* Suha Arafat’s $100,000 a month from the PA budget, while the PA claims it has no money
* Before purchasing an expensive villa on the Rue Fauborg St. Honore, Mrs. Arafat occupied a 19-room suite for more than a year at the five-star Bristol Hotel in Paris that goes for about $16,000 a night, paid for by the Palestinian Authority
* While Palestinians say they have no money, 111 truckloads of top of the range new televisions enter Gaza so Palestinians can watch the soccer World Cup
1. Palestinians refuse medications; ask for money instead
2. 111 truckloads of televisions
3. Palestinian financial woes “started with Mr. & Mrs. Arafat”
4. Abbas meets with Suha in Tunis
5. “Palestinians’ woes started with Arafat” (Delaware Online, May 31, 2006)
6. “Israel offers medicines, PA demands cash” (Yediot Ahronot, June 7, 2006)
7. “Abbas holds ‘sulha’ with Suha” (Jerusalem Post, June 4, 2006)
PALESTINIANS REFUSE MEDICATIONS; ASK FOR MONEY INSTEAD
Barely a day goes by without major western media outlets, in particular the BBC, warning of a “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza and claiming that there is a greater shortage of medical supplies in Gaza than there is in most other hospitals throughout the third world.
At the same time, virtually no western media have reported that Israel’s offer to donate medications worth 50 million shekels (approximately $11 million) has been turned down by the Palestinian Authority, on the basis that the PA say they want cash instead. Israel does not want to hand over cash since past donations have been used to buy weapons to attack Israel.
The World Health Organization says that despite its efforts it has been unable to convince the Palestinians to accept the medications from Israel. But the western media chose not to report this. (For more, see the Yediot Ahronot article below.)
“The PA’s position shows that there really is no health crisis in the PA, contrary to its claims,” Israeli security sources said, “and that they want to use the money for other purposes.”
111 TRUCKLOADS OF TELEVISIONS
It has also been reported in the Israeli media that 111 trucks containing TV sets have entered Gaza over the past two weeks, having been purchased from Israeli TV importers. Some of these TVs are expensive new wide-screen models. The upswing in television purchases in Gaza is thought to have coincided with the start of the soccer World Cup. This happens at a time when, according to Palestinian claims made to foreign journalists, there is supposedly a great shortage of money, food and medicine in Gaza.
PALESTINIAN FINANCIAL WOES “STARTED WITH MR. & MRS. ARAFAT”
While international media and politicians continue to criticize the Israeli and American governments for creating a “humanitarian crisis” in Palestinian areas, very few commentators have attempted to highlight the principal reason for the present poor state of Palestinian finances: corruption and mismanagement.
In his article below, Howard M. Berlin, reminds us that the “Palestinians’ woes started with Arafat.”
“An audit by the International Monetary Fund stated that Arafat had diverted about $900 million of public PA funds into his own accounts from 1995 to 2000… In 2000, Internet hackers reportedly broke into Arafat’s computer system, finding information on more than $5 billion stashed in secret accounts…”
Writing about Suha Arafat, Berlin says: “The Palestinian press has a nickname for her: Miss Moneybags.” Mrs. Arafat “was questioned about the receipt of $11.4 million from Swiss accounts controlled by her between 2002 and 2003.” Her reported annual allowance is alleged to be $22 million for the rest of her life.
Before purchasing an expensive villa on the Rue Fauborg St. Honore, Mrs. Arafat occupied a 19-room suite for more than a year at the five-star Bristol Hotel in Paris that goes for about $16,000 a night, paid for by the Palestinian Authority. While her husband wore his trademark army uniform and kafiyah, she shopped for French designer clothes.
Berlin says that “The U.S., E.U., Israel and UN should demand guarantees that before one dollar is handed over, Palestinians will apply the same energy and resources they have been using to manipulate world opinion to recover the money Arafat stole from them… when the Palestinian Authority government has shown it can be fiscally responsible, then the world will respond in kind.”
For a previous dispatch on Yasser Arafat’s financial dealings, see Arafat appears on “Forbes” world’s richest list (Feb. 28, 2003).
For more on Arafat’s legacy and its implications for the future, please read, Yasser Arafat, ‘the stuff of legends’: A warning for the future.
ABBAS MEETS WITH SUHA IN TUNIS
Whilst Berlin and other commentators have suggested that the PA must “terminate payment for Suha Arafat’s lavish lifestyle,” only days ago PA President Mahmoud Abbas and senior members of his Fatah party held “warm and friendly talks” in Tunis with Suha Arafat, reports Khaled Abu Toameh, a subscriber to this email list, in the Jerusalem Post.
Suha Arafat had moved to Paris in 2000 but relocated to Tunis following her husband’s death, “after French prosecutors announced that they had launched an inquiry into the transfer of $9 million into her French bank accounts. The inquiry was launched after information provided by the Bank of France and a government anti-money-laundering body.”
The talks in Suha’s villa were said to have “raised many eyebrows” in the West Bank and Gaza. The meeting between Abbas and Suha appears to have only been mentioned in the Israeli and Palestinian, not in the international media. For more, see the final article below.
