June 2, 2011
It was only a few days ago that, amid great fanfare, Egyptian authorities announced the reopening of the Rafah crossing at their border with Gaza. The move was hailed as a major victory for the Hamas terrorist group, which rules Gaza, and a blow to Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. It was also viewed as a radical switch by Egypt’s military rulers away from the more cooperative stance Hosni Mubarak displayed in his relations with Israel.
But in the Middle East, perceptions and conventional wisdom often turn out to be wrong. It took only a few days for Egypt to dash Palestinian expectations.
According to a June 1 report by Reuters and Haaretz, the Cairo-Hamas honeymoon has turned sour. The number of Palestinians allowed to cross into Egypt has turned into a mere trickle — from 565 last Saturday to 404 on Sunday to 631 on Monday, to 227 on Tuesday and to fewer than 100 by late Wednesday.
“Following the joy that swept most of our people, movement at the crossing yesterday and today was disappointing,” a Hamas official told reporters. And no wonder. The much touted reopening of the Rafah crossing was starting to look more like the familiar eye-dropper pattern during Mubarak’s regime, when the number of Gazans occasionally allowed into Egypt was more symbolic than for real.
Meanwhile, on the West Bank, Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority also has been running into big-time difficulties with its supposed supporters in the Arab world.
According to a June 1 dispatch from maannews, the Palestinian news agency, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad reported that the PA has been plunged into a major financial crisis, unable to meet its bills and payrolls, because Arab regimes were not delivering all the money that they had pledged — the massive contributions that drew earlier headlines.
Fayyad bemoaned a “serious shortfall” in the PA’s exchequer, blaming Arab countries, including oil-rich regimes, for delivering only a combined total of $52.5 million a month since the beginning of this year — “much less than they committed for.”
Contrast this with the European Union and Uncle Sam, who actually deliver what they promise.
It’s a new chapter in an old story — Arab leaders are most generous in aiding Palestinians with fulsome rhetoric, but when it comes to concrete actions, including hard cash, they turn tail.