Mitt Romney is being castigated for praising the culture that has allowed a democratic, (mainly) free market Israel, operating under the rule of law, to thrive amid decades of threat and periodic open warfare and a heavy defense burden. Actually, he’s being castigated for what his praise of Israel implies or says outright about Israel’s neighbors — not only the Palestinians, but mainly them. So it is instructive to note the latest broadside by a West Bank youth group called “Palestinians for Dignity” (PFD).
PFD, which was instrumental in the protests against Mahmoud Abbas and PA corruption earlier in the summer, is now protesting the European Union’s decision to upgrade a variety of trade and other ties with Israel. In its release, published by the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, the PFD announced:
Barring meaningful action [to reverse the upgrade] the Palestinian youth movement will organize to protest the latest manifestation of EU complicity and to challenge its presence and operations in Palestine…This latest move by the EU is nothing less than outrageous… this duplicitous behavior epitomizes the reasons why the Palestinian people have no faith in the EU.
The EU is the largest provider of economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority — so the willingness to antagonize it should be put in the context of what the PFD is willing to sacrifice — not for the benefit of the Palestinian people, but to demand that Israel be slapped:
- Since 1995, the PA has been a member of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership
- Since 1997, the EU and the PLO have an interim Association Agreement on Trade and Cooperation
- In 2004, the PA was one of the first members of the European Neighborhood Policy
- In 2009, the EU gave the PA €219 million for “recurrent expenditures” (direct budget support), plus €10.5 million for institution-building projects; €22 million for private sector reconstruction in Gaza; €1.5 million for a regional water project; and €18 million for public infrastructure.
- In 2010, there was more than €210 million for budgetary support, and €69 million for social and economic development and institution-building projects.
- In 2011, the EU provided €295 million to the PA, along with€11.9 million to UNRWA emergency programs and €2.4 million for UNRWA special projects in Lebanon.
- The 2012 allocation is said to be the about the same, despite the Hamas-Fatah unity government and the fact that the EU considers Hamas a terrorist organization to which it will not provide direct aid.
In addition, the PA is eligible to receive EU money through the Partnership for Peace; the Cross Border Cooperation Program; Investing in People; and the Erasmus Mundus External Co-operation Window; and Tempus (higher education) programs. The EU has put extra money into UNRWA through its Food Facility; Social Safety Net; and Instrument for Stability programs.
The EU participates in the training of the Palestinian Security Services and provides technical assistance for the establishment of courts that meet international legal standards.
Palestinian people have proven themselves to be able entrepreneurs, skilled professionals and capable agricultural workers. There is no shortage of talent. But Palestinians in the territories live with leadership that at best leads the movement for BDS (Boycott, Disinvestment, Sanctions) against Israel, and at worst seeks the physical destruction of its primary trading partner and the primary source of its potential economic advancement (the PA’s other neighbors have little to offer).
Palestinians for Dignity, joined in this case by PLO eminence grise Hanan Ashwari, put the kneejerk impulse to slap at Israel ahead of the economic and political interests of the people. That was precisely what the Romney comments implied – and nothing more.