Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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On Palestinians, Pledges, and Budgets

by Elliott Abrams
July 4, 2011

A fair measure of the dedication to the Palestinian cause on the part of Arab governments is whether they put their money where their mouth is. In that context, a news story today conveys an answer: “The Palestinian Authority will pay its employees only half their monthly salaries in July, the prime minister told reporters here on Sunday, because of what he said was ‘the failure of donors, including our Arab brothers, to fulfill their pledges.’”

Donors had pledged $971 million to the Palestinian Authority this year, but the year is half over and only $330 million has been delivered. It turns out that only the UAE, Algeria, and Oman have met the pledges they made years ago via the Arab League. The rest, including the vastly wealthy Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, are delinquent. Despite the roughly $100 billion in extra domestic spending this year of the Arab Spring to buy off its populace, Saudi Arabia will record a budget surplus of about $25 billion. So the failure to assist the Palestinians is the product of hostility, neglect, or uninterest. By comparison, the EU significantly increased its aid to the PA this year, from 100 million to 185 million Euros, or about $275 million–and this does not count the assistance coming from individual member states of the EU. Total aid to the Palestinians from the United States runs about $600 million per year.

It is probably an exaggeration to say the Palestinians would be better off if instead of all those Arab pledges they got five dollars for every speech, TV or radio program, and newspaper article in Arabic that denounces Israel and swears eternal loyalty to the Palestinian cause. Or perhaps not.

Post a Comment 5 Comments

  • Posted by Dean Smallwood

    I frankly don’t understand how the Palestinians can be ready for independence when they rely almost exclusively on handouts and subsidies for their existence . But the failure to fullfil their obligations by the Saudis and Kuwaitis , with no explanation , is also troubling .

  • Posted by lord garth

    I have difficulty with the arithmatic in this article. The US plus EU contributions to date surely exceed the $330M noted in the 2nd paragraph.

  • Posted by Elliott Abrams

    To Lord Garth:
    I see your point. The problem is that some aid is budget support to the PA allowing Fayyad to pay salaries, while most of the aid is through the UN and agencies like UNWRA that buy food, run schools, and the like. Most of the US aid is the latter category; only about $200 million goes to the PA.
    Elliott Abrams

  • Posted by RB

    The argument only really holds true if one ignores the much larger size of the US economy and budget.

    Saudi Arabia has a GDP (2010) of around $444 billion–making it, it economic terms, comparable to the states of Virginia or Ohio. It has given an average of around $300m per year to the PA in recent years, equal to 0.07% of GDP.

    The US has a GDP of around $14,660 billion. The $600 million in aid it provides is thus equal to around .004% of GDP.

    In terms of relative economic burden (the only sensible measure of such things), Saudi Arabia has thus been 17 times more supportive of the PA than has the US.

  • Posted by Peter

    The old issue – the hypocrisy of those governments, and cynicism as they fire up their media to blame everything on us. Somehow it never changes.

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