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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘aid’

US Aid to Egypt Blocked by Republican Congress Following Riots

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

At last, the violent rallies against the U.S. embassy in Cairo, in reaction to an anti-Islam video, and Egypt’s laxidasical efforts to defend American assets, have yielded a real result: talks about $1 billion in debt relief and millions more in aid to Egypt are suspended, according to U.S. officials who spoke to the Washington Post on the condition of anonymity.

It took Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi more than 48 hours to condemn the breach of the US embassy premises in Cairo and the removal of the American flag.

There will not be new aid approved for Egypt until after the November elections, and talks intended to ease to payment of funds that have already been approved are stalled, the officials said.

But the same officials added that the delays are temporary and do not represent a reevaluation of U.S. aid to Egypt.

“Folks are going to wait and see how things materialize both with the protests and on Capitol Hill,” one congressional aide told the Post.

The U.S. annual aid to Egypt comes to about $1.6 billion, and the Obama Administration was fully prepared to continue providing this aid, despite the election of a new government in Egypt run by the Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed, President Obama has proposed an additional $1 billion in debt relief for Egypt, whose debt to America stands at about $3 billion.

Egypt is the second largest recipient of U.S. aid after Israel, since 1979. Of the $1.6 billion it receives, more than $1.3 billion goes to military aid.

The major hurdle in the path of U.S. funds to Egypt is the Republican House of Representatives which last year attached conditions to U.S. aid, most notably a requirement that the State Department certify that Egypt is abiding by its peace treaty with Israel.

Several Congress members have been proposing additional conditions. And there’s been some pushback on the part of the State Department. For instance: this week, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wanted to hold a hearing on U.S. relations with Egypt, but it was canceled because the State Department refused to send witnesses. DOS instead offered a private briefing for lawmakers, a congressional aide told Reuters.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland attempted to paint with pastel colors that clash of wills between Republican Congress Members and Hillary’s DOS: “We are continuing to work with the Hill on the support that we think is important to support those very forces of moderation, change, democracy, openness in Egypt that are very important for defeating extremism of the kind that we saw,” she said on Monday.

According to Nuland, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would appear before Congress in person soon regarding U.S. aid to the Muslim-Brothers run Egypt and all the other painful realities exposed by the violent protests.

According to the Washington Post, American and Egyptian officials were in the final stages of negotiating hundreds of millions of dollars in aid just as the protests exploded outside the embassy and American flags were being set on fire.

And a delegation of 120 U.S. business leaders was in Cairo at the same time as well, as the State Department was trying to encourage foreign investment in Egypt.

Here is an excerpt from the State Dept. Monday briefing regarding the U.S. and Egypt:

QUESTION: On Egypt, you said the Egyptians have been cooperative in providing the additional security you requested. Can you talk a little bit more broadly about what the contact with the Egyptians has been like over the last few days? And what is the status of the discussions about delivery of aid? Has that been affected at all?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, the White House reported that the President had a good conversation with President Morsi. I think it was before the weekend. I can’t actually remember. It might have been Friday. Right. And then the Secretary talked to Foreign Minister Amr on Saturday. I think we reported that conversation out to you over the weekend. She, as you know, spoke to leaders around the region on Saturday. She also spoke to Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, FM al-Faysal. She spoke to the Libyan Prime Minister Abushagur. She spoke to Foreign Minister Davutoglu, spoke to Foreign Secretary Hague, and Foreign Minister Fabius of France.

Iran Claiming Oil Deal with Egypt

Monday, September 10th, 2012

The Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) was quoted on Monday by Reuters as stating, in the name of Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi, that Iran is negotiating to sell oil to Egypt.

The Iranians have been saying time and again, especially since the new round of Western sanctions set in on July 1, that they are negotiating to sell oil to several new buyers, but would not name.

According to Reuters, a spokesman for Egypt’s oil ministry refused to comment on Qasemi’s remarks.

Since the fall of President Mubarak, relations between Egypt and Iran have been improving, and last month President Muhamed Morsi visited Tehran – first Egyptian leader to do so since 1979.

