Thursday, March 09, 2006

Hamas plays `Show me the money!'

The former US envoy to the Middle East, General Zinni, famously compared dealing with the Palestinian Authority to dealing with the mafia, with Arafat as the capo del tutti. Looks he wasn't far wrong.

Today, Forbes ran a story about Hamas trying to get its bloody little hands on part the stash of the late Yasir Arafat that was skimmed off of `aid money' to the supposedly destitute Palestinian people.Hamas Goes For The Gold -

Ol' Yasir set up a whole slew of off-the-books investments in a slush fund culled from the aid money. before he died in 2004, Selim Fayyad, then the finance minister before Abbas got rid of him for being a little too honest and efficient, managed to locate and latch onto some of this slush fund and consolidate it into something called the Palestine Investment Fund. It even published audited financials showing that it held over $1 billion at the end of 2004, including a big chunk of Egyptian cell company Orascom Telecom and PALTEL, a Palestinian telecommunications company...a company in which Israeli peacenik and perpetual appeasor Shimon Peres has a half stake!

Arafat made the investments by diverting $900 million from Authority bank accounts, according to a 2003 International Monetary Fund report.

This fund now has assets worth $1.4 billion...and it is by no means the only one.

So much for the lies Special Envoy James Wolfensohn was telling about how the Palestinian Authority could go bankrupt within weeks if they didn't get that $42 million grant the World Bank released on Tuesday, supposedly to pay 'public-sector salaries'.

The Palestinian Authority is running a deficit of $500 million per year, mostly in payroll; Abbas raised salaries across the board including on those 37,000 non-existent jobs on the payroll I reported on here. Abbas got the money by taking out loans against the assets of the investment fund, after the EU froze donor money because of what was politely labled `lack of transparency and accountability'.

At this point, there's a fight ging on over what's left of the Fund, which was set up by Fayyad to fund long-term economic development projects and provide economic stimulus to the West Bank and to Gaza. It was never intended to fund government budgets, and was originally designed to be out of the reach of the Palestinian Authority president so that Arafat could not tap into it.

At this point, Both Abbas and Hamas are fighting over control of the money. Hamas could draft new legislation to give its government control of the fund, or it could swipe it outright.

What no one mentions is that this is stolen aid money that was supposed to go to the Palestinian people for humanitarian purposes.

And of course,no one is talking about bringing suit for embezzlement against Abbas or against the estate of Arafat.

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