from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

The Saudis Pony Up

September 20, 2011

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Palestinian Territories

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah attends a cabinet meeting in Riyadh March 24, 2008 (Courtesy Reuters