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David's Citadel just inside Jaffa gate
phot by Rhonda Spivak

Near Jaffa Gate at night
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Shimon Peres
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Khaled Abu Toameh
photo by Rhonda spivak

Inside Jaffa Gate: East Jerusalem Palestinians who want to Live in Israel, PA Corruption, and Clinton's Tomato Bash

by Rhonda Spivak, August 18, 2012

Near Jaffa Gate, in the Old City of Jerusalem I met two East Jerusalem Arabs who spoke candidly about their desire to remain part of the State of Israel, and not become citizens of any future Palestinian State. This is the third summer in a row where I have heard this view expressed by East Jerusalem Arabs. 
Ibrahim, in his twenties, does not have confidence in Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority, "I wouldn't feel safe there. If they arrested me, I could go missing and wouldn't be found. I feel safer walking around in Israel. It is corrupt there."
"They have taken lots of money [form donor nations], but haven't done anything for the people. Why hasn't the PA built any hospitals for the people? There are many Palestinian doctors, but they do not have jobs there. They end up leaving -finding work in Israel or elsewhere. Why aren't they making Ramallah a place where Palestinian doctors can work?" adds his friend Suleiman.
"Abbas is like Arafat--a thief. He has taken lots of money for himself and his family and he gives money to people [cronies] that are loyal to him. They don't get their jobs because they are skilled or capable but because they are loyal. Because they will do what he says. Some of them can barely read."
Suleiman continues, "With all the money form international aid earmarked for the Palestinians, Abbas still is having a hard time finding money to pay PA salaries."
"And what about Suha Arafat. She is in Malta-isn't she? Now that Arafat is dead, is she giving back the money she has that belongs to the Palestinian people? No, nothing is coming back."
Ibrahim adds, "They [Palestinians in Ramallah] don't treat me well. Every time I try to go to Ramallah, the PA police check me over--they treat me like a thief. Why should I have to be treated like a thief, when I am not."
Suleiman adds, "The Palestinians from Ramallah hate Palestinians from East Jerusalem."
Just then another Palestinian, who Suleiman says lives in East Jerusalem, walks by with his son by, and after he leaves, Suleman adds, "Him--he is a supporter of Abbas." His small son carries a flag of Palestine.
When I ask why this man supported Abbas, Suleiman responds "It's because his brother is a PA policeman. His brother is getting money form the PA-so he wouldn't say anything against the PA. 
Yet, the PA has been having problems paying policemen and other civil servants their full salaries on time each month--such that even among their own loyal constituency frustration is growing.
Donor nations from the Gulf countries have yet to pay their pledges to the PA. Although Saudi Arabia has transferred $100 million to the PA recently, there are no indications that Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, and UAE will do so as well. One can only expect that Abbas’s support will continue so long as PA salaries aren't paid in full and on time, each month.
The public sector is the largest employer of Palestinians, and the PA's ongoing financial crisis is taking a toll. The latest poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip between 21-23 June 2012, shows clear improvement in the standing and popularity of Hamas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, especially in the Gaza Strip, and a decline in the popularity of Fatah and President Abbas.
Asked who they would choose if new presidential elections were held today, Abbas would receive the 49% of the vote and Haniyeh 44%. Only three months ago, Abbas received the support of 54% and Haniyeh 42%.
As for PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who is popular in the West, neither Ibrahim or Suleiman even mention his name--he is a non-factor for them.
Yet tensions between Abbas and Fayyad are known to exist.
This past spring Omar Khatib is a journalist and translator based in Gaza wrote that Abbas was hoping to gain control over the Finance Ministry portfolio which, over the past few years, has been in the hands of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Khatib wrote in the Stonegate Institute website that "Abbas and Fatah have never come to terms with their loss of direct control over the hundreds of millions of dollars donated annually by the Americans and Europeans to the Palestinians."

And just  yesterday Hisham Jasrallah, a journalist based in the West Bank, wrote of the ongoing corruption in the PA as the main cause of their economic misfortune.

"The Palestinians could have built one of the best economies in the region after the beginning of the peace process in 1993. But instead of using the billions of dollars that were given to them by Americans and Europeans to create new jobs, the PLO leadership stole most of the funds and later blamed Israel for damaging the Palestinian economy.

Suicide bombings and financial and administrative corruption are the main reason why the Palestinian economy remains as weak as ever. The Palestinians are experts in shooting themselves in the foot and then blaming Israel."


 The Tomato Bash
A couple of days later after I met Ibrahim and Suleiman, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Jerusalem on a quick visit, which no one here expected to amount to much in terms of revitalizing the moribund peace process.
Even though her visit was underwhelming, at least she wasn't pelted with tomatoes and shoes, as she was a day earlier when she arrived in Alexandria in Egypt.
Clinton's response to the pelting incident was interesting. She told Reuters "I was relieved that nobody was hurt and I felt bad that good tomatoes were wasted but other than that, it was not particularly bothersome." (Apparently I guess Clinton didn't mind that shoes were wasted, only tomatoes. )
Clinton also saw the protest in Egypt against her as "a sign of that freer environment that Egypt now enjoys. It is also evidence that the Egyptian people are still concerned about the future."
Of course, one other obvious and reasonable explanation for the tomato incident is that the man on the Egyptian street has some rather hostile feelings for the United States, and the tomato incident this is only a sign of more things to come, as increasingly it removes itself away from the US orbit.
When Clinton arrived, protesters in Egypt also chanted "Monica, Monica," a reference to the extramarital affair conducted by Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, while in the White House. Others earlier chanted "leave, Clinton."
The Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr was asked about Egypt’s longstanding peace treaty with Israel also essentially pelted another tomato at Clinton,(although she was silent about it) by linking Egypt's upholding the peace treaty with Israel to Israel's withdrawal to its pre-67 borders .
“Egypt’s understanding of peace is that it should be comprehensive, exactly as stipulated in the treaty itself,” Amr said, referring to the original 1978 Camp David peace accords between Israel and Egypt.
“And this also includes the Palestinians, of course, and its right to-their right to have their own state on the land that was-the pre-June 4, 1967, borders with Jerusalem as its capital.”
President of Israel Shimon Peres was also in effect pelted by tomatoes in an underreported incident, which only the Jerusalem Post's Khaled Abu Toameh appeared to have exposed. Peres, who is a hard core supporter of a two state solution, and has tried to keep up his meetings with PA President Mahmoud Abbas was to have been interviewed by Arab journalists. That was until The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate in the West Bank has called for boycotting a meeting planned Peres and Arab journalists.
Abdel Nasser Najjar, chairman of the Fatah-affiliated syndicate, warned that punitive measures would be taken against journalists who attend the meeting in Jerusalem. Last month, the syndicate banned Palestinian journalists from meeting with their Israeli counterparts under the pretext that such encounters are designed to promote normalization with Israel. .
The journalists syndicate is Fatah affiliated--so one has to wonder whether when Najjar called for boycotting Peres this was done with the consent/knowledge of Abbas. Hard to believe it wasn't?
Canadians, in particular, ought to be particularly disturbed by the threat of punitive measures against journalists who wanted to meet with Peres since we are the country that is investing in building the PA justice system, including financing the building of courtrooms. Journalists being threatened with punitive measures for meeting with Peres is hardly a re-assuring sign of a developing justice system committed to democratic standards.
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.