Last Wednesday, Nigel Roberts, the World Bank's country director for the West Bank and Gaza Strip held a press conference. His remarks followed the London conference of the Palestinian 'stakeholders' - or donors. The conference discussed the Palestinian Authority's commitment to introduce wide sweeping reforms and the support that they might obtain from the donors.
Everyone announced victory. The European sponsors showed how they peddle the billions of their taxpayers' money, which has disappeared into Palestinian corruption and violence, into 'influence'. The Americans could declare that their war on terrorism was reaping dividends. The Palestinians declared success - in the form of commitments to cover most of the huge annual budgetary gap they claim they cannot cover - without revising the PLO constitution which calls for wiping Israel off the map, and without having to lift a finger to find any of the missing billions. With this promise, the Palestinians could be less concerned about US demands that they pick up the $500 million plus still owed to them by Arab countries, who have been so reluctant to help their Palestinian brethren till now.
Nigel Roberts, the man who distributes the hundreds of millions allocated by the west in direct aid to the Palestinian Authority had some quite controversial things to say. Basically, he said that any money given to the Palestinians before major changes were implemented were being thrown down the same cesspool as the past billions. Under the headline "Money cannot fix Palestinian woes before real reform", the World Bank specifically said that international aid will have little or no impact on Palestinian poverty. In the past, foreign aid was accompanied by a slide in Palestinian living conditions, brought about by Palestinian policies, violence and corruption.
This something that the Funding for Peace Coalition has been reading between the lines of World Bank reports for a long time. But it is the first time an official has contradicted popular folklore so clearly and so publicly.
You would think that this was pretty big news. The World Bank says that Europe is pouring its taxpayers' money down the Palestinian drain. Despite this clear professional advice, the money keeps flowing.
So who is interested? The only two newspapers that seem to have picked up the syndicated report were the Gulf Daily News of Bahrain and 7days of the United Arab Emirates. Two countries "in arrears" on their commitments to the Palestinian Arabs. The fact that the mainstream western press is not interested in reflecting badly on their politicians' patronage of the Palestinian Arabs speaks volumes for their sympathies and their concern for the taxpaying readership.