Egyptian Petroleum Minister Osama Kamal told Al-Ahram earlier in September that he had no objection to importing Iranian crude oil, to be processed in Egyptian refineries.

But such an Egyptian move will likely not receive the blessing of the Obama White House, nor of the U.S. Congress.

Egypt has been receiving just under $2 billion in U.S. foreign aid, but the Obama Administration has repeatedly promised a significant increase in some aspects of the aid package over several years, as well as completion of an agreement between Egypt and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In short, like Israel, Egypt stands to lose a great deal by annoying the Americans.

Where’s the Shame? U.S. Tax Dollars Funding Palestinian Fiscal Incompetence & Terror

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

The economy presided over by the Palestinian Authority and its head Mahmoud Abbas is a peculiar thing.

A year ago, the New York Times reported that the PA had managed to run up a deficit of more than half a billion US dollars in 2011 alone, and was borrowing heavily from unspecified banks. The financial crisis, according to PA prime minister and famed economist Salam Fayyad, was due to the failure of the PA’s sovereign friends to make good on their pledges. “Of the $971 million pledged by donors for this year, $330 million of it has been paid so far,” said the July 2011 report, quickly adding that “Fayyad said the current financial crisis had no bearing on the Palestinians’ readiness for independence.”

Ready for independence or not, the PA has now managed to run up an electricity tab of more than NIS 700 million. That’s how much they owed the Israel Electric Company as of September 1, 2012. Israel’s minister for energy Uzi Landau said yesterday that he will be instructing the IEC “to take all necessary steps to collect these debts, with all the implications that may arise.” Does he mean to turn off the power to the Abbas regime? Maybe.

The Times of Israel noted that:

“The accumulated electricity debt is another sign of the Palestinian Authority’s mounting cash crunch, which it largely blames on a sharp reduction in foreign aid since 2011.”

In tough economic times, you make tough economic decisions. Unless you’re the Palestinian Authority. Contemplate yesterday‘s report from Israel’s Channel 2, that the Palestinian Authority is spending $4.5 million a month paying salaries to  Palestinians in Israeli jails and to their families.

According to the report, the amount the Palestinians receives depends on  how long he is sentenced to (or in other words, how severe the crimes of the terrorist were).  Pursuant to a 2003 Palestinian Authority law, getting sentenced up to five years in prison earns NIS 1,000 ($250) per month. A life sentence earns NIS 4,000 ($1,000).  That amount increased further in 2011, under Fayyad’s stewardship, by an average of 300%.

And these terror-salaries and family benefits are not restricted to the members of the so-called “moderate” Palestinian factions like Fatah. They include Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The report goes on to say that murderers get paid even more, the longer their incarceration. To illustrate, the Channel 2 report brings the case of the multiple murderer Abdullah Barghouti, sentenced in 2004 to 67 life sentences – one for each of the lives he snuffed out. He’s also the man who built the bomb that murdered Malki Roth (the daughter of the authors of this article). As a convicted murderer on behalf of the Palestinian Arabs, he qualifies for a monthly stipend of NIS 4,000 ($1,000). This will rise automatically next year to NIS 6,000.

(Here’s the original Channel 2 news report in Hebrew; and the Times of Israel‘s English version).

According to the U.S. Institute of Peace as well as the Congressional Research Service, Palestinians in Judea and Samaria (“West Bank”) and the Gaza Strip, are “the largest per capita recipients of international development assistance in the world.”

Who makes available the funding that allows the PA to conduct its unconscionable, terror-encouraging financial policies? Well, quite a number of people, if you’re asking. And some that may be quite close to where you live.

In an article for Algeminier, Arsen Ostrovsky, a fellow at the American Center for Democracy, wrote that:

In the last five years, the U.S. government has poured at least $4 billion in aid to the Palestinians, with very little to show in return – except more terror and corruption.Since 2008, annual U.S. bilateral assistance to the PA has averaged over $600 million, including $513 million for the current budgetary year.Time has now long come to ask whether the U.S. should continue funding at all.

