by Calling Out Community, Posted August 27, 2015
Presidential Palace of Palestine
It was announced today (August 27) that for the past two years, Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Abu Mazen has been overseeing construction on a massive $13 million (and counting) new presidential residence and office – a grand palace that will be located near Ramallah on a sprawling 11-acre estate, which will include:
…four storeys, a very large garden, fountains, a helicopter pad, and a six-meter-high external wall. Additional reports claim that this palace also contains a luxury swimming pool, closed water and electricity systems, and an underground bunker.
The PA’s announcement said that at Abu Mazen’s orders, the palace would be built in royal style and decorated with Islamic motifs. The announcement also stated that the palace “would be used to house heads of state from around the world visiting Palestine, as is proper for a developed and respectable country.
Only a few problems with that announced rationale:
- Palestine is not a country. Despite the majority of United Nations members approving United Nations General Assembly Resolution 67/19 on November 29, 2012, giving Palestine non-member state observer status, Palestine is not yet eligible to join the United Nations as an independent country.
- The Palestinian Territories are hardly “developed”, and until they are, any received or earned funds by the PA should be used to continue that development. In fact, at an October 2014 donor conference held to rebuild Palestine (after Israel’s military operation to rout terrorists last year), the world pledged $5.4 billion to remove the 4 million tones of bombed-out debris and rebuild. They have delivered only $1 billion a year later, because the PA government couldn’t be trusted then. Now, it’s pretty clear they are screwed.
- In the eyes of the world, the Palestinian Authority is hardly “respectable”. In fact, respect begins at home, and Hamas is furious. “While Abu Mazen calls on the world for aid in the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, he is wasting the Palestinian national funds on ostentation and waste,” a media outlet identified with Hamas charged. Even the thugs in imperialistic Iran cancelled a meeting on August 10, 2015 with PA authorities, upset with their recent choices in global friends (Saudi Arabia).
Many media accounts, including Newsweek, make note of the fact that with the Palestinian economy in shambles and most Palestinians living in dire poverty, the timing and style of Abbas’ proposed opulent palace could not be worse:
- For more than a year, doctors, nurses, paramedics, administrators and cleaners at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital have not received their salaries. Still, they continue to attend to at least 300 patients each day. “We might get a voucher worth US$25 [Dh92] to spend on food and every two months maybe we receive $200,” an orthopaedic doctor told The National.
- The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) went on strike August 24, closing its schools to 500,000 Palestinian kids. It faces what is has described as its “most severe financial crisis ever”, appealing for $100 million to begin the 2015-2016 academic year.
- The Palestinian authority owed nearly $500 million (2 billion shekels) to the Israel Electric Company (IEC) for well over a year for electricity supplied to Northern Electric, the Palestinian firm which purchases and distributes the electricity to the West Bank and Gaza. On February 23, 2015 the fed-up IEC cut power to the West Bank cities of Nablus (biblical Shechem) and Jenib in the dead of winter to force bill payment. The shutoff drew global criticism, though even the NEC chairman agreed the money was owed, and confirmed the shut down was for only 30 minutes. He also states that IEC had also planned to cut Arab-dominated East Jerusalem power for 2 hours, but scrapped the idea.
- According to the CIA World Factbook, the West Bank and Gaza Strip’s GDP per capita in 2012 stood at $4,900, compared to $33,400 in Israel and $54,800 in the United States.
To add insult to injury, the new presidential compound will be built on a street named after Yahya Ayyash, nicknamed “The Engineer,” a Hamas military commander who orchestrated at least seven bombing attacks against Israeli civilian targets in the mid-1990s. In 1996, Ayyash was assassinated by Israel in Gaza City.
Yes, What a legacy for a “developed” and “respectable” country – to put your palace on such a stupidly-named street.
Prime Minister’s New Plane and Posh Place
It didn’t take long for the loony left wing media to actually try to JUSTIFY the building of said palace, as Israel is currently going through the same discussions for the building of a new residence and office for the Prime Minister. Newsweek reported:
…the cost of the [Palestinian] palace is dwarfed by that being spent on the construction of a new combined residence and office in Jerusalem for the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The project, approved by the Israeli government in May 2014, is estimated to cost $188 million.
It’s a false comparison. Newsweek does not mention the costs of similar structures in other modern states. But more to the point, Israel is not in the midst of an economic collapse, unable to see to the basic needs of its residents. It pays its power bills, and it’s employees, and even its Palestinian neighbours as well. And if it has money left over to build an ice cream shop made out of solid gold for the Prime Minister of Israel (which isn’t happening), that’s Israel’s business.
When Palestinians refuse Israeli help and do everything they can through BDS to destroy her economy, as well as launching thousands of rockets at her cities, then go out and beg for world wide support to just put food on their tables – and then we hear what they are REALLY spending the money on – that’s everyone’s business.
Not only is the Palestinian economy in free fall, the massive amounts of foreign aid given to the PA have been wasted due to widespread corruption. According to Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh (speaking after a delegation of U.S. Congressman visited the PA)
Of course, the Palestinian Authority prime minister did not tell the visiting U.S. Congressmen that the $4.5 billion the Americans invested in promoting Palestinian democracy went down the drain or ended up in secret Swiss bank accounts.
In contrast, the proposal for the Israeli complex was developed by a public committee and approved by the government. In giving a green light to the projects, the government ministers approved a plan drafted by a specially appointed public committee which, in December 2013, was tasked with investigating the cost effectiveness of investing in a new airplane for the President and Prime Minister of Israel, and a residence, officially known as Beit Aghion, for the prime minister.
In a report last month, the committee noted the many logistical problems associated with the lack of an official, dedicated aircraft for state visits as well as with the current prime minister’s residence, which is not located near the prime minister’s office.
Of course, the Israeli prime minister is an elected position so it would be false to describe the new building as being for the benefit of Benjamin Netanyahu. There could very well be a new prime minister by the time construction is complete. Not so for Mahmoud Abbas, still in power more than five years after the end of his term with no prospect of elections in sight.
Presidential Palace on Pennsylvania Avenue
It would be a good idea to remember that there is another building that combines the residence and office of a nation’s leader – and the current occupant of that residence also gets free housing paid for by his country, while simultaneously racking up a $13 trillion addition to his nation’s debt in the last 6 years. Yet Newsweek didn’t feel it was necessary or relevant to reference that cost. Great reporting (cough).
Well, we will mention the cost. A book about presidential perks published in 2012 revealed that taxpayers spend about $1.4 billion per year paying for the staffing, housing, transportation and entertaining of President Barack Obama’s White House.
Now another author, John F. Groom, explains in The 1.4 Billion Dollar Man: Costs of the Obama White House exactly how researchers came up with that $1.4 billion estimate:
“One of the most important things to note about the $1.4 billion figure is that it specifically does NOT include the cost of running the White House’s policy operations – the $1.4 billion is money that is directly related to the president and his family,” Groom writes in the book
Here’s the breakdown, according to Groom. I’ve highlighted a few of the more shocking ones:
• President’s salary and allowance: $450,000
• White House building operating expenses: $14,658,000
• White House Grounds: $6,057,000
• Vacations: $20,000,000
• Health care for the first family, including traveling medical staff and equipment: $7,000,000
• Campaign expenses not reimbursed to government: $311,000,000
• White House staff: $7,985,420
• Office of Administration budget: $14,481,000
• Special missions including White House Communications Agency: $161,252,000
• Military salary costs: $153,441,360
• Salary costs for presidential airlift squadron: $75,000,000
• Presidential plane fleet: $44,000,000
• Presidential helicopter fleet: $300,000,000
• Ground transportation: $2,200,000
• Transportation total: $346,200,000
• Secret Service: $259,152,884
Now, regardless of whether you are an American Democrat or Republican, or a concerned citizen elsewhere in the more sane parts of the world, it is difficult to swallow that any man would possibly warrant or deserve that kind of lavish spending on their personal care, at a time when he has blown so many trillions of dollars of American’s hard-earned and easily-taken dollars.
A $20 million tab for vacations would make a Saudi oil sheik choke – but $7 million to pay the health care coss of 4 completely-healthy people in Obama’s household? Oh right, smells like Obamacare to me.