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As Abbas era hits 10 years, Palestinians mired in political and economic muck

By SEAN SAVAGE JNS.org
May 8 marks what many consider an unceremonious 10-year anniversary of Mahmoud Abbas becoming the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), though his official term has been expired for more than six of those years.

Since Abbas took over for Yasser Arafat, who died in 2004, the political and economic situation in the West Bank has become as untenable as ever. With no clear successor to Abbas in the fold and reports of rampant corruption, nepotism, and cronyism, the PA faces an uncertain future.
“The state of affairs in the PA right now is paralysis,” Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) think tank, told JNS.org. “Abbas has a stranglehold on political power, and he appears to be intent on remaining in office for the foreseeable future. There is no vice president. There is no succession plan, and there is no oxygen for political challengers to articulate their vision for the future.”
Established by the Oslo Accords peace treaty in 1993 as an interim Palestinian government, the PA—which has been dominated by the Fatah political party and its parent organization, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), throughout its existence—has languished in political and economic limbo for the last several years under Abbas. Peace talks with Israel from 2013-14 crashed, and the Hamas terrorist group continues to grow its popularity among Palestinians.
Under Abbas, the PA has not held formal elections since 2006 and only maintains control in the West Bank after being ousted from Gaza by Hamas in 2007. Abbas has had a tenuous relationship with Israel, maintaining close security ties with the Jewish state out of a shared fear of Hamas, but also seeing Israel repeatedly cut off tax transfers to the PA, mostly recently due to Abbas’s moves to gain unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state in international agencies.
Many fear that if the Palestinians held an election, Hamas, which won the last election in 2006, would beat out the Fatah once again. Many Palestinians cite Fatah’s notorious legacy of financial and administrative corruption as their reason for supporting Hamas.
A recent poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research did find that Abbas has seen a rise in support—with 40 percent support among would-be Palestinian voters, up from 35 percent in the last such survey. Yet Abbas, according to the poll, would still lose in an election to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who was supported by 47 percent of respondents. The same poll found that 77 percent of Palestinians believe that PA institutions are corrupt.
“The main concern is that the weakness of President Abbas in the West Bank could enable Hamas to gain more ground there,” Bassem Eid, co-founder of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group and a commentator on internal Palestinian politics, told JNS.org.
A recent sign of Hamas’s growing popularity in the West Bank may come from the group’s recent victory in the April 22 student council election at Birzeit University, which is located near the PA’s de facto capital of Ramallah. Hamas won 26 seats on the student council versus 16 for Fatah. Taking note of the growing threat of Hamas in the West Bank, Abbas and the PA’s security forces have launched a widespread crackdown on Hamas supporters on university campuses, with dozens of student supporters of the terror group being interrogated and detained, according to the Gatestone Institute think tank.