Ostrovsky notes that when this past April, Congresswomen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fl), as chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee put a hold on $59 million destined to the Palestinian Authority, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released them anyway on the grounds that the funds ” provided critical support to the Palestinian people and those leaders seeking to combat extremism within their society and build a more stable future.”

Yom Kippur Rentals Could Cost Tel Aviv’s Bike Program Funding

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Israel’s transportation minister has threatened to withdraw funding for a Tel Aviv bicycle rental project if it allows the bicycles to be used on Yom Kippur.

Israel Katz said Sunday that the operating of the Tel-O-Fun project on Yom Kippur “is crossing a red line and breaking all the norms. The Tel-o-Fun project is important, but regrettably, [Tel Aviv Mayor Ron] Huldai is using it for political ends, harming the holiest day of the Jewish people.”

“This is an important and successful project,” Katz added, “and the Ministry of Transportation supports and even encourages the venture with budget allocations and the paving of bicycle paths. But if Huldai breaks all the rules and harms this sacred day of the Jewish people, I will cut off the ministry’s aid and support for the project.”

While most Jews in Israel do not drive on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, many take advantage of the empty roads to ride their bikes freely.

The program did not operate on Yom Kippur last year.

City transportation official Moshe Tiomkin told the Israeli business daily Globes that “There is no reason why, on Yom Kippur, which is our most sacred day, we should seek unnecessary conflict. Anyone who wants to ride a bicycle should use their own.”

Under the holiday plan, bicycles will be rented before the start of the holiday and will be able to be returned afterward without an extra fee, so as not to offend the religious community.

Romney, Ryan, Rule

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Following a hard couple of years of campaigning—debating a man who makes pizza, a man who wants to cut off aid to Israel and a woman who receives her instructions directly from the Almighty—and after treading the dark, frozen fields of Iowa and the dark, frozen woods of New Hampshire, and after eating more roadside donuts and burgers and fries than is medically advisable to a man half his age, Willard Mitt Romney, American businessman and former governor of Massachusetts, first Mormon to receive a major party’s nomination and one of the wealthiest men ever to pursue this high office – was officially picked by the Party of Lincoln to run for president.

For many reasons of internal harmony and disharmony, the colorful roll call vote came not at the end of the convention, as is usually the case, but on Tuesday. Delegates also adopted the most conservative platform in U.S. history, and nominated Rep. Paul Ryan to be Romney’s running mate.

A point about our modern politics, to those of us who thought the U.S. was run by mostly WASPs: the Republican ticket this year is comprised of a Mormon and a Catholic. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reed – also a Mormon. House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor – a Jew. The Supreme Court – basically Catholics and Jews.

You think Presbyterians have lost the urge?

Palestinian Economy in Downfall Born by ‘Reluctance’ to Accept Israel

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

A cash crunch due to a severe drop in foreign aid since 2011 may be ushering in business failures and layoffs in the area under Palestinian Authority rule, leading to the worst crisis in the PA’s 18-year existence, according to AP.

It appears that the Palestinian Authority will not survive this crisis without a major infusion of cash.

In recent months, the PA has been unable to meet all its obligations, most notably the salaries paid out to some 150,000 civil servants and security personnel, which account for about half of the Palestinian government’s $4 billion budget.

For comparison, Israel’s annual government expenditures in 2011 were estimated at $74.8 billion, with estimated revenues at $66.68 billion, for a population roughly three times that of the PA.

Arab citizens constitute close to 25% of “green line” Israel.

One of the reasons this coming crisis may last longer and hurt worse is the fact that the PA can no longer borrow money to fill its gaping deficits. Economist Samir Abdullah told the AP that the PA owes more than $2 billion to local banks, private companies and the public pension fund.

“If there is no reversal in the current trend, the Palestinian Authority will not survive this year,” said Abdullah, who used to serve as a PA government minister.

And the PA has received only half the needed foreign aid to close its 2012 budget deficit of $1.2 billion, according to its Finance Ministry.

