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Same Old Story from Palestinians

By Jack Kelly

Mahmoud Abbas is the president of the Palestinian Authority, a job which doesn't have much of a future. I think he's going to take the money and run.

The PA consists of West Bank, part of Jordan until the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and the Gaza Strip, which belonged to Egypt prior to 1967.

Last week the Iranian-backed terror group Hamas took control of Gaza. Hamas celebrated its victory by executing many of Mr. Abbas' supporters, and looting properties owned by Fatah, the party he heads. (Fatah is virtually synonymous with the Palestine Liberation Organization, which consists of Fatah and a couple of minor parties added for window dressing.) Hamas even stole the Nobel Peace prize awarded to Mr. Abbas' predecessor, Yassir Arafat.

I doubt that Mr. Abbas is as upset with the developments in Gaza as are the Israelis and the Americans, because Hamas' triumph means the money spigot will be turned back on.

Fatah was founded in 1958 by Mr. Arafat. It's goal was the destruction of Israel. Fatah received funding and weapons from Saudi Arabia and the Soviet Union.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and Mr. Arafat's impolitic decision to back Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War that year, Fatah fell on hard times. But it was rescued by the Clinton administration, an Israeli government headed by Shimon Peres, and an assortment of useful fools from Europe.

In the Oslo Accords of 1993, Israel gave Mr. Arafat control over the Palestinian territories in exchange for the PLO's formal renunciation of its goal of destroying Israel. The U.S. and Europe showered Mr. Arafat with economic aid. (In the year before it was cut off, Palestinians, on a per capita basis, received more Western aid than any other people on earth.)

Mr. Arafat wasn't serious about making peace, as he demonstrated in 2000 when he began a guerrilla war (the Al Aqsa Intifada) rather than sign a treaty fixing borders with Israel. Mr. Arafat died in November, 2004, and was succeeded by Mr. Abbas.

But Oslo did gradually change the PLO from primarily a terror group with an ideological objective to primarily a criminal gang whose leaders are interested chiefly in lining their own pockets. Mr. Arafat left an estate estimated at north of $4 billion. His key subordinates did very well, too.

This was noticed by ordinary Palestinians, whose standard of living crumbled after the PLO took over. Per capita GDP in what's now the PA was about $3,200 in 1993. Today it's about $1,500, and sinking.

Displeased with the stealing and the broken promises, Palestinians gave Hamas a landslide victory in parliamentary elections in 2006, forcing Mr. Abbas to share power. Because Hamas makes no secret of its desire to destroy Israel, the U.S., Israel and Europe cut off foreign aid.

Now that Mr. Abbas has expelled Hamas from the PA government, Western aid to his faction will resume. But all this is likely to mean is a more comfortable retirement for Mr. Abbas when he goes into exile.

In the unlikely event Mr. Abbas could be trusted, an alliance with his "government" is like being "shackled to a corpse," said Middle East expert Barry Rubin.

Fatah never again will control Gaza, and it's hold on the West Bank is tenuous. Arabs like winners, and Fatah is anything but. People who live to steal don't fight to the death, and Fatah's "fighters" didn't put up much of a fight in Gaza, despite having been equipped -- courtesy of the CIA -- with the latest in American high tech weapons. Mr. Abbas will have to cozy up to Israel and America in order to survive. This is unlikely to enhance his popularity among Palestinians.

Mr. Abbas made his priorities clear, Mr. Rubin thinks, when he passed over his security chief, Muhammad Dahlan, for prime minister, picking instead the economist Salam Fayyad. Mr. Fayyad won't be of much use in fighting Hamas, but will be better than Mr. Dahlan at extricating every last dollar from gullible Westerners.

Suppose you were a Fatah official, Mr. Rubin said. "You receive money. What do you do with it? Put it into your foreign bank account. Why? Because aside from pure greed and a culture of corruption, you are afraid Hamas will take over the West Bank, too. You will need a bankroll so that you and your family can flee abroad."

The usual suspects will insist we prop up Mr. Abbas will billions in aid, and pressure Israel to make territorial concessions to him. That is, that we do more of what got us into this mess in the first place.

To do the same thing over and over again, each time expecting a different result, is a definition of madness.


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