Oil-rich Arab states stiff Palestinians on promised aid; scapegoat Israel over P.A.'s bankruptcy

In 2002, when oil prices were hovering around $21 a barrel, nearly two dozen Arab nations joined to pledge yearly contributions of $660 million to support the Palestinian Authority's annual budget.

Now, even with oil prices more than six times higher and the Palestinian Authority bordering on financial ruin, only a handful of Arab countries are sending even a small portion of the money they promised, according to data examined by The Washington Post.

Out of 22 Arab nations that made pledges, only three -- Algeria,
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- have contributed funds this year, while oil-rich countries such as Libya, Kuwait and Qatar have sent nothing and still owe the Palestinian government more than $700 million in past-due pledges.

Many members of the Arab League that committed to make annual contributions do not have oil riches and have paid on average about 4 percent of what they pledged since 2002, according to U.S. figures. But some of the worst offenders are oil producers. Through the first half of 2008, Bahrain has paid 13 percent of its total pledges, Libya 14 percent, Oman 23 percent, Kuwait 35 percent, Algeria 73 percent and the United Arab Emirates 92 percent. Saudi Arabia has paid just shy of 100 percent, but many experts believe it should be paying four times as much, given the increase in the price of oil since 2002.

One senior U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of diplomatic sensitivities, said that Arab nations could be doing much more to support the peace process launched at a conference in Annapolis last year and that "their effort falls short in every category." He said he is puzzled by their failure to meet their pledges in a period of phenomenal oil wealth.

"The one thing I find hard to explain is why they don't contribute more financially," the official said, noting that the Palestinian government is "really operating hand-to-mouth." He added that more than 50 percent of the money goes to the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas, so even people living under Hamas rule are suffering from the Arab failure to pay pledges.

Arab diplomats, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said there is little trust that the Palestinian Authority will use their contributions wisely, even though Palestinian Prime Minister
Salam Fayyad is a veteran of the International Monetary Fund and, during his time as finance minister, introduced new standards of accountability and financial management. Arab diplomats said they also resent the tight grip that Israel has maintained on the Palestinian territories during the peace talks.

Read entire article by Glenn Kessler with charts showing unfulfilled, promised aid, by country

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