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$50 million can buy a lot of rope...

Last week, when President Bush met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and pledged $50 million dollars in aid, a lot of people whom I respect were outraged. There has been absolutely no sign of a true crackdown on terrorism by the Palestinian Authority, and the "cease-fire" the pundits bring up whenever Israel strikes back is a joke. To these folks, what Bush is doing is rewarding the Palestinian intransigence and encouraging more violence against Israel.

I see it a little differently. I have absolutely nothing to back up this theory, but I think it makes sense.

So far, Bush has had a great deal of success with the "carrot and stick" approach -- especially when that "stick" is the military might of the United States. Nations that play nice are rewarded (Libya, for one), those that do not are swatted (Taliban-run Afghanistan and Iraq under Saddam, to name two). And so far, it's worked a hell of a lot better than previous approaches.

Now, with the Palestinians, we are showing them both sides. For most of Bush's presidency, we froze out Yassir Arafat and boosted our support for Israel. By doing that, we showed Abbas what it's like to not have us as a friend (which is not quite the same as an enemy -- just ask Saddam). Now we're giving him a taste of what it's like to have us as a friend. And in the big picture, an invitation to the White House for a photo-op and $50 million is pretty small potatoes.

But I strongly suspect that, unlike all the other money given to the Palestinians over the years, there will be some strings attached. We will be (I hope) watching to see just how that money gets spent. If it goes towards humanitarian efforts, and truly benefits the Palestinian people, then that would be a good indicator that there is real progress to be made by working with Abbas. But if it goes towards weapons or to line the pockets of the Palestinian kleptocrats that have been stealing from their own people for decades, that, too, will be an indicator about how Mr. Abbas should be treated.

That $50 million is a huge amount of money, but think of it another way: most people won't play a lottery until it gets up to around $100 million -- and at least half of that would go to taxes, anyway. In international circles, it's chump change. It's walking-around money. It's pimp-flash.

But politically, it's a $50,000,000 length of rope. Mr. Abbas could use it as a lifeline, or make a noose and hang himself with it.

I hope that Abbas is sincere in his statements calling for peace, but I'm cynical enough to believe the latter -- especially since a good deal of the Palestinian's income dried up with the fall of Saddam. And once Abbas gives in to his baser nature, we can (at the very least) freeze him out the way we did Arafat. Or we can simply let Israel deal with him however they see fit.

For example, it would certainly seem fair to give Israel an equal gift if Abbas abuses this one. And I bet $50,000,000 will buy a lot of Hellfire missiles...


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Comments (14)

An excellent point of view ... (Below threshold)

An excellent point of view Jay, I agree with you on this one. Very insightful, if I might add as well.

I tenf to agree, $50 millio... (Below threshold)

I tenf to agree, $50 million is nothing in international aid. Bill Gates gives 3 times that himself to charity each year. It is test money or as you say "pimp-flash", they F it up and Bush will have a high profile failure of he PAs to point his finger at while he steps back and lets Israel deal with it.

Israel shows a lot of restaint as the "request" if the USA

That amount is about 1/40th... (Below threshold)

That amount is about 1/40th of what Yassir Arathief managed to steal from the Palestinians. Like you said, it's chump change, but if it's actually spent on improving the lives of the people they might see some improvements. If it ends up in the Swiss bank accounts of Abbas and/or arms dealers it better be the last we ever send them.

I sure hope you're right, J... (Below threshold)

I sure hope you're right, Jay. But to quote the late British character actor Torin Thatcher from the movie "The Crimson Pirate: 'Thy humble servant shall believe when thy humble servant sees it' ".

(My apologies if this puppy double-posts. I was afraid the gods of the ether-world had eaten it, so I hit it again.)

First paragraph, last sente... (Below threshold)

First paragraph, last sentence ^^: insert the word "it" between the words "believe" and "when"in the movie quote.

(The preview button is my friend, the preview button is...)

I was spitting nails when I... (Below threshold)

I was spitting nails when I heard Abbas was in the U.S. and that GWB was giving the Palis more money..when I heard the $50 mil figure I thought it was sloppy reporting and would turn out to be 500 or something. I think you're on the right track, Jay. I certainly hope this is the plan.

I concur with everything yo... (Below threshold)

I concur with everything you've just written.

Jay tea, I never understood... (Below threshold)
Zsa Zsa:

Jay tea, I never understood how a scum bag like Arafat ever won the Nobel Peace Prize? I wish the Palestinians and the entire Arab world would chill out and just get along! ...The way I see it we all live in one world. We all have to share it! We aren't going to be here forever. We all are apart of the human race. We don't have to agree with one another but that doesn't mean we get to murder and torture and make others miserable just because we don't agree! Why is it so necessary to have such bitterness for others that we have to kill? I just don't get it!

Hmmmm.Sorry but I ... (Below threshold)


Sorry but I don't buy it. If it were true then we have already "sold" the PA about $1.4 billion dollars worth of "rope".

I agree. Also, with a large... (Below threshold)

I agree. Also, with a large infux of cash, there are ways to see what account it squirts into.

He took some heat for the same strategy with Putin. He looked into is soul... blah blah blah. It was a carrot. What a leader does with it shows his character. Putin squandered it. I suspect Abbas will also.

At current rates, I believe... (Below threshold)

At current rates, I believe $50M would buy about 200 Hellfires.

A good start, as the old joke about lawyers goes.

I could care less about the... (Below threshold)

I could care less about the money. You're right, it's chump change. What I'm more peeved about is the rhetoric. Words do matter and when GW praises Abbas for strides in democracy and lays into Israel on building in the settlements then I get a bit miffed. Who cancled elections? As far as building in the settlements goes...there hasn't been an agreement between the Palis and Israel that has said anything about it. Per agreement it's fine.

Actually, Jay's idea was my... (Below threshold)

Actually, Jay's idea was my very first thought. They'll either hang themselves or they'll show they mean to get to the business of peace making and actually helping to pull their people out of the morass created in the past. We shall see. I see nothing wrong with promoting the chance that they'll do the right thing. If they don't, well...we told you so.

I want nothing more than to be proven wrong.

This isn't just about the m... (Below threshold)

This isn't just about the money, but it's about throwing Abbas a lifeline against Hamas, which has inspired far greater support in the territories in the past few years as the PLO has sucked every last bit of economic development into its huge kleptocracy (and Arafat and his minions' pockets). If Abbas can show that he can bring home the bacon, folks might give him more of a chance, and the PLO is far more accepting of the current situation than Hamas.

And yes, I know both PLO and Hamas call for Israel's destruction, but the PLO doesn't seek Israel's destruction tomorrow. Hamas does. That may be reason enough to give PLO support, but the counter argument is that both are terrorist organizations that deserve to be eliminated, not negotiated with.






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