Home of Lisa's Top Ten, the daily email that brings you the world.
The first task of the day

Sign Up for Lisa's Top Ten


Biden Plans to Support the Palestinian Authority, Ignoring Corruption Warnings and Hamas

The Biden administration wants to shape the final settlement of the Israel-Hamas war to give a “revamped” Palestinian Authority control of Gaza.

The Biden administration’s plans for post-war Gaza center on boosting the Palestinian Authority (PA), which currently controls significant portions of the West Bank and is ruled by the Fatah party, to take control over the coastal strip despite consistent corruption warnings and poor governance.

Not long after the October 7 terrorist attack against Israel by Hamas—Fatah’s rival—President Biden’s high-ranking foreign policy officials began laying the groundwork to support developing the PA to become the governing power in both Gaza and the West Bank following the war.

“Ultimately, governance of the West Bank and Gaza needs to be connected. And it needs to be connected under a revamped and revitalized Palestinian Authority," National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said during a visit to Israel in December. “That's something that requires intensive consultations with the Palestinians first, as well as with the Israeli government. But it will require reform, it will require an updating of how the Palestinian Authority approaches governance,” he explained.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken later echoed this in early January, when he called on Israel to help establish a “practical pathway” to a Palestinian state.

In February, the Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh resigned, opening the way for Mahmoud Abbas to choose his replacement. Abbas chose Mohammad Mustafa, who formed a new cabinet on Thursday and immediately called for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. Mustafa was reportedly selected by Abbas to implement some of the reforms called for by the United States.

Though the Biden administration’s public rhetoric vaguely acknowledges that the PA has work to do before it is ready to take the reins in governing a united Palestinian territory, corruption concerns about the Palestinian leadership have endured for decades, raising questions about the prudence and feasibility of relying on Fatah to govern, even under new leadership.

The Biden administration has also moved forward with this policy in the face of Israeli objections. In February, top Israeli ministers in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet splashed cold water on the idea. “We will in no way agree to this plan, which says Palestinians deserve a prize for the terrible massacre they carried out against us: a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital," Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said, according to Reuters.

“I think it is appalling that the Biden Administration is planning to take these steps without the consent of the Israeli government,” the former Chief of Staff of the National Security Council under the Trump Administration, Fred Fleitz told Just the News.

He explained that Israel “will not agree to a permanent peace deal until Palestinians are de-radicalized,” especially post-Oct. 7.

Fleitz also said the “Palestinian Authority is notoriously corrupt,” telling Just the News that money provided to the PA by the United States through the United Nations has been funneled to Hamas in the past.

Fleitz believes the Biden administration’s effort to boost the PA while overlooking both corruption and security concerns stems from a naive view of international security and domestic political motivations. “It’s politics,” Fleitz said, explaining that the Biden campaign is concerned over alienating reliable Democratic Muslim voters in key swing states such as Michigan, with a dense Arab population. Indeed, many of these voters are angry with Biden over what they perceive an abandonment of the Palestinians amid the war.

But, regardless of the Biden administration’s motivations, its plans seem to overlook years of warnings and evidence of corruption and support for terrorism within the Palestinian Authority itself.

One problem that has plagued the PA is embezzlement by officials across the government apparatus. For example, in 2016, the head of the PA’s own anti-corruption body recovered $70 million in misappropriated funds over the course of a five-year investigation. Rafiq al-Natsheh, who chaired the anticorruption commission, said “tens of millions of dollars” were still not tracked down, in part because some funds had vanished after being sent abroad, Reuters reported.

“Abbas and the PA routinely face allegations of corruption and non-transparency,” an American Congressional Research Service report last updated in 2021 reads. “The State Department has noted continuing claims of corruption among Fatah officials, ‘particularly related to favoritism and nepotism in public-sector appointments’,” it added.

A report from a Palestinian anti-corruption organization in 2017 found “embezzlement, abuse of power, fraud, breach of trust, and bribery constituted the largest proportion of pending cases” before the PA’s Anti-Corruption Court that year. In 2020, a senior Palestinian government official turned whistleblower even accused PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas of and other senior officials of stealing aid money to Palestine. Some observers claim that Abbas' net worth is as high as $100 million. These reports are unverified and the PA denied them.

But these concerns are not new. Longtime ruler of the Palestinian Authority and leader in the independence movement, Yasser Arafat, was found to have diverted public funds to a $1 billion portfolio which he privately controlled. Arafat died in 2004 in a French hospital.

The ruling Fatah party has also failed to hold presidential elections in the West Bank since 2005, when its leader, Mahmoud Abbas first came to power. After Hamas won the 2006 parliamentary elections in the Palestinian Territories, the United States leaned on Abbas to stay in power to prevent a terrorist group from assuming control of the West Bank. This precipitated a “civil war” between the two factions, leading to Hamas’ control over the Gaza Strip.

Despite these intentions, Abbas dissolved the Palestinian parliament, ruled by executive decree, and has been accused of repressing his own citizenry. Most recently, Abbas postponed the 2021 legislative and presidential elections and reportedly ordered the arrest of dozens of critics of the PA, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The Palestinian Authority has also been accused of encouraging violence and terrorist activities against Israel, especially through its “pay-to-slay” law, which provides Palestinians that were imprisoned by Israel an award after their release. The payout increases the longer a perpetrator spends in a prison, therefore rewarding more serious crimes.

The law, which was implemented in 2004 by Palestinian authorities, shows funding for salaries of prisoners come directly from the salaries of Palestinian civil servants and will be allocated by the Palestinian Finance Ministry. These funds are designed to benefit “anyone incarcerated in the occupation’s prisons for his participation in the struggle against the occupation,” according to the law.

As of the time of this writing, there is no indication the PA has repealed this law as part of its reform strategy. The law was recently criticized by the Wall Street Journal editorial board earlier this year, in two parts, where it warned some perpetrators of the Oct. 7 terrorist attack against Israel would be eligible for payments under the letter of the law.

Three years ago, the Government Accountability Office warned that prior financing to the West Bank, where the PA rules, was inadequately screened for potential terrorist recipients, Just the News previously reported.

The GAO report concluded, from 2015-2019, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), properly followed antiterrorism policies for primary awards, but failed to consistently apply the regulations to sub-awards.

“Without effective compliance procedures in place, USAID may be at risk of providing assistance to entities or individuals associated with terrorism," the GAO report said.

Related Story: Lawsuit Proceeds Alleging Biden Admin Violated Law by Funding Palestinians Amid ‘Pay to Slay’ Terror

Read More

Related Posts