Pesach is over and it’s back to “normal,” such as that may be. Posting after posting, I have focused on Iran, and Obama. With good reason: It is a most critical issue. But I would like to at least begin with a look at the PA today. I feel I have been “neglecting” Abbas.
Actually, Mahmoud Abbas has been playing the game every which way that he thinks might work. If you recall, about two weeks ago, the Israeli government announced that it would be releasing collected PA tax funds that had been withheld because of Abbas’s declared intentions of joining the ICC and bringing charges against Israel. This looked like a regrettable Israeli concession. But then, Abbas announced that because of the taxes that were to be released, no action against Israel would be pursued in the ICC. And, more than a concession, this began to look like an action against the PA that actually netted results.
What Israel said was that funds withheld through February would be released, and determination regarding release of taxes collected in March would depend the PA.
Ah, but this state of affairs did not last very long. For Abbas quickly learned that Israel was going to retain a percentage of the tax money to cover some part of funds owed to Israel by the PA for services provided to the Palestinian Arab population.
This is what Abbas said last week:
”The Israelis have begun punishing us by withholding the money they collect on our behalf.
“They told us they would release our funds and they did, but after deducting one-third of the sum. Why? Are these debts? Who decides? We told them this is our money and you are not doing us a favor. This is not a donation. We insist on receiving all that belongs to us.” (Emphasis added)
What we have here is a sterling example of Abbas’s total disregard for facts. As it happens, Israel turned over to the PA 1.37 billion shekels in withheld tax money. Only 160,000 shekels was held back against the gargantuan PA electric bill of over 2 billion shekels. Had we kept the entire sum of withheld tax funds it still would not have covered the outstanding PA debt to Israel. And he complains?
It is Israel that should be saying, “Our electrical services are not a donation – we insist on full payment that belongs to us.”
Abbas threated to return the sum that was given to the PA, but I have no information that he has done so. The PA needs that money, and it is likely no more another threat.
But let us take a moment to examine WHY the PA so badly needs that money, according to the Palestinian Media Watch, as of October 2014 (emphasis added):
“The number [of public employees] currently registered in the [PA] General Workers’ Office comes to approximately 175,000. Yet the total number of recipients of government salaries exceeds 200,000 – if one includes the families of the Martyrs (Shahids) and wounded, as well as the prisoners’ and released [prisoners’] pensions – [whose total stipends] constitute approximately 65% of the Palestinian government’s monthly expenditure.
“The tax money [the PA] gets back from Israel, which represents two thirds of the Palestinian monthly income…constitutes the basis for the government’s ability to continue paying the salaries…”
Do the math: families of “martyrs,” prisoners, etc. receive stipends that are far more generous than what is paid to ordinary workers.
At the beginning of April, Othman Abu Gharbieh, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, declared that Oslo was dead and that there would be no more peace negotiations. The PA, he declared, would be seeking Security Council recognition of a Palestinian state in the pre-1967 lines.
Yes, that again…
However, last Thursday, according to AFP, announcement was made by Russian officials of a visit to Russia by Abbas that is expected to take place this week. He will be meeting with Putin, and on the agenda will be “ideas on the process of Israeli-Palestinian talks.”
Israeli-Palestinian talks? These are the same talks that Abu Gharbieh recently said were dead, but never mind.
Abbas refers to the Russians as friends, and all together this is bad news. The Soviets had a long-standing relationship with the PLO, and Russia today would be glad for a more significant foothold in the Middle East.
Hamas-Fatah relations are growing increasingly tense (after a recent bid to try again to re-establish a unity government). Just two days ago, senior Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahar charged that Abbas has no legitimacy as president of the PA. I will skip over matters such as PA security cooperation with Israel, which Hamas considers “treachery,” and go to the heart of the matter.
Al-Zahar says that Abbas’s term expired years ago. And he is absolutely correct. Abbas’s term as president expired in January 2009. It is a mark of international hypocrisy that Abbas is treated as an official who represents the PA. Everyone just ignores the fact that new elections have not been held.
And now, before closing, just a brief overview of the latest with regard to the Iran nuclear issue. The situation has deteriorated into one of absolute farce, with the two major issues being the matter of sanctions relief and inspections/verification.
Last Thursday, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei gave a speech.
The entire translation can be found here: http://defenddemocracy.org/iran-press-review-9-april Significant highlights shared by Omri Ceren of The Israel Project:
“Politically, the most damage will probably come from Khamenei’s declaration that nothing was agreed to at Lausanne, and that White House claims otherwise are ‘incorrect and contrary to the substance of the negotiations.’
“Substantively, Khamenei’s new red lines – if US negotiators ultimately accept them – would detonate the possibility of a verifiable, enforceable deal…
“On verification, he blasted inspections of military sites and ruled out any ‘unconventional inspection or monitoring’ in general. The military sites demand would gut the IAEA’s ability to ensure the Iranians aren’t enriching at military bases like Fordow (which they’ve done) or developing nuclear warheads at military bases like Parchin (which they’ve also done). Administration officials have been talking about ‘managed access’ to such sites, which is less than what former IAEA officials say the agency needs and less than the ‘snap inspections’ lawmakers were told negotiators would bring home – but still more than Khamenei is willing to give. The ‘unconventional’ demand would prohibit the unprecedented inspection regime President Obama has emphasized is necessary to prevent the Iranians from cheating.”
Eli Lake has written an article for Bloomberg that Ceren quotes:
“Now [Senator] Kirk feels that there isn’t much of an agreement at all. As he told me Thursday, ‘Because Iran refuses to agree to the same framework for a final deal as the United States, and because Iran still strongly disputes basic issues like how a final deal will address comprehensive sanctions relief, uranium enrichment, and coming clean on Iran’s military nuclear activities, I believe the full Senate should vote, sooner rather than later, on the bipartisan Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015.’”
The issue is not even one of who is telling the truth in the dispute between the US and Iranian version of the agreement. It is, rather, that if Iran has not signed on to the US version, and is determined to get its way, there is no agreement.
Let’s close with some good news:
“British Christian groups are circulating a declaration expressing appreciation for Israel as a safe haven for Middle East Christians, support for bolstering ties with the Jewish state, and a call to combat anti-Semitism.
“Called the ‘Shalom Declaration,; the document states, ‘We deeply appreciate that Israel is the only country in the Middle East which extends freedom of worship to all its citizens and where the Christian community is growing.’”