The donors (it should be noted that the oil-rich nations of the Arab world were conspicuous by their absence) are hoping that Abbas and his prime minister, Salam Fayyad, will depart from the traditions of the Palestinian Authority and actually let some of this money filter down to ordinary Palestinians. But, even if we assume that they will somehow ensure that this cash will not be stolen by Fatah functionaries, as in the past, or go to fund terrorism, the truth is the authority is something of a sham government.
The Gaza Strip is, as the world knows, under the control of Hamas, not Abbas. As for the West Bank, Abbas' ability to rein in even terrorists who operate under the flag of his own movement — let alone the Islamists of Hamas and Islamic Jihad — is also negligible.
In Paris, the blame for this — as well as for the endemic poverty of the Palestinians — was put squarely on the shoulders of Israel, its security measures and settlements. This, of course, is nonsense.
The restrictions on Palestinian movement and the construction of Israel's security fence remain necessary responses to the reality of Palestinian terror. Should the Palestinians ever actually choose to abandon violence against Israel, or should the Palestinian Authority cease its hate education against Jews and the fomenting of violence on its broadcast facilities, it will find plenty of cooperation from the Jewish state.
As for the settlements, whatever one thinks of them, their existence is no barrier to Palestinian commerce. If the Palestinians were half as interested in building their economy as they are on pushing the Jews out, they would have less need for international aid. But it's a lot easier — not to mention more popular — to complain about Israel than to reform the dysfunctional Palestinian political and economic culture.
Yet, while the international press continues to blame Palestinian woes on the Israelis and the West raises billions to prop up a shadow government, a more grim scenario is being played out on Israel's southern border.
The Israeli city of Sederot and its environs continue to be daily bombarded with Kassam missiles fired by terrorists operating from the safe haven of a Hamas-run Gaza. Yet the powers that met in Paris to fund Abbas had little to say about that.
Given the choice between Abbas and Hamas, Israel's leaders certainly prefer Abbas, despite his many shortcomings. Those who argue for more aid to him say that if his government is funded and his authority is reinforced, then he will have the strength to make peace. That seems logical. But it also presupposes that Hamas — a movement dedicated to eradicating the State of Israel and to slaughtering its citizens — is a detail that can be wished away.
Nevertheless, it appears that America's strategy for Middle East peace is predicated on just that fantastic notion.
President Bush is expected to make his first trip to Israel next month and to involve himself in the start of new peace talks between Israel and Abbas.
What he needs to remember is that the peace partner he seeks to strengthen via Israeli concessions is not interested in fighting Hamas. Rather than worrying so much about making Israel more vulnerable to attacks from the West Bank in order to make Abbas look good, Bush needs to think about Sederot. Unless he does, his dollar diplomacy will be as futile as that of his predecessors.