Concern about alleged corruption by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and over the prospect of a renewed attempt at seeking a unilateral United Nations recognition of statehood is sparking new talk of cutting off American aid to the PA.
The United States "threatened to cut off financial aid to the Palestinian Liberation Office in Washington if the Palestinian leadership submitted another membership bid to the United Nations," Khaled Mesmar, a Palestinian National Council official admitted Tuesday.
The threat came through official channels during a recent visit of an American envoy to Ramallah, Mesmar said. He denied the PA is considering another bid for U.N. recognition after Abbas realized he would lose in the Security Council and withdrew his first request last year.
The question of malfeasance in Abbas' administration is another matter.
Abbas has "used his position of power to line his pockets," Rep. Steve Chabot, R- Ohio, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, said during a hearing Tuesday.
"Our policy must aim to empower those who seek to serve the Palestinian people instead of themselves," Chabot said.
Abbas allegedly deposited $13 million of U.S. taxpayer aid into a secret bank account in Jordan during his seven-year tenure. He also is suspected of exploiting political connections to profit from the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process and profiting from secret land deals. Witnesses at the hearing say he helped his two sons earn millions of dollars through their stakes in U.S.-backed companies.
The Obama administration is failing to properly monitor the $600 million in U.S. foreign aid to the PA, said Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. This is happening even though Abbas' corruption is widely recognized, even in the Arab world.
In an apparent effort to move the PA in a positive direction, the U.S. threatened to withhold aid if the Palestinian government doesn't drop all pre-conditions for resuming peace talks with Israel.
Though the PA is generally considered to be the more moderate of the two Palestinian governments—the alternative being the designated terrorist group Hamas—experts and lawmakers accuse Abbas of deliberately sabotaging peace talks to solidify his power.
"The consistent choice of Palestinian President Abbas is a path that has kept him in office," said Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., the subcommittee's ranking member. "It is the failure of the Palestinians to say 'Yes' that has prevented them from having a state of their own—not the [security] fence, not the settlements … not the [Israeli Defense Forces], not [Israeli] Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu or anyone else," Ackerman added.
To view the complete subcommittee hearing, click here.