Meanwhile, accusations are swirling that the Abbas family has become wealthy at the expense of the Palestinian people—and even American taxpayers. On April 24, a U.S. appellate court upheld a decision to dismiss at $10 million libel suit from Yasser Abbas, one of the PA president’s sons.
Yasser Abbas filed the suit against  Foreign Policy magazine for a 2012 article by FDD’s Schanzer titled “The Brothers Abbas,” in which Schanzer questioned whether or not Mahmoud Abbas’s sons—Yasser and Tarek—are growing rich as a result of their father’s political position, and whether or not U.S. foreign aid to the PA was contributing to their wealth.
According to Schanzer’s 2012 article, Yasser Abbas chairs the Palestinian corporate conglomerate Falcon Holding Group, which received $1.89 million from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to construct a sewage system in Hebron. Additionally, Yasser Abbas holds leadership positions in two other companies, Al-Mashreq Insurance Company and First Option Project Construction Management Company, which received roughly $300,000 in USAID funds from 2005-08.
The international community has also sounded the alarm on the Palestinian economy’s struggles, as the World Bank said in September 2014 that Palestinian unemployment is rising to “alarming levels,” citing the ongoing political uncertainty surrounding the PA as a contributing factor.
“The PA is a system where the rich get richer and the poor languish. The elite continue to benefit from the system while a rather educated lower and middle class struggle to cash in,” Schanzer told JNS.org.
At the same time, though Abbas recently turned 80, there has been little talk of who will succeed him.
“There is basically no plan for Abbas’s succession,” said Schanzer. “According to Palestinian basic law, the speaker of the Palestinian parliament would take over those duties temporarily. Currently, the speaker is Aziz Dweik of Hamas. Beyond that, it is unknown who would run from the Fatah faction or the PLO. Abbas has not tapped an heir apparent. Nor has he named a vice president.”
Bassem Eid said the failure to appoint a successor is largely a result of Arab cultural bias against that concept.
“The Arab culture does not allow the concept of a ‘vice president,’ the president is the only supreme ruler,” he said. “No one talks about President Abbas’s possible demise since all the Palestinians tend to say that even the prophet Muhammad died and the world survived, hence all others.”
Schanzer blames Washington for the current impasse in the West Bank, saying that U.S. peace negotiators have “failed to push the Palestinians to create a functioning system.”
One person being widely promoted as a successor to Abbas is Mohammad Dahlan, a longtime rival of the PA president.
“Mohammad Dahlan is one of the leaders of the young generation,” Eid said. “He is corrupt, but I prefer a young corrupt to the old corrupt like Abbas. I believe that the younger generation [of Palestinian leaders] will be more moderate than the older ones, who speak more about the past and history without mentioning the future.”
Dahlan, 53, represents that so-called “younger generation.” As a rising star in the PLO in the 1990s, he was promoted to head of security in Gaza. In 2006, he won a seat in the PA’s legislative body. But in 2007, when Hamas ousted Fatah and the PA from Gaza, many inside the PA blamed Dahlan for Hamas’s emergence. His fall from grace continued in 2011 when he was charged with corruption and embezzlement by Abbas, and stripped of his legislative seat. Dahlan fled the West Bank that year, and currently resides in both the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
Nevertheless, Dahlan still enjoys popular support among some Palestinians and in recent years has worked with businesses and charities in the Arab Gulf states to support the Palestinian people, including providing funds to Gazan Palestinians who were affected by last summer’s Israel-Hamas war. In December 2014, thousands in Gaza turned out for a rally in support of Dahlan, despite Hamas’s firm grip on the coastal enclave.
According to the Financial Times, Dahlan has become a close adviser to Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, helping the prince crack down on Muslim Brotherhood Islamists. Dahlan also supported Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s ouster of former president Mohammed Morsi (a Muslim Brotherhood leader) in 2013. The Muslim Brotherhood is Hamas’s parent group.
“Abbas will leave only ruins, and who would be interested to be a president or vice president on these ruins?” Dahlan told the Associat
ed Press in 2014. “What I am interested in is a way out of our political situation, not a political position.”
Dahlan has criticized Abbas’s unilateral moves at the United Nations, telling Sky News Arabic in January that an eventually-defeated PA resolution in the U.N. Security Council resolution, which called for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, was a “hasty and reckless decision that wasn’t made with the unified consensus of the Palestinians.”
To many observers, the political situation in the West Bank may seem like a mild crisis compared with the chaos in nearby Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya. But while Abbas’s stagnant rule continues, Schanzer views the PA as a “powder keg” that could ignite at any moment.

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Features

New website for Israelis interested in moving to Canada

By BERNIE BELLAN (May 21, 2024) A new website, titled “Orvrim to Canada” (https://www.ovrimtocanada.com/ovrim-en) has been receiving hundreds of thousands of visits, according to Michal Harel, operator of the website.
In an email sent to jewishpostandnews.ca Michal explained the reasons for her having started the website:
“In response to the October 7th events, a group of friends and I, all Israeli-Canadian immigrants, came together to launch a new website supporting Israelis relocating to Canada. “Our website, https://www.ovrimtocanada.com/, offers a comprehensive platform featuring:

  • Step-by-step guides for starting the immigration process
  • Settlement support and guidance
  • Community connections and networking opportunities
  • Business relocation assistance and expert advice
  • Personal blog sharing immigrants’ experiences and insights

“With over 200,000 visitors and media coverage from prominent Israeli TV channels and newspapers, our website has already made a significant impact in many lives.”
A quick look at the website shows that it contains a wealth of information, almost all in Hebrew, but with an English version that gives an overview of what the website is all about.
The English version also contains a link to a Jerusalem Post story, published this past February, titled “Tired of war? Canada grants multi-year visas to Israelis” (https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/article-787914#google_vignette) That story not only explains the requirements involved for anyone interested in moving to Canada from Israel, it gives a detailed breakdown of the costs one should expect to encounter.

(Updated May 28)

