Where did Arafats money go

Yasser Arafat was no statesman. Yasser Arafat was no man of peace despite his Nobel Peace Prize. Yasser Arafat was no visionary. So what was Yasser Arafat?

He was a terrorist, and a corrupt one at that. He deserved a trial before the International Court of Justice, not a diplomatic funeral. And he proved that the skeptics happened to be right about the 1993 Oslo accords.

The United States estimates he had personal holdings of between $1 billion to $3 billion, most of it derived from international aid meant for the Palestinian people. He invested in a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Ramallah, a Tunisian cell phone company, and venture capital funds in the United States and the Cayman Islands. Much of his wealth was hidden in foreign banks.

His wife, Suha, has been living lavishly in a Paris hotel on $100,000-a-month stipend taken from Palestinian coffers. Earlier this year, French authorities were investigating the alleged transfer of $11.4 million from Arafat’s Swiss bank accounts to two of his wife’s accounts in France.

Much has been written about Arafat’s closest lieutenants and their lavish lives. With his death, many of them are sure to find the money tap dried up and their power depleted.

Meanwhile, most Palestinians have lived in squalor in refugee camps where sewage runs down the gravel road. Arafat kept them in such straits so he could show the world how Israel made his people suffer.

Not unexpectedly, the refugee camps bred young terrorists willing to sacrifice their lives so their people could break through the alleged bonds that Israel has put them in.

The Palestinian people could likely have had real roofs over their heads, decent jobs and a better life if Arafat had distributed the money meant for his legions — and agreed to a generous peace plan that former Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered him. But in holding back the funds and not giving peace a chance, Arafat was better able to foment the hatred for Israel that was so necessary to maintain both his wealth and power.

There is much speculation over who ultimately will replace Arafat and whether Israel will finally have a negotiating partner. Certainly, achieving a safe Mideast is our highest priority.

But what is also critical is who will control whatever money is found, and whatever money is generated in the future. The person or group with the money controls the fate of the Palestinian people.

If a civil war develops, as some expect, it won’t be a battle for leadership as much as a battle for bank accounts. No matter who wins, the Palestinian people will likely lose.


After Arafat — Anxiety

From pariah to partner and back: Jews reflect on Arafat’s legacy

Face-to-face with Arafat

Encounters with the Palestinian leader

Where is the money?
Yasser takes a secret to the grave

Shorts: After Arafat

Meeting Arafat brought out my mean streak

‘Free Palestine’: But free it from whom?

Arafat: Peacemaker, peacebreaker or neither