I’ve spoken at hundreds of Jewish fundraising events over the years and there is one joke that the local professionals invariably enjoy telling: “Did you hear about the UJA fundraiser who got mugged? The attacker got away with more than a million dollars in pledges.”
I was reminded of that joke this morning when I read the complaint of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad that he can’t meet his payroll because his Arab brethren have failed to fulfill their pledges. They’ve been dragging their feet for quite some time, he said.
It’s nothing new. Historically, Arab leaders have been very generous with their rhetoric, advice and willingness to fight to the last Palestinian, but when it comes to coughing up the dinars, riyals, dirhams and pounds, their enthusiasm seems to wane, even for those sheikhs for whom it is a mere drop in the barrel.
Fayyad insisted the financial crisis doesn’t affect the Palestinian Authority’s readiness for independence and self-government, but he faces a $500 million deficit so far this year and the banks are balking at making new loans. Barely one third of the $971 million in Arab pledges has been paid, he said, and only three states have kept their promises: United Arab Emirates, Algeria and Oman.
In addition to the mishpucha, the PA is also heavily dependant on some $400 million in annual American aid, which could also be in danger. Influential Members of Congress in both parties are warning Mahmoud Abbas he is putting that funding at risk if he goes ahead with two controversial strategies — his unilateral U.N. strategy to bypass negotiations with Israel and seek recognition and membership, and his power-sharing agreement with Hamas.