You have to give them credit. The Palestinians outdid themselves this week. In the framework of the maelstrom over the presumed financial crisis of the Hamas-led PA, the supposedly "moderate" Fatah organization, led by supposedly "moderate" PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, decided to threaten America and Europe. In a leaflet published by Fatah's Aksa Martyrs Brigades in Gaza, the group announced, "We won't remain idle in the face of the siege imposed on the Palestinian people by Israel, the US and other countries." They went on to threaten, "We will strike at the economic and civilian interests of these countries, here and abroad."
On Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, the announcement was greeted by many with contempt and anger. This, of course, is a remarkable combination the week before a scheduled vote on legislation that would bar all direct and indirect US assistance to the PA.
Since 1994, the PA has always been supposedly on the brink of a financial and humanitarian catastrophe. But what is interesting about the current financial crisis is Abbas's behavior. In a departure from his normal diffidence, this week Fatah leader Abbas did not try to soften the impression that his underlings sought to make on the West. Rather, he strengthened it.
In a speech before the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Abbas warned that if the EU did not renew its underwriting of the PA's budget "there will be an explosion of anger, and this would lead to a chaotic situation of which we cannot foresee the results." Translated into regular English, Abbas told his European audience: "Your money or your life."
Yet even as he was directly blackmailing the Europeans, Abbas didn't forget his manners. In a style that befits Yasser Arafat's deputy of some 40 years, Abbas provided his victims with the opportunity to feel good about giving in to his threats. If you give me your protection money, he said, you will be able to wrap yourselves in the robes of the saviors of the poor, popular Palestinian people by preventing a "humanitarian disaster."
And so, from the editorial board of Ha'aretz to the continental press, all the enlightened humanitarians now express their deep concern for the fate of the PA's 165,000 employees who have not received salaries for nearly two whole months. Human rights organizations from the UN to Amnesty International have expressed their deep-seated fears for the fate of the poor Palestinians who haven't been paid.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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