We contacted Ms. Harel to ask whether she’s aware whether there has been an increase in the number of Israelis deciding to emigrate from Israel since October 7. (We want to make clear that we’re not advocating for Israelis to emigrate; we’re simply wanting to learn more about emigration figures – and whether there has been a change in the number of Israelis wanting to leave the country.)
Ms. Harel referred us to a website titled “Globes”: https://www.globes.co.il/news/article.aspx?did=1001471862
The website is in Hebrew, but we were able to translate it into English. There is a graph on the website showing both numbers of immigrants to Israel and emigrants.
The graph shows a fairly steady rate of emigration from 2015-2022, hovering in the 40,000 range, then in 2023 there’s a sudden increase in the number of emigrants to 60,000.
According to the website, the increase in emigrants is due more to a change in the methodology that Israel has been using to count immigrants and emigrants than it is to any sudden upsurge in emigration. (Apparently individuals who had formerly been living in Israel but who may have returned to Israel just once a year were being counted as having immigrated back to Israel. Now that they are no longer being counted as immigrants and instead are being treated as emigrants, the numbers have shifted radically.)
Yet, the website adds this warning: “The figures do not take into account the effects of the war, since it is still not possible to identify those who chose to emigrate following it. It is also difficult to estimate what Yalad Yom will produce – on the one hand, anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews and Israelis around the world reminds everyone where the Jewish home is. On the other hand, the bitter truth we discovered in October is that it was precisely in Israel, the safe fortress of the Jewish people, that a massacre took place reminding us of the horrors of the Holocaust. And if that’s not enough, the explosive social atmosphere and the difference in the state budget deficit, which will inevitably lead to a heavy burden of taxes and a reduction in public services, may convince Zionist Israelis that they don’t belong here.”
Thus, as much as many of us would be disappointed to learn that there is now an upsurge in Israelis wanting to move out of the country, once reliable figures begin to be produced for 2024, we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that is the case – which helps to explain the tremendous popularity of Ms. Harel’s website.

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Features

Message from a Palestinian in Gaza to protesters: “You’re hurting the Palestinian cause”

Protesters at McGill University

A very brave Palestinian who was willing to put his name to paper and write an article for Newsweek Magazine has exposed the utter hypocrisy of all those students – and others, who have been setting up encampments across the U.S. – and now Canada, too.

You can read the article at https://www.newsweek.com/message-gazan-campus-protesters-youre-hurting-palestinian-cause-opinion-1894313

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Features

The Most Expensive Israeli Soccer Transfers

Eran Zahavi

Even if Israel isn’t known as a world soccer power, it has produced plenty of talented players who have made a living in top European leagues. On more than one occasion, an Israeli international has commanded a rather large transfer fee. But who are the most expensive players in Israel’s history? The answer could be a little surprising. We took a look back to find the most expensive Israeli soccer transfers of all time.

Tai Baribo

In 2023, Baribo made the move to MLS, signing with the Philadelphia Union. The reported fee was around $1.5 million, which is one of the highest transfer fees the Union has ever paid for a player.

Omer Atzili

Throughout his career, Atzili has played for a variety of clubs, including stops in Spain and Greece. In 2023, he joined Al Ain in the UAE for a transfer fee of $2.1 million.

Maor Buzaglo

Now retired, Buzaglo was briefly the holder of the richest transfer deal for an Israeli player. After a couple of successful seasons on loan, Maccabi Tel Aviv paid $2.7 million to rival Maccabi Haifa for Buzaglo in 2008.

Dia Saba

Saba made history in 2020 when he joined Al-Nasr, making him the first Israeli player to play for a club in the UAE. At the time, it was a big deal for relations between the two countries. Al-Nasr also paid an impressive $2.9 million transfer fee for the midfielder.

Tal Ben Haim

On multiple occasions, Ben Haim has been sold for more than $1 million. First, there was his move from Hapoel Tel Aviv to Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2023 for close to $1.2 million. A few years later, Sparta Prague came calling for him, spending $3.1 million as a transfer fee for the winger.

Itay Shechter

During the prime of his career, Shechter was the type of player who warranted a seven-figure transfer fee. German club Kaiserslautern paid a little over $2.6 million in 2011 to bring Shechter to the Bundesliga from Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Daniel Peretz

When Peretz was sold to Bayern Munich, it wasn’t the most expensive deal involving an Israeli player, although it was arguably the most important. He became the first Israeli Jew to play at Bayern, which is one of the biggest clubs in the world. The transfer fee for Peretz paid by Bayern Munich to Maccabi Tel Aviv was around $5.4 million.

Oscar Gloukh

Gloukh is one of the best young Israeli players right now. He already has three international goals in a dozen appearances to his name. Somehow, Gloukh is already one of the most expensive players in Israel’s history. After coming up with Maccabi Tel Aviv, he moved to Austrian giant Red Bull Salzburg in 2023 for a transfer fee of close to $7.5 million. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him top that number one day.

Liel Abada

Abada has been a part of two huge transfer deals in his young career. In 2021, Scottish club Celtic paid $4.8 million to acquire him from Maccabi Petah Tikva. However, that number was topped in 2024 when Charlotte FC of MLS paid a fee of $8 million for Abada.

With Charlotte FC, Abada competes in North America’s top league, facing teams from both Mexico and Canada. Throughout North America, sports betting has taken off in recent years. That includes betting in Canada, where there is a large collection of trusted sports betting platforms.

Eran Zahavi

To date, Zahavi holds the record for the most expensive transfer fee paid for an Israeli player. It’s fitting for Israel’s former captain and all-time leading scorer. In 2016, Chinese club Guangzhou City paid $12.5 million to get Zahavi from Maccabi Tel Aviv. That record was nearly broken later that year when another Chinese club offered $20 million for Zahavi, who turned it down and stayed with Guangzhou City.

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