Palestinian officials blame the U.S. for withholding aid as a means of applying political pressure. The PA was counting on $200 million from the U.S. in budget support in June, but the payment was held up by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The U.S. 2011 payment was delayed by a congressional hold, in response to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ appeal to the UN to recognize a Palestinian state in the disputed territories.

The United Arab Emirates cut aid from $174 million in 2009 to $42.5 million since the beginning of 2011.

Qatar refuses to send money as long as there’s no reconciliation between Abbas and the Hamas.

Israel has been blamed for the inability of the Palestinian economy to be self-sustaining, because of the security-related restrictions it places on movement of goods, and the 5-year blockade on Gaza.

According to the AP, Palestinian officials, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, say the PA government can only become self-sufficient if Israel removes a network of restrictions on trade and access to resources that discourage investment, drive up costs and limit business opportunities.

But despite some loosening of restrictions, the Israeli government is reluctant to open up new opportunities for Palestinian terrorists to squeeze through the protective fences it has erected over the past ten years.

And so it appears the Palestinians are trapped by their own reluctance to accept Israel’s right to exist, coupled with their continued efforts to inflict terrorist attacks on Israel, and this time no one out there seems eager to spare them a dime.

Is a Palestinian State Today Economically Viable?

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Over the last year Palestinian authorities have spent a great deal of time calling for a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state while refusing to resume peace negotiations with Israel. Although they garnered political support for this in the UN General Assembly in September 2011, a new report from the World Bank, from April 2012, and made public in July 2012, indicates that the efforts of the Palestinians and their supporters would have been more usefully employed in thinking about the economic viability of such a future state.

The conclusion of this sobering report, which contradicts the more optimistic picture of the Palestinian economy presented by the IMF in 2011, is that although the Palestinian Authority [PA], the official representative group established in 1994, has made steady progress in many areas towards establishing the institutions required by a future state, the economy is currently not strong enough to support such a country. The report is a bitter commentary on the the Palestinian economy — especially compared to the economies of Israel and even Jordan — currently in a self-inflicted decline induced by the violence it brought on itself by launching the Second Intifada in September 2000.

The crucial problem according to the report is that the Palestinian economy has become increasingly dependent on foreign aid to drive its growth, a means of generating income that is insufficient for economic sustainability. Foreign aid has given the Palestinians billions of dollars — by 2008 about 56% of GDP. This led to a GDP growth of 7.7% between 2007 and 2011; in some years its growth even reached 9% a year.

But that growth is artificial and is not sustainable for three reasons. Foreign donations have funded government expenditures and been largely in the area of government services, real estate, and other non-tradable sectors. The productive sectors have declined in importance: there has been a decrease in manufacturing, down from 13% to 10%, and in agriculture from 9% to 6%.

The inflow of foreign aid in 2007 led to some improvement in GDP in the West Bank. Gaza experienced growth because of the foreign aid and the expansion of trade through tunnels from Egypt. However, the Palestinians now face a crisis because important donor countries have so far not sent aid or have sent less aid in 2012. The PA now has a deficit of $1.5 billion in its budget of about $4 billion, and a cash shortfall of $500 million. It has been promised $100 million from Saudi Arabia which is insufficient to end the crisis.

Those who admired the second Intifada, heralded by Yasser Arafat but which generated violence for over two years and halted progress to peace negotiations, will now realize that it was a disaster, a severe blow to the Palestinian economy. The violence only resulted in the West Bank and Gaza suffering a severe economic contraction. Between 1999 and 2002, real GDP fell by 27%. In 2007 real per capita GDP was 23% below the 1999 level. Industry, agriculture, tourism, and some other services declined. Public administration, defense, and public services such as health and education grew from 20% of GDP to more than 27%.

The report argues that the PA must increase private sector growth, must improve its trade infrastructure to lower costs and increase efficiency, must improve the investment climate and must improve the quality of the workforce. Sustained economic growth entails a strong dynamic private sector that can generate jobs both to employ a rapidly growing population and to provide resources for government to provide services.

