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May 3, 2006
The West Does Not Need To Rescue Palestinians From Their Own Folly

An integral part of democracy and free elections is the responsibility one assumes for the government that results. If an electorate lifts idiots to power, then they need to experience the consequences of that choice, or otherwise they will keep electing idiots without regard to the results. Unfortunately, former Quartet envoy James Wolfensohn doesn't agree and insists that the West must bail out the Palestinians from the consequences of electing a terrorist group to govern them:

JAMES WOLFENSOHN, the international envoy to the Middle East, has resigned and issued a warning of the dangers ahead if the West cuts everything but humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.

Mr Wolfensohn, a former head of the World Bank, also cautioned that the UN, charities and humanitarian organisations will not be able to fill the gap if the Palestinian Authority collapses under financial pressure. Speaking in Washington after he ended his posting as envoy to the Quartet on the Middle East — the UN, the US, the EU and Russia — Mr Wolfensohn said: “It would surprise me if one could win by getting all the kids out of school or starving the Palestinians. And I don’t think anyone in the Quartet believes that to be the policy. I think that’s a losing gambit.”

Mr Wolfensohn stepped down on Sunday because of restrictions in dealing with the Islamic militant group Hamas, which dominates the Palestinian Government. He said that recent promises of aid from Arab states would provide only temporary relief to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, which has been unable to raise the $130 million (£71 million) a month it needs to pay 160,000 civil servants and keep services going.

He cautioned that if Israel continued to withhold authority tax revenues and maintain its restrictions on the movement of Palestinian trade and workers, by 2008 74 per cent of Palestinians would be living in poverty and 47 per cent would be unemployed. He echoed earlier warnings that fortifying NGOs could not replace the apparatus of the Palestinian Authority if it collapsed.

One has to question why Wolfensohn regards the PA as a structure worth keeping in the first place. Since its inception after the Oslo accords, it has primarily acted as a diplomatic cover for Yasser Arafat and a means in which to steal vast sums of foreign aid from the Palestinians. In one way, the election of Hamas had a rational basis -- Fatah had stolen so much that the Palestinians demanded someone else's hand on the cash. Unfortunately, since Hamas actively engaged in and supported terrorist attacks, no one in the West wants to give them money, and for good reason.

The tax revenues are a good example of this. Israel started paying these tax revenues as part of the Oslo accords, to which Fatah only paid lip service through two intifadas and numerous other breaches of the agreement. Israel only stopped paying this protection money when the duly elected Hamas government announced that it would no longer even pay lip service to Oslo. It refused to recognize Israel, a key provision, and refused to renounce violence, another key provision. It also applauded the recent suicide bombing n Tel Aviv which killed a number of people and injured scores more. The Palestinians made Oslo a dead letter -- so why should Israel continue the payments required under that agreement?

It's thinking like Wolfensohn's that extends the problem rather than solves it. He wants Israel and the West to continue to fund Palestinians despite their rejection of all agreements reached over the past fifteen years. If they can reject all agreements and treaties and not pay any price, why would they ever bother to honor one at all?

The Palestinians elected these people, and before that enthusiastically supported Arafat and his own band of somewhat more secular thugs. They support the abrogation of existing agreements and the use of terrorist tactics against civilian targets in Israel. Polls consistently show strong support for suicide bombing, and the elections proved that they would rather be led by terrorists than statesmen. Perhaps they felt free to make these choices, assuming that they would pay no price for them, thanks to well-intentioned but hopelessly paternalistic people like James Wolfensohn.

These are not children; they made their choice, one they have affirmed for years. It's time to allow the Palestinians to experience the true consequences of those choices. They have impoverished themselves, and the West has no obligation to rescue them from their self-made misery.

UPDATE: Fixed a typo. Also, I agree with David in the comments -- Wolfensohn has led a life of sacrifice and service and does not deserve to be demonized. He is, however, specatcularly wrong and a good example of where the liberal impulse goes off the rails in dealing with issues such as these.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 3, 2006 6:54 AM

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