Secret documents reveal that the PLO chairman has redirected millions in international funds.
Evidence that Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat allegedly has used millions of dollars in international and U.S. aid to fund clandestine political operations in Israel has been obtained by Insight.
Copies of Palestinian Authority correspondence show that PECDAR, the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction, a body almost completely funded by international donors including the United States, has apparently on the instructions of Arafat secretly purchased large amounts of real estate in Jerusalem in a bid to strengthen Palestinian claims to the city.
The documents also purport to show that PECDAR funds have been used to reward Arafat's cronies and relatives, including his mother-in-law, and they indicate that Arafat, president of the new Palestinian Authority in Gaza and the West Bank, has been determined to use international aid to strengthen political allies at the expense of Palestinians who are not members of his al-Fatah faction of the PLO.
The United States donated $100 million last fall to the Palestinian Authority on the understanding that the money would be used only to develop the economies of the squalid Gaza and West Bank. Republicans in Congress are expressing alarm at the increasing reports of Arafat's misuse of international donations.
Rep. Jim Saxton, a New Jersey Republican who has secured his own copies of PECDAR correspondence, condemns Arafat's diversion of aid from the United States and the European Union to "projects in direct violation of the peace agreements" with Israel. Saxton is seeking a freeze on further U.S. donations to the fledgling Palestinian regime -- nearly $500 million has been earmarked by the Clinton administration, with $100 million to go by Aug. 15. "I believe that before we spend another dollar on aid to the PLO, we need certain questions answered -- namely, how much of our aid money is being used to advance the condition of the Palestinians and how much is being used to fund the pet projects of Arafat?" says Saxton.
Sen. Alfonse D'Amato and Rep. Michael Forbes, both New York Republicans, have introduced legislation that would cut off further U.S. foreign aid unless certain stringent conditions are met.
Rep. Benjamin Gilman, a New York Republican and chairman of the House International Relations Committee, also has cast doubt on whether the PLO, which governs the Palestinian Authority, needs massive international aid. Prompted by a British intelligence assessment that the PLO has assets worth $8 billion to $10 billion and annual revenues of up to $2 billion, Gilman last May requested a General Accounting Office analysis of PLO finances. …