The Palestinian Financial Crisis and the Resistance

The Palestinians must face the financial crisis in the spirit of peaceful resistance to the Israeli occupation, writes Abdel Majid Swaylem.

al-monitor Palestinian Finance Minister Nabil Kassis reads a local newspaper as he waits for the start of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting, the donor support group for Palestine, at the United Nations in New York, Sept. 23, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz.

Topics covered

palestinian economy, palestinian, fatah

Dec 28, 2012

There are no magic solutions to the financial crisis in Palestine. No serious Arab "breakthroughs" are expected, and so far, promises outnumber true commitments.

Even in the case of a full Arab commitment to the financial “safety net" and even if this commitment is systematically and continuously respected, the financial crisis will remain. Moreover, such commitment has proven to be elusive due to fragmentation among Arab regimes, their differing foundations, and the multiple priorities of Arab officials — regardless of the unity of these states’ affiliations and references.

In order to have the "courage" to acknowledge this reality, it is important to acknowledge that the Arabs are not on the same page when it comes to support for the steadfast Palestinian people. The Arab states only agree on the need to return to negotiations with Israel. "They" are with us in searching for a "decent" way out to resume negotiations.

In order to find a "decent" way out, an initiative is in order. This, in turn, requires the US to take on a sense of urgency and define a clear position. For the US to support such an initiative, the Arabs are theoretically supposed to come together and promote the US ideas in the Palestinian arena. Those who take this initiative must be able to wield influential financial power.

For these reasons, the visit of the Arab ministerial delegation in essence shows no more than political solidarity. However, it is a visit that neither nourishes nor avails the hunger felt by the Palestinian people. It is a visit aimed at creating a required political "balance," not only out of duty (which is a vital and foregone conclusion), but also to pave the way for initial tentative steps toward the initiative that is actually required.

The Arab "commitment" is a long story, and the Arabs’ hesitation in supporting the Palestinian people is due to their political situation. This hesitation is directly proportional to the Palestinian submissiveness and indirectly proportional to the Palestinian rebellion against the US-Israeli vision. Any other explanation would only obscure the truth.

I do not have enough statistics to prove the simultaneous Arab reluctance to commit to the negotiating process, but I have enough facts that point to the organic link between the "flow" of the commitments [by Arab leaders] and the Palestinian positions that are supportive and satisfactory towards US attitudes.

Here, we must address Arabs openly and frankly. If we are required to return to negotiations amidst the ongoing settlement operations, and without imposing any conditions except those put forth by Israel, then the Arabs must declare this explicitly and leave us the choice to accept or not.

However, if we are required to cling to our position and refuse to return to negotiations unless an end is immediately put to settlement activities, and unless the two-state solution is acknowledged by Israel in accordance with international resolutions — including that which was recently announced by the UN General Assembly — then the Arabs should commit to pay the "safety net" and more. By more, [this author] means enough to solve the current financial crisis plaguing the National Authority and the government of the Palestinian state.

There is no room for hesitation or pretexts when it comes to supporting the steadfastness of the Palestinian people. What we are asking for does not amount to even a marginal item on the list of expenses of the Arab states. The total amount required does not exceed several hours of Arab oil and gas production.

The Arab annual "commitment" to supporting Palestine does not exceed a few days worth of yearly production. Thus, talk of "the ability of the Arabs" and their "burdens" is a ridiculous matter, that undermines the dignity of every Palestinian who sees himself as part of this nation.

Is Europe not witnessing a major economic crisis? Why has it not ceased its support for Palestine, and why does it urge the Arabs to support Palestine and is calling on us to resume negotiations while its positions do not match ours on the issue of negotiations?

Does the United States not stand against all our positions on the negotiations — the United Nations bid and reconciliation? Why would it not cut off aid, and [why does] the US administration try by all means to confront the positions of congress by seeking to cut off aid to us?

Is it rational that the Arab positions on supporting Palestine are weaker than those of the Europeans? Is it acceptable that the Arab positions are less than the positions of the US? What era are we living in, and how far will the Arabs go?!

Is it conceivable that our money be withheld by Israel and that Arab funds be banned, at the same time and with the same conditions, and amid the same difficulties and dangers?!

The Arabs used to claim "corruption" of the Palestinians as an excuse for their reluctance to give aid. But now, it has been shown that the real size of corruption [in the Palestinian territories] is nothing compared to corruption across the Arab world. They claimed reconciliation as an excuse, but it turns out that the Arabs, or at least some of them — especially those who are financially influential — encourage and reward the party that disrupts reconciliation and seeks all excuses to avoid it.

The Arabs’ excuse was that the PA has surrendered and is subject to US and Israeli will. However, Palestinian flexibility and political moderation is the weapon that allowed it to maintain [our existence] and enabled it to remain steadfast in challenging US and Israeli policies in the most difficult of circumstances. This is of course in the age when swearing allegiance to US policy has become one of the conditions for revolutions, the Islamist way.

Consequently, we have no other option but to remain steadfast and survive, and to transform this piracy and armed robbery perpetrated by Israel on our resources, land, water, crops into a new equation: the double-cost equation.

Instead of international appeals, we ourselves can force Israel to retreat. We can close hundreds of Israeli factories that work day and night to flood our markets with Israeli goods. We can drag [Israel] to the international courts and isolate it further more.

When we do all of this, and when we mobilize our people on this basis, we will gain much more.

Firstly, because Israel, not us, does not understand the language of reason or appeal, and it understands much more than us the language of profit and loss.

Secondly, because in this case we will, foremost, win our people. Our people will be better able to resist and remain steadfast when they see their leadership standing in a strong and defiant position, instead of one in which it is continuously being targeted.

And thirdly because the Arabs then would maybe — just maybe — reluctantly offer some of the leftovers of their meals and part of their oil and gas production, not in order to support us, but to ward off evil and corruption away from them, not more.

There is a saying that goes: A generous person is not someone who offers you from what he owns or the excess he has, but the one who gives to you from what he needs.

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