By Gerald M. Steinberg, January 7, 2002
Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority has certainly come a long way since its
creation in 1994. Instead of a weak and demilitarized proto-state, with only a
“small gendarmerie” to keep law and order and prevent terrorism, the PA has
an army, navy, and full-fledged arms acquisition network.
While often advertised as too poor to feed its own people, the Authority clearly
has plenty of spare change to buy freighters, outfit them with secret water-proof
compartments, and fill them with tons of weapons and advanced explosives for
The 4000-ton Karin-A was captured last Thursday by Israeli forces in the Red
Sea, on its way through the Suez Canal before delivering its cargo to Gaza. It
was crewed by top Palestinian naval personnel, and its cargo included long
range Katyusha rockets, Sagger and LAW anti-tank missiles, mortars, mines,
advanced explosive equipment, sniper rifles, crates of ammunition, and other
implements of destruction.
These weapons, which have markings in Farsi, were purchased in Iran, and the
operation was supervised by PLO officials. The cost of the weapons, boat, and
related expenses are estimated to have been at least $15 million, all paid for
by the Palestinian Authority and under Arafat’s direct control.
To the taxpayers of the countries that have donated generously over the years
to provide food, health care, and education for poor Palestinians in Gaza, Mr.
Arafat’s spending priorities must certainly seem curious.
The European Union was and remains one of the PA’s central supporters, providing both
political backing and hundreds of millions of euros in funding. Although the promised
investment in infrastructure and plants to provide jobs failed to produce any
results, the money keeps rolling in. In December, following the brutal suicide
bombings that took dozens of Israeli lives — and the widespread recognition that
Arafat was responsible for the violence — the European Commission approved
another allocation of 30 million euros for assistance to the Authority.
Even then, an official EU spokesman explained that Europe still viewed Mr. Arafat as
a “necessary partner to fight the extremists and to work for peace.”
However, the reality is that Europe, along with Japan, Canada, the U.S. and
other major donor nations, have all become accomplices in building the
Palestinian terrorist infrastructure. Although the funds that they provide are not
directly earmarked for buying explosives, guns, and mortars and so on, all
money is fungible, and the donors have allowed this activity to proceed without
cutting off the funds.
Instead of promoting peace, as is claimed, this assistance
and support is promoting terrorism and war.
The case of the Karin-A weapons ship is by no means the first example in
which Mr. Arafat’s minions have been caught directly smuggling weapons into
the territory under their control.
Instead of the limited weapons specified in the
Oslo agreements, the Authority has smuggled in tens of thousands of illegal
Kalashnikovs, M-16s and other weapons, along with the tons of ammunition.
These arms are brought through tunnels connecting Gaza with Egypt, in trucks
crossing the Jordan River, and by sea.
Last May, the Israeli Navy intercepted a fishing boat, the San Torini, which was
loaded with SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles, grenades, grenades, mortars and shells,
mines, rifles, and ammunition from Lebanon to Gaza.
On December 16, Israeli
security agents arrested Osama Zuhar Hamed Karika, 28, who was on his way
to Saudi Arabia, ostensibly for medical treatment. Mr. Karika was caught with
documents related to the production of the Kassam rocket in Gaza and the
West Bank. The rockets are based on a North Korean design, and are similar to
the ones passed from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon, which then provided
prototypes to the Palestinians.
The End of Innocence
The age of innocence should have ended over 15 months ago, when Mr. Arafat
and the Palestinian Authority revealed that the strategy of terrorism and the
goal of destroying Israel remained unchanged.
If Europe and other donor
countries with noble intentions are genuinely concerned about the plight of poor
Palestinians, they can provide more direct and useful aid. In contrast to cash
payments and generous lines of credit, job-producing plants that manufacture
textiles or necessary food products are not readily converted into production
lines for landmines, bullets or explosives.
The experiment of the Palestinian Authority has ended in dismal failure, and it is
time to cut the losses and rethink the model. As is now painfully obvious, the
tens of millions of euros, yens and dollars given to the Palestinian leadership are
used primarily to buy weapons and explosives. Palestinian statehood may yet
come one day, but not as long Mr. Arafat and his colleagues are running the show.
Instead, it will take a new leadership and a more pragmatic and realistic
generation to reach this goal safely. In the meanwhile, the first task is to stop
throwing good money after bad, declare bankruptcy, and reorganize.