Washington, D.C. -- A White House official is quoted as making inaccurate and inflammatory statements about Israel during a conference call yesterday with think tanks and advocacy groups sympathetic to President Obama’s Iran proposal.
State of Failure: Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Unmaking of the Palestinian State
Palgrave/MacMillan, October 2013
Reviewed by Shari Hillman
Last November, 138 members of the U.N. General Assembly voted to upgrade the Palestinians’ presence in that body from “observer entity” to “non-member observer state.” (Germany, Australia, and the U.K. were among the 41 abstentions. The U.S., Canada, the Czech Republic, Israel, and Micronesia were among the nine “no” votes.) This unilateral push in the U.N., rightly condemned by the U.S. and Israel, was the latest effort by the Palestinian Authority to move forward the issue of Palestinian statehood.
In State of Failure, Jonathan Schanzer has written the first in-depth examination of a question that badly needs asking: Are the Palestinians prepared for statehood? Or more specifically: Is the PA “an efficient, transparent, or financially viable authority that is prepared to function as a government for the Palestinian people?”
Clearly it is not, as news reports from time to time demonstrate, but that hasn’t deterred international donors and supporters of the PA.
One example: a leaked European report revealed in October that the Palestinian Authority squandered nearly $2.7 billion in European aid between 2008 and 2012. Less than a week after that news broke, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Mahmoud Abbas and reiterated Europe’s commitment to pouring yet more aid into the PA.
Such policies only encourage the corruption and dysfunction in the PA and ultimately hurt the Palestinian people.
Schanzer provides us with a detailed history of the Palestinian Authority that examines how its leaders have failed their people by not developing the infrastructure and political culture that could support an independent state. He holds the U.S. and Europe accountable for their contributions to these failures. (The idea that the PA was the antidote to the even more terrible Hamas did not move Palestinian state building forward.) And while the author does not minimize the difficulties that Israeli occupation and security needs posed and continue to pose for the Palestinians, his focus in this unique book is on the internal issues that have kept the Palestinians stateless and suffering.
First among them is the fact that the Palestinian Authority was born out of the PLO, a terrorist organization. Led by Yassir Arafat from 1969 until his death in 2004, the PLO was built on deception, corruption, secrecy, violence, and fierce loyalty to the leader, not exactly the characteristics needed for efficient government administration. As head of both the PLO and the PA, Arafat kept control through short chains of command that all led back to him, chains that were based on family ties, tribal alliances, patronage, and force. All money flowed through his hands to those he favored, all power was granted by him.
That singular control over money has been one of the most serious problems for the Palestinians and for the donor countries that have supported them. Top PLO leaders have been fantastically enriched while the average Palestinian got nothing. Salam Fayyad, who served as finance minister and later as prime minister, tried earnestly for years to find and account for Arafat’s assets, to set up a national PA treasury, and to bring PA finances up to accounting standards. The U.S. and other donor states were reassured by his efforts and by his personal integrity. Ultimately he was defeated by the PA’s political culture and Arafat’s monopoly on power, and later by Abbas’ enmity.
Schanzer offers some recommendations that perhaps should be obvious to an objective observer of Palestinian history: don’t expect terrorists to turn into administrators; develop private enterprise to replace foreign aid; require the Palestinians to allow a free press, to establish an independent judiciary, and to allow real economic development not dependent on patronage relationships. The Palestinians need not only a functioning government and a viable economy, he writes, but a legitimate public administration and an active civil society. None of these are currently in place.
As long as the U.S. and Europe continue to send billions in aid to the PA while failing to hold the Palestinians accountable for state-building, for ending incitement and terrorism, and for responsible financial practices, the Palestinians will be left either stateless or with a failed state. Their story will continue to be one of corruption and human misery instead of development and peace.
This review first appeared in the September-October 2013 issue of the RJC Bulletin, our bi-monthly newsletter for contributing RJC members who are current in their dues. To receive the Bulletin, please make your membership contribution or renew your membership here.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
By: RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks
Comparisons of Presidents Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter are not meant as a compliment to either man. But it is inevitable to compare them, especially when examining their foreign policies. These two presidents share a perspective on America’s role in the world that is at odds with the idea of strong, confident American leadership. Both reduced American power in the world, contrary to America’s national interests and moral principles.
Washington, D.C. -- The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) congratulates New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on his landslide reelection. Christie demonstrated an ability to win broad-based support, including strong bipartisan support in the Jewish community.
Washington, D.C. - The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) today responded to news that the Obama White House is urging Congress to delay a new Iran sanctions bill.
President Obama’s health care law goes into effect on January 1, 2014. The state exchanges where individuals would be able research and purchase health insurance plans are scheduled to be in place by October 1. But it seems certain that important elements of the law won’t be ready for on time, creating a PR nightmare for Democrats before the 2014 elections.
Washington, D.C. - The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) issued an Action Alert today to our 45,000 members, calling on them to reach out to their elected officials in the House and Senate, to ask them to support the upcoming resolution authorizing the use of military force against the Bashar Al-Assad regime in Syria.
TO: RJC Members
FROM: RJC Legislative Affairs Committee
SUBJ: Syria Use of Force Resolution
On Saturday, President Obama announced that he would ask Congress to pass a resolution authorizing the use of military force against Bashar Al-Assad's regime in Syria.
There is much debate and discussion as to the merits of various strategies going forward, as well as how the U.S. got to this juncture.
However, for Congress, there is only one question that must be answered: Is it in our national interest to respond to the violation by Syria of the international norm against the use of chemical weapons?
- For more than three decades, the U.S. State Department has classified Syria as a terror-supporting state.
- The Syrian dictatorship has built stockpiles of chemical weapons and used such weapons on its own population.
- Additionally, Syria's regime has killed more than 100,000 people in the course of a civil war that has turned millions of Syrians into refugees.
- Syria is a critical regional ally of Iran and a conduit for Iranian aid to anti-Israel terrorists, most prominently Hamas and Hezbollah.
- As Iran's regime moves ever closer to its goal of obtaining a nuclear weapons capacity, the Tehran regime and others around the region are watching closely to see whether the American people will stand behind international commitments - both threats against adversaries and assurances to allies.
It is imperative that the U.S. preserve its ability to project a credible military deterrent.
This is not a partisan issue. Democrats and Republicans must work together to avoid the loss of moral standing and diplomatic credibility that would result if Congress denies our military the support it will need to execute its mission successfully.
Call your Congressman and U.S. Senators - whether they are Democrats or Republicans - and urge them to support the authorization of force resolution when it's voted on (probably some time next week).
Information about how to contact a Congressman can be found at
(you will be directed to a site where you can identify who your Representative is and send him or her an email) -- or by calling 202-224-3121.
Information about how to contact your U.S. Senators can be found HERE or by calling 202-224-3121.
Members of Congress are more responsive to their own constituents, so we encourage you to alert friends and family members in other states and ask them to contact their Senators and Congressmen as well.
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
By: RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks
When President Obama came into office in 2009, he had big plans: close Gitmo, strengthen the economy, cut unemployment, make friends with the Muslim world, make peace in the Middle East, and bring about the day when “the rise of the oceans began to slow, and our planet began to heal…”
Washington, D.C. - The Republican Jewish Coalition released a statement today in response to the announcement that Ron Dermer will be Israel's next Ambassador to the U.S, replacing current Ambassador Michael Oren.