This necessary dynamism is lacking. The Palestinian private sector is overwhelmingly dominated by small family-owned businesses. The high cost of doing business lowers competitiveness. The Palestinian businesses mostly focus on the local market. In addition, relatively high wages, compared to other countries such as Turkey and India, high transportation costs, and low level of innovation also reduce competitiveness.

Yet, even with significant growth, it is unlikely that the PA can support an administration of its current size. It must reduce costs, raise revenues, and move to fiscal sustainability. Politically, the report recognizes that investment would be increased if a peace agreement were reached between the Palestinians and Israel.

The Palestinian economy over the last decade has been characterized by high levels of unemployment and underemployment, some of the highest rates in the world. These have varied between 20% and 30%. Those rates are accompanied by low levels of labor force participation, about 41%. Even more troubling has been the decline in youth employment and economic participation, and the extremely low level of female labor participation. In 2010 youth unemployment in general was about 34%, and 53% in Gaza. During the last decade, the rate for women participating in the labor force was below 16%. The result of this high unemployment and the decline in private sector wages relative to government wages, has led to high levels of poverty: in 2009 it was 22% in the West Bank and 33% in Gaza.

A Paradoxical Relationship

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

http://fresnozionism.org/2012/08/a-paradoxical-relationship/

Commentators are fond of saying that the US-Israel relationship is ‘complicated’. Actually, it’s not.

Let’s explain what is usually considered a major paradox: the US provides billions in military aid to Israel, enabling it to keep its enemies at bay. But at the same time its diplomats claim that they don’t know what the capital is, and the major thrust of US policy since 1973 has been to force Israel to withdraw to indefensible boundaries, despite the obvious damage to its security.

Israel’s foes in the US will say that the aid is extorted by the all-powerful “Israel lobby.” But this is nonsense — AIPAC (stupidly, in my opinion) brags about how powerful it is, but it has lost more than one important battle. And there are countervailing forces, like the Saudi lobby, which has been very effective in quietly working against Israel through its academic grants and “post-emptive bribery” of government officials (“scratch our backs today and we’ll feather your nest when you retire,” to mix metaphors) like Jimmy Carter.

There are several reasons for the military aid: one is that it is spent in the US, which is helpful to our economy. And where else can we sell weapons without worrying that they might some day be turned against our own soldiers? But the main reason is that the great majority of Americans strongly support Israel, want to see it survive, and express this to their members of Congress.

Walter Russell Mead, in a perceptive discussion of Mitt Romney’s attitude toward Israel, wrote,

…the idea that Israel needs us and that it is both our moral duty and a strategic interest to support it to the hilt has sunk so deeply into the American public mind that Governor Romney can hardly go wrong in standing up for it.

It sounds odd, but it is very true: Israel is as American as apple pie. By showing how much he loves Israel, Governor Romney is telling millions of voters that he is a solid and loyal American.

Don’t think that the other side doesn’t understand this. Public support for Israel is under siege from several directions.

Probably most important is the attempt to turn Christian believers against Israel, by falsely accusing Israel of mistreatment of Palestinian Christians — every Christmas we see a flood of media items to this effect — or by pushing anti-Jewish replacement theology. They have been much more successful with the “mainstream” Protestant churches like the Presbyterians, whose General Assembly came within a couple of votes of calling for divestment from companies that do business with Israel, than with the Evangelicals, although they are trying.

What about secular Americans and Jews? Here the approach is to attack the idea that Israel really is a democracy that shares American values. So we have Peter Beinart arguing that Israel is becoming an undemocratic theocracy which behaves in racist ways toward minorities. We have representatives of the Union for Reform Judaism suggesting that Israel is institutionalizing the misogyny of ultra-orthodox extremists. There are even distorted analogies drawn between the Palestinian movement and the US civil rights movement!

The really interesting question is not why average Americans support Israel, but rather why our Administration and State Department continue to implement policies that are inimical to its survival, despite the clearly expressed will of the people.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/a-paradoxical-relationship/2012/08/02/

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