By Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn
Being a Palestinian Arab gets you all sorts of things these days.
In addition to longstanding bonus perks such as sympathetic international media coverage and endless handouts from various United Nations agencies, it now turns out that among the benefits of being a Palestinian is free electricity.
The only reason we know about this remarkable Middle Eastern freebie is that the New York Times finally had an opportunity to accuse Israel of withholding it. Without Israel as the villain, the story just wasn’t fit to print.
But last week the Times dutifully reported that the Israel Electric Corporation “briefly reduced the power supply to two Palestinian districts in the northern West Bank on Monday because of a ballooning debt, according to company officials.”
The size of that ballooning debt? — nearly half a billion dollars.
That’s right, the Palestinian Authority owes Israel a staggering $485-million in electricity bills. And even that enormous default led to only a slight reduction – “for less than an hour” – and only to two PA districts. And that only came after repeated warnings by the Israel Electric Corporation and attempts by the IEC “to find an arrangement to reduce the debt through contacts with the Israeli government and international bodies, to no avail.”
So let’s assume for a moment that you had an electricity bill of $485. Not $485-million, just $485. And let’s say you didn’t feel like paying it. Do you think there is any electric company in the United States that would keep your power turned on, even as you ignored repeated warnings to pay up?
Do you think your electricity provider would then contact the federal government or international agencies to work out “an arrangement” with you?
And if you persisted in your scofflaw ways, would the electric company then only reduce power to, say, your living room and basement for less than an hour, as a warning?
Not a chance, of course. If you don’t pay, then within a short time, your power would simply be turned off.
But the constant pressure and criticism from the UN, the Obama administration, and the international media have created a kind of battered wife syndrome, in which nervous Israeli government officials hesitate to apply normal standards of law and order, lest Israel be the subject of a new round of criticism for “mistreating” Palestinians by “depriving” them of electricity.
Indeed, the Israelis have already agreed to stop the brief reductions of power in exchange for a payment of $75-million. Not a payment from the PA, mind you; it still refuses to pay a penny of the bill. Israel took the $75-million out of some tax revenue that the Israeli government had planned to transfer to the PA, but had temporarily held up.
From the Palestinians’ perspective, this is all old hat. They have been receiving free stuff from Israel and the international community for decades, so they must be used to it by now.
The most egregious example is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Established in the wake of the 1948 Arab invasion of Israel, it has provided untold sums of assistance to Palestinian Arabs who fled Israel, but no aid to the far greater number of Jews who were expelled from Arab countries.
Moreover, UNRWA has employed an incredibly elastic definition of “refugee” in order to maintain a permanent constituency for handouts. To qualify as a “refugee,” a Palestinian Arab need not have ever moved from one city or country to another. He only has to be a descendant of an Arab who left ‘Palestine’ in 1948. That’s like declaring most of today’s American Jews “refugees” since their grandparents or great grandparents fled pogroms in Czarist Russia.
Add to that the aid-without-accountability package that the Palestinian Authority has been receiving from the United States. At $500-million annually for 21 years, the total has now surpassed $10-billion. The aid has continued to flow despite widespread corruption in the PA and despite the PA’s violations of the Oslo accords, for example its refusal to extradite terrorists to Israel for prosecution, and its endless anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement.
It turns out the symbol of the “Palestinian revolution” is an outstretched hand, with American taxpayers subsidizing the dole.
[Moshe Phillips is president and Benyamin Korn is chairman of the Religious Zionists of America, Philadelphia, and both are candidates on the Religious Zionist slate (www.VoteTorah.org) in the World Zionist Congress elections.]