-- Tom Gross
In hindsight, the theme of the Palestinian parliamentary elections should have been the wise adage, “Be careful what you wish for; you might get it.”
Ever since Hamas overwhelmingly defeated the Fatah Party of incumbent Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas earlier this year, the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority have been laying a guilt trip on the West and especially Israel as the sole cause for their supposed economic woes. Hamas intransigence in not recognizing the existence of the Jewish state, preferring instead that it be wiped off the map altogether, has led the United States and the European Union to cut off virtually all economic assistance to the Palestinians.
When it comes to Israel, there always seems to be a double standard. Many nations found it morally justified to boycott South Africa about 20 years ago, and businesses involved with it, to force changes in its apartheid laws. But when the United States, Israel and the European Union try to use similar economic leverage to force Hamas to change its policies about wanting to destroy Israel, Palestinians cry foul and blame Israel as the root cause of all their problems.
In Gaza and the region west of the Jordan River under control of the Palestinian Authority, the economic boycott has deteriorated all aspects of daily life. There are now shortages of all kinds: food, cooking fuel and gasoline because of unpaid bills to suppliers. Even government workers have been unpaid for months. Israel has said it would continue to offer humanitarian and medical assistance.
However, I wouldn’t shed too many tears for the Palestinians just yet. They knew full well what they were getting into when they voted for Hamas – a choice between the Fatah Party of corruption and incompetence for the last 12 years and Hamas, which would alienate them from most of the civilized world.
What Hamas and especially Fatah don’t want the world to remember is their economic troubles go much further back than the January elections and the economic boycott. The trouble, almost all of it self-induced, goes back to the biggest goniff of them all: Yasser Arafat. As chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization and president of the Palestinian Authority, he ran the PA unchallenged from its inception in 1994.
A wise person once said, “Follow the money.” A number of people did just that. For years, Arafat traveled from place to place, raising money supposedly for the PLO and later the Palestine Authority and its many factions. Very little of it, and the tax transfer payments from Israelis, actually went to the Palestinians it was supposed to help. Most of it reportedly wound up either in numerous secret bank accounts controlled by Arafat alone or by a few trusted advisers.
As to his personal wealth, there were estimates ranging from $200 million by Forbes magazine to $6 billion by U.S. and Israeli intelligence. It has been documented that Arafat opened his first secret bank account in 1965 with a $50,000 check from the emir of Kuwait.
From then on, Arafat set up accounts in well-known tax havens: Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg and the Cayman Islands. In 1998, the European Union discovered that $20 million designated for low-income housing was used to build a luxury apartment complex for top PA officials and Arafat associates.
Arafat also was rumored to have owned a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Ramallah, and a number of hotels and resorts in Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland and Austria. He was the main shareholder in two cellular telephone companies operating in Tunisia and Algeria before he died in November 2004. An audit by the International Monetary Fund stated that Arafat had diverted about $900 million of public PA funds into his own accounts from 1995 to 2000.
In 2000, Internet hackers reportedly broke into Arafat’s computer system, finding information on more than $5 billion stashed in secret accounts in Switzerland, the United States, Asia and North Africa.
Arafat played the role of an unshaven leader with a frugal lifestyle while robbing his own people blind and letting them suffer. He purposely kept his compound in Ramallah looking like a bombed-out crater, living in only two rooms, to give the world the impression that Israel was the bad guy and to keep money flowing out of sympathy or guilt.
Arafat’s widow, Suha, was not without clean hands either. The Palestinian press has a nickname for her: Miss Moneybags. Unlike her husband who was born in Cairo, Suha is a Palestinian born in Jerusalem to reasonably well-to-do Christian parents.
Mrs. Arafat has virtually nothing in common with the Palestinians who suffer because of theft of funds and fiscal mismanagement. For much of her married life she was a pampered princess, living with her mother and young daughter in Paris, away from her husband. Before purchasing an expensive villa on the Rue Fauborg St. Honore, she occupied a 19-room suite for more than a year at the five-star Bristol Hotel in Paris that goes for about $16,000 a night, paid for by the Palestinian Authority. While her husband wore his trademark army uniform and kafiyah, she shopped for French designer clothes.
The financial sources of Mrs. Arafat’s lifestyle didn’t escape the attention of the France either. She was questioned about the receipt of $11.4 million from Swiss accounts controlled by her between 2002 and 2003.
And there is a reported allowance of $22 million annually from the Palestinian Authority for the rest of Mrs. Arafat’s life, approved by Mahmoud Abbas and then-Prime Minister Ahmed Queria in 2004.
With all this Palestinian money squandered and stolen by one of their own, Palestinian Health Minister Bassem Naim recently had the chutzpah to appeal for $4.3 million for health care in the Palestinian territories to prevent a “humanitarian and health disaster.” The United States, European Union, Israel and United Nations should demand guarantees that before one dollar is handed over, Palestinians will apply the same energy and resources they have been using to manipulate world opinion to recover the money Arafat stole from them.
The West should directly provide all humanitarian aid. The PA must terminate payment for Suha Arafat’s lavish lifestyle, and stop paying reparations to families of homicide bombers.
When the Palestinian Authority government has shown it can be fiscally responsible, then the world will respond in kind.
“THERE IS NO REAL HEALTH CRISIS IN THE PA”
Israel offers medicines, PA demands cash
Foreign minister meets with US assistant secretary of state, tells him Israel sought to aid Palestinians with medications worth NIS 50 million but was turned down
By Ronny Sofer
June 7, 2006
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Wednesday updated US Assistant Secretary of State David Welch that the Palestinians refused to receive aid in medications from Israel.
Livni told Welch that Israel sought to transfer to the Palestinian Authority medications worth NIS 50 million (about USD 11 million), but the Palestinians asked that the sum be delivered in cash from their tax money.
Israeli defense officials said that “the Palestinians’ stance reveals that there is no real health crisis in the PA and that they are trying to use the money for other needs.”
The affair was exposed by Channel 10. According to the report, the World Health Organization (WHO) failed to convince the Palestinians to receive the medications from Israel.
State officials said Wednesday evening that 34 trucks loaded with medications have entered the Gaza Strip in recent days. The Israel Defense Forces also enabled the delivery of 119 additional donations through shipping containers loaded with medications expected to enter the Strip in the near future.
‘Palestinians not interested’
Several weeks ago, Israel turned to the Palestinians through the WHO in a bid to clarify which hospitals were in need of medical equipment and medications in order to purchase them with the money in its possession.
The decision to purchase the medications and not give the Palestinians money was made by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who sought to address the PA’s humanitarian problems, but to prevent the transfer of funds to the Hamas-led government which will use them as it pleases.
WHO representatives recently got back to Israel, saying that the Palestinians were not interested in receiving the medications. According to the representatives, the Palestinians are interested in cash for their own needs. On Wednesday Israel raised it before the US assistant secretary of state, and the argument remains unresolved.
“WHAT’S WRONG IF MY HUSBAND SENDS ME SOME MONEY?”
Abbas holds ‘sulha’ with Suha
By Khaled Abu Toameh
The Jerusalem Post
June 4, 2006
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and senior members of his Fatah party have held “warm and friendly talks” in Tunis with Suha Arafat, the widow of Yasser Arafat, sources close to Abbas and Suha announced on Saturday.
At the meeting, the first of its kind in many years, Abbas and the 43-year-old Suha agreed to end their long-standing dispute. The two, according to PA officials, had not been talking to each other for nearly 10 years.
Suha’s Tunis-based office described the meeting as “very warm” and said the two sides stressed the importance of the “national dialogue” that is taking place in the West Bank and Gaza Strip between Fatah and Hamas.
The sulha [reconciliation] took place in Suha’s villa in the Tunisian capital, where she has been living since the death of her husband in November 2004.
The meeting, which lasted for about three hours, was attended by old guard Fatah leaders including former PA prime minister Ahmed Qurei, legislator Azzam al-Ahmed and other members of the Fatah central committee.
The meeting, which was not announced in advance of Abbas’s visit to Tunis, raised many eyebrows in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, especially among representatives of the young guard in Fatah.
One source in Ramallah said the meeting focused on a “variety of issues” concerning the latest developments in the Palestinian arena in the wake of Hamas’s victory in the January 25 parliamentary election. Asked if the talks also dealt with financial issues, the source said: “I don’t rule out the possibility that they also talked about this matter, but I don’t have enough details at this stage.”
Suha, who reportedly received up to $100,000 a month from the PA budget before her husband’s death, moved to Paris shortly after violence erupted in the Gaza Strip in September 2000.
She left for Tunis after French prosecutors announced that they had launched an inquiry into the transfer of $9 million into her French bank accounts. The inquiry was launched after information provided by the Bank of France and a government anti-money-laundering body.
Asked then to explain how she received the money, an angry Suha retorted “What’s wrong if my husband sends me some money? I’m working here (in Paris) for the benefit of my people.” She later accused her husband’s close aides of being responsible for corrupt dealings, saying: “Every beautiful flower ends up surrounded by weeds.”
When the ailing Arafat was hospitalized in a French Hospital, Suha refused, under French law, to permit Abbas and other Palestinian leaders to visit him, accusing them of seeking to “bury Yasser Arafat alive.” She later agreed to allow only Qurei to enter Arafat’s room.
Suha’s allegations, made in a message to the Palestinians through the pan-Arab Al-Jazeera news network, drew sharp criticism from PA leaders who accused her of insulting her husband’s legacy.
Because of the tensions, Suha was advised to stay away from Arafat’s funeral in Ramallah. She and her daughter only attended a memorial service in Cairo before flying back to Tunis.
During his visit to Tunis, Abbas also met with estranged PLO leader Farouk Kaddoumi.The two, who have been at odds ever since Abbas succeeded Arafat, agreed to patch up their differences and to work together against the Hamas cabinet.
Kaddoumi, who sees himself as the “Foreign Minister of Palestine," has in the past openly challenged Abbas’s right to appoint a PA foreign minister. Kaddoumi is now challenging Hamas’s right to name its own foreign minister.
Last week he surprised PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar by arriving before him at a meeting of Non-Aligned countries in Malaysia.