Aid to the Palestinian Authority

Only given certain conditions should Bush and Congress reinstate direct aid.

Two weeks ago President George W. Bush announced a request to Congress to reinstate a large amount of direct aid to the Palestinian Authority, now that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat has died.

Over the past few years, much of the direct aid to the Palestinian Authority given by the United States has been severely cut as a result of large amounts of evidence of Arafat’s corruption. If the United States reinstates the aid up front or even directly after the elections to the Palestinian Authority, it could be devastating to the development of a legitimate Palestinian Authority and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

This year the U.S. government gave $20 million in direct aid to the Palestinian Authority; Arafat had sole discretion on what happened with this money. This aid was highly regulated and monitored by the United States because of the inconsistencies of how Arafat distributed this money in the past.

In the spring of 2002, the Israeli government presented Bush with a several-hundred-page file known as the “Arafat File.” In this file were hundreds of documented cases of Arafat giving aid money from the United States directly to families of suicide bombers, terrorist organizations aligned with the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Liberation Organization – including Al Fatah and the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade – and to his wife to live in luxury in France.

In the “Arafat File” there was also evidence of money the United States was giving indirectly (amounting to $127 million this past year) to the Palestinian Authority – either through the United Nations or International Red Cross – was also going to support Arafat’s “causes” and not to aid his own people which he claimed to represent and want to help.

The next few months are the most significant months in the history of the Palestinian people. For the first time in their history, they will be allowed to elect their own leader.

This new government will have the opportunity to not only make peace with the state of Israel but also establish an independent Palestinian state. In achieving these two goals, the newly elected chairman of the Palestinian Authority must prove he can bring a halt to corruption in the West Bank and Gaza, be a legitimate peace partner and bring an end to terrorism against men, women and children of all faiths.

The United States must weigh several factors of this election before reinstating any aid to the new Palestinian Authority and the new leader. First, absolutely no additional aid should be given to the Palestinian Authority before the election and a new elected leader is in charge of the Palestinian Authority. Second, the four sponsors of the “road map” peace plan (United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia) must make sure the elections are closely watched to prevent corruption. Finally, the newly elected leader must, unlike Arafat, make true reforms in the Palestinian Authority, how the West Bank and Gaza will be governed and reorganize the Palestinian Security Forces.

Only then should Bush and Congress reinstate aid to the Palestinian Authority to be used to improve the daily lives of Palestinians and to end terrorism.

Brett J. Willner is the campus liaison of Gopher Public Affairs Committee and Hillel Student Board Israel chairman. He welcomes comments at [email protected]