U.S. Threat to Cut $400-Million in Aid, Israel Cancelling $100-Million Monthly PA Tax Payments: It’s All Good

Mahmoud Abbas: throwing up his hands and dissolving PA? (AP)

That may seem like a radical headline, but it’s not.  But first let’s offer some perspective.

The U.S. government offers $400-million per year in aid to the PA.  These are essentially funds that go into a hole that supports the PA, pays salaries, probably helps maintain Fatah’s favored few in the lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed.  It’s akin to the hundreds of billions we’ve sunk into Iraq, out of guilt and  a false hope that money will substitute for what’s really necessary to create a functioning state.  As in Iraq, our funds prop up a failed, corrupt, dysfunctional PA and its bloated bureaucracy.  It’s meant to prevent a total collapse of government control in the West Bank.

Similarly, Israel collects $100-million per month in VAT from Palestinians purchasing goods abroad which move through Israeli ports.  It does so according to a treaty Israel signed which directs it to refund the money to the PA.  However, whenever Netanyahu has been peeved at Mahmoud Abbas he’s halted the payments.  Now that Ban Ki Moon has notified UN member states that Palestine’s application to join the ICC will become effective April 1st, this is one of those moments.

U.S. legislators and Israeli rightist politicians have issued dire threats about cutting off the funds.  Bibi’s lobbying his GOP pals to cut the spigot ASAP.  I think they should be careful what they wish for.  Further, Israel has threatened to cut off electricity to the West Bank due to alleged PA debt to Israel’s national power company.  It seems that driving Ramallah into the same desperation and penury suffered by Gaza is Israel’s aim.

To me, it’s not so bad: yes, Palestinians will suffer from the cut-off of aid.  But what is the alternative? To continue playing Stepin’ Fetchit in an Israeli-sponsored minstrel show?  Are conditions for Palestinians so good that they’re willing to continue under Israel’s boot forever?

It’s the same argument pro-apartheid whites made in the face of the 1980s South African sanctions movement.  Cutting aid and relations with the white government would hurt Blacks most.  Whites will hardly suffer and the policy will fail.  Actually, many factors contributed to the fall of apartheid, but sanctions were certainly one.

So will Palestinians suffer, in the short term?  Yes.  But in the long time it will bring the downfall of the Occupation regime quicker. How so? Unable to support itself, the world will look to Arab regimes to take up the slack.  Nations like Qatar like making pledges but don’t fulfill them.  That will leave the PA with little choice but to dissolve itself.  And that’s a good thing.  Even Palestinian leaders such as Mustafa Barghouti agree.

The world will not allow the West Bank to collapse into chaos.  Not only would the subsequent suffering shame the world, it would offer a horrible photo op to contrast the relative stability of Gaza with the economic ruin of the West Bank.  Though Israel would be dragged screaming and kicking to resume its administration of the territory, it would have no choice.  The world would force it to.

That too is a good thing.  Once Israel takes over there is no fig leaf; no PA to offer the illusion of Palestinian authority or control.  The world never bought the South African claim that bantustans were legitimate independent Black states.  It knew them for what they were: Potemkin villages to allow apartheid to continue.  For some reason, the world has accepted the PA as a legitimate authority when it never had any.

Let’s throw the PA to the winds and make Israel pay the piper.  If it wants to maintain the Occupation, let it do so not just in name only.  Let’s see Israeli soldiers running civilian affairs and the entire kit and caboodle in the West Bank as they did for many years.  That will give the world even less opportunity to excuse the injustice of Occupation.  Israel’s own apartheid regime will fall that much quicker, giving Israelis and Palestinians the long overdue opportunity to determine their future as two states or one (though the former appears a hopeless option).

For these reasons, the Obama administration will resist the aid cutoff, in the mistaken impression that setting Palestine adrift will harm Israeli interests and cause unrest in the region.  If it does manage to keep the aid intact it will be doing a grave disservice to all parties.  But it wouldn’t be the first time.