The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Palestinians: No Trillion Dollar Coin

The Palestinian Authority is being stiffed by its benefactors and can’t meet the payroll as a result. Its “nonmember state” UN status notwithstanding, the PA has been crippled by a lack of foreign largess. The AP reports:

The crisis has worsened in recent years, and the government, the Palestinian Authority, has reached the point of not being able to pay the salaries of about 150,000 government employees, said the prime minister, Salam Fayyad. If the crisis continues, he said, the number of Palestinians in poverty is bound to double to 50 percent of the population of roughly four million people.

[…] Mr. Fayyad put most of the blame for the Palestinian Authority’s financial troubles on delinquent Arab donors, saying they are “not fulfilling their pledge of support in accordance with Arab League resolutions.”

As forewarned, the U.S. Congress and Israel are withholding millions in aid and cash transfers as a result of President Abbas’s statehood bid. Add to this mix an unreliable group of Arab patrons and there’s very little keeping Palestinians in the West Bank from sliding into large-scale poverty.

The situation in Gaza isn’t much brighter. Hamas hasn’t been able to provide any more economic opportunities for Palestinians than the PA, and it’s questionable whether the people of Gaza can depend on Arab donors any more than can the people of the West Bank.

While Hamas, flush with new diplomatic and in some cases financial support from Arab and Turkish backers, is benefiting from Fatah’s troubles, the authorities in neither Gaza nor Ramallah have the capacity or the resources to provide for the people they govern. UN votes to the contrary, the core reality for Palestinians remains one of frustrating dependency — on Israeli authorities, on western backers, and on the whims of Arab despots who give and withhold financial support as it pleases them.

The Palestinians are a real people with real and legitimate aspirations to statehood, but building a viable state in excruciatingly difficult circumstances is a goal that continues to elude them. On the whole, the path that Fatah has chosen on the West Bank, of attempting to develop the capacities of a functioning state even before real independence, strikes us as the only practical thing to do, but as President Abbas and his team have learned, there is nothing easy about state building among a divided people in an occupied land.

Published on January 8, 2013 9:45 am