Hon. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
www.townhall.com

Blessed by an oil windfall beyond all conceivable needs, the Arab states have consistently shortchanged the dreams of their fellow Arabs, the Palestinians, for statehood in favor of terrorism against innocent Israelis. For decades, the Arab states had both it ways. They could fund terrorism against Israel and at the same time blame Israel for defending itself in the face of that terrorism.

By contrast, the people of Israel have demonstrated their ongoing commitment to peace and have made terrible sacrifices in human and material terms for this effort.

President Bush has clearly articulated the conditions necessary to fulfill the goals and aspirations of the Israeli and Palestinian people. It is hoped that the support that the Administration has provided Israel and the Palestinians will translate into concrete actions on the ground that will progress toward a resolution to the conflict which ensures Israel’s right to exist in peace and security as a Jewish State.

Many of our allies, principally Great Britain, have provided critical bilateral and multilateral assistance, facilitating economic development, encouraging donor pledges, and identifying investment opportunities to aid this effort.

Israel, the United States and our allies have taken the initiative. The onus is now on Arab governments, who must make a positive contribution to lasting peace and regional stability through the provision of their fair share of financial support and development assistance to the new Palestinian leadership.

Oil-rich Gulf states such as Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain reportedly owe millions in pledges to support the Palestinian Authority. Egypt is $105 million in arrears and eleven other countries in the region owe lesser amounts.

These countries, particularly those Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, reaped unexpectedly high revenues in 2004 due to increased oil prices, as compared to 2003. How much of this largess is offered to bolster reforms by the Palestinian Authority and to support the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, will be viewed by many in the U.S. Congress as a key indicator of the commitment of the Arab world towards securing a comprehensive and lasting peace, and combating Palestinian terrorism.

A sustained effort by the Arab states at promoting economic institutional change and development within the West Bank and Gaza can help unleash the true potential of Palestinian entrepreneurs, investors and local leaders to construct transparent and accountable institutions. Fomenting concrete, long-term Palestinian political reform instead of violence and terrorism, is essential to the emergence of a Palestinian leadership and government structure committed to governing over its own people within a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty.

For this reason, in much the same manner that we must exert due diligence and intense Congressional oversight over U.S. assistance to the Palestinians, we must remain vigilant that Arab support to the Palestinians does not go to fund terror operations, weapons purchases, anti-Semitic propaganda and incitement against Israel.

The time has arrived for the Arab states to step up and aid their brethren in the name of peace — not war.