone for six months the installation of equipment for producing plutonium, an alternate route to making a bomb. A later narrative claimed that the accord wasn’t automatic and that the two sides had appointed experts to decide the details (“modalities”) and fix a timetable.

On Sunday, an editorial in the daily Kayhan, published by the office of “Supreme Guide” Ali Khameini, claimed that the “six month” period of the accord was meaningless and that a final agreement might “even take 20 years to negotiate.”

It was, therefore, no surprise that Iran decided to withdraw its experts from talks in Geneva to establish exactly how to implement the accord. “Now we have to talk about reviving the talks on modalities,” says Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi.

Translated into plain language, the new Iranian narrative is that talks about implementing an accord that is not legally binding have collapsed and that, in the words of the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency, Ali-Akbar Salehi, there is no change in the rhythm and tempo of Iran’s nuclear project. “Our centrifuges are working full capacity,” Salehi said last Thursday.

Having claimed that he had halted Iran’s nuclear project, Secretary of State John Kerry might want to reconsider. He and his European colleagues, like many of their predecessors, may have fallen for the diplomatic version of the Three Card Monte played by the mullahs since they seized power in 1979.

Khomeinist diplomacy has never aimed at reaching agreement with anyone. Instead, the regime regards negotiations as just another weapon in the jihad (holy struggle) for ensuring the triumph of “true Islam” across the globe.

The regime can’t conceive of give-and-take and compromise even with Muslim nations, let alone a bunch of “Infidel” powers. If unable to impose its will on others, the regime will try to buy time through endless negotiations.

In Three Card Monte, suckers stay in the game in the hope of getting it right next time. A similar hope ensures outsiders’ participation in Khomeinist diplomacy’s version of the trick.

Thus Tehran has been in negotiations with Russia and three other littoral states over sharing the resources of the Caspian Sea since 1992. Talks with Iraq over implementing Resolution 598 of the UN Security Council and reopening the Shatt al-Arab border estuary have been going on since 2004. Other talks over sharing water resources have been going on with Afghanistan since 2003; talks over joint exploitation of gas resources with Qatar have been going on for 25 years.

And for more than 30 years, Iran and the United States have been negotiating the settlement of mutual claims in accordance with the Algiers accord of 1980.

The series of nuclear negotiations that started in 1993 resumed with the European Union in 2002 and have already taken four years in their current format, which opened in 2009.

The tactic of delay has several advantages for the mullahs.

First, hopes of a negotiated solution make it more difficult for anyone to advocate military action to thwart Tehran’s ambitions. As long as talks are going on, “all other options”, the cliché favored by President Obama, remain off the table.

Endless talks also force Iran’s adversaries are forced to sacrifice policy to process. Under the Geneva deal, for example, the US and its European partners not only set the military option aside, but also undertake not to impose additional sanctions. Instead of hiring expensive lobbyists in Washington, the mullahs can use Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Kerry to lobby Congress on their behalf.

The mullahs have reaped other benefits from their three-card trick. The perception that the crisis is cooling down has already halted the Islamic Republic’s economic free fall. The national currency, the rial, lost 80 percent of its value over four years, but now appears to have stabilized.

The mullahs also use the prospect of normalization, especially with the United States, to divert attention from their increasingly repressive rule. While Iranians are bombarded with talk of President Hassan Rouhani’s “diplomatic miracle,” an average of 10 people are executed in Iran every day.

Here is how Khamenei’s daily mouthpiece put it Sunday: “If our centrifuges do not continue to turn, no other wheel shall turn for our dignity, independence, power and security.”

The message from Tehran to Washington is clear: You talk, we act.

Palestinians very serious… about stealing aid billions

Follow the money, not the “peace process”. Except, um, what to follow and where? What on earth happened to all those billions in aid? For the shocking truth, read on…

Sparkling-champagne-popping-cork

It’s a money fest!
Michael Curtis

Recent publications in the international mainstream media of reckless and dishonest management by Palestinian authorities of their economic affairs and their scandalized response to it recall the eye-opening surprise of the corrupt chief of police in the film Casablanca who was “shocked” to find that gambling was going on in the room that he frequented.

The media, print and television, suddenly revealed what even journalists of the New York Times must surely have known for years: that the Palestinian authorities are corrupt and inefficient, and that large sums of money given to them and their leaders are missing.

The immediate reason for the disclosure stems from the leaking of the main contents of a report soon to be publicly released by the European Court of Auditors. This body was established in 1975 by the European Union to monitor the income and spending of money given by it in foreign aid.

The new 2013 report of the Court reveals that $2.7 billion in direct aid to the Palestinians between 2008 and 2012 could not be accounted for and appeared to be lost. In addition, EU investigators who visited Jerusalem and areas on the West Bank were unable to obtain information or speak to Palestinian officials about corruption in the areas they controlled.

Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, (PA), on October 11, 2013 once again laid blame on the “Israeli occupation” for the difficult economic situation of the Palestinians. The “occupation,” he stated, was the central reason for the poor economic conditions in which the Palestinians find themselves.

This “occupation” exploited Palestinian resources and lands which directly led to an increase in deficit. In fact, the estimated budget deficit in 2013 is expected to be $1.4 billion. As a result he doubted that there would be funds available to pay the November salaries of the 150,000 PA workers, out of a population of two million, if international aid is not received. He did not try to define in which sinking hole the lost nearly $3 billion had gone.

Though the international community, much of the mass media, the World Council of Churches, as well as the Palestinian leaders may persist in blaming Israel for this state of affairs, their views are belied by the voices of Palestinians themselves over the last few years. In June 2012 the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research issued the result of a poll showing that a majority of the Palestinian population thought that the Palestinian authorities were corrupt and that freedom of the press did not exist under Palestinian rule.

The result showed that 72.9 percent believed the administration in the West Bank under Mahmoud Abbas was corrupt, and 61 percent of those in the Gaza Strip believed the rule of Hamas there was corrupt. Also, only 23 percent believed freedom of speech existed in the West Bank, and only 15 percent believed it did in Gaza. Another poll by the Palestinian Center in September 2013 showed that 79 percent believed the Abbas administration was corrupt.

Objective analysis by outsiders has confirmed this view. Transparency International, a Berlin group concerned with monitoring corporate and political corruption, states that the ineffectiveness of the Palestinian parliament since 2007 has “given the executive (branch of Palestinian government) unlimited management over public funds.” There have been “significant shortcomings” in management of funds. The group is currently investigating 29 Palestinian officials on counts of fraud and money laundering.

The reality is that the Palestinian Authority received, per capita of the people it controlled, 25 times more aid, mostly given to UNRWA (UN Relief and Work Agency) for Palestinian refugees, than Europeans received after World War II. Moreover, over three-quarters of the funding of UNRWA comes from democratic, non-Arab countries, primarily the U.S., Britain, EU, Germany, Sweden, Norway, and Japan.

In particular, the U.S. has, since the mid-1990s when Palestinians have had some form of rule over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, committed over $4 billion in bilateral assistance to the Palestinians, who have received per capita almost the largest amount in international aid. Since 2008, the U.S. has given on average about $600 million a year to the Palestinians in bilateral aid: in 2013 the U.S. is giving $444 million. In addition, the U.S. has given $4,150 million to UNRWA since its establishment: it is the largest single state donor.

All this U.S. aid has been given not only for humanitarian reasons, but also in the hopes that Palestinian terrorism may be ended, and that Palestinians would be encouraged to enter into the peace process. So far those hopes have been in vain.

Instead of dealing with the reality of Palestinian wastage and theft of financial resources, critics of Israel persist in their bias and prejudicial behavior.

Typical of this is the vote of the Presbyterian Church, USA, to boycott all products from Israeli settlements in the disputed territories and its call to all nations “to prohibit the import of products made by enterprises in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.”

Yet the Presbyterian Church and all other advocates of boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel should have long been aware of the corruption and self-destructiveness of Palestinian authorities if only by looking at the career and behavior of Yasser Arafat. Though much of his activity was secretive in character and though he appeared to live modestly, a considerable amount of money disappeared while he was the Palestinian leader.

According to some accounts Arafat diverted $900 million of government revenue to private bank accounts between 1995 and 2000. Even now, Arafat’s widow, Suha, is living a luxurious life, said to be on a very large income, in Paris and Malta.

Israel for a time put its collection of sales taxes on goods purchased by Palestinians, which was supposed to go into the Palestinian treasury, directly into Arafat’s personal bank accounts. Ironically, some of this was deposited in Bank Leumi in Tel Aviv, Israel’s largest state-owned bank, as well as other sums put in the private Geneva bank, Lombard Odier, and yet more that he used as “walk around money” in a way familiar in Cook County, Chicago.

Other reports suggest that Arafat had a secret portfolio close to $1 billion with investments that included a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Ramallah, a Tunisia cell phone company, and venture capital funds in the U.S. and the Cayman Islands. Monopolies that were profitable in products such as flour and cement were allocated by Arafat to his intimate associates.

Instead of making peace with Israel the Palestinians have been wasting their resources. In view of the evident continuing corruption and mismanagement that almost everyone is now willing to acknowledge it is hard to take seriously, as some well meaning people have done, the Palestinian pretense of being victims of “Israeli oppression.”

Michael Curtis is Distinguished Professor Emeritus in political science at Rutgers University. Curtis, the author of 30 books, is widely respected as an authority on the Middle East.