Safer Than Arafat.
I ran across this piece on Salam Fayyad, who is called the Palestinian Ben-Gurion. I don’t know yet, but I thought that the end of this bit was funny:
Throughout the 1990s, poverty was endemic in the West Bank, and yet Arafat and his wife, Suha, lived like royalty. The International Monetary Fund estimated that from 1995 to 2000 Arafat stole $900 million from the Palestinian Authority. Fayyad, with his advanced degrees, Italian suits, and reputation for incorruptibility, set to work modernizing and un-corrupting this third-world political economy. In 2003, he gave an interview to Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes in which he accused Arafat of using a network of monopolies in commodities like flour and cement to siphon off most of the cash. According to David Samuels, who wrote about Arafat’s reign of corruption in a 2005 profile in The Atlantic, “the price of a ton of cement in Gaza [was] $74, of which $17 went into Arafat’s private bank account.” The biggest sieve, though, was the Petroleum Corporation, which operated as a P.A. slush fund. “If there was not money in the treasury, [Arafat] went to the Petroleum Corporation,” Fayyad told Stahl.
Ultimately, Fayyad shut down the petroleum company, prompting speculation that he would be murdered by vengeful agents of the PLO. What saved Fayyad’s life was a mixture of morality and cunning: in one of his first major reforms as finance minister, he started paying P.A. security forces by direct deposit. Previously, they’d been paid in cash, and officials who handled that cash—including even P.A. ministers—routinely skimmed from it. By popular estimate, 50 percent of P.A. security personnel’s income was stolen every pay cycle, so Fayyad’s switch to direct deposit effectively doubled their salaries. “After that,” Barnett said, “when Salam walked down the street, even in Gaza, the police saluted him. He was probably safer than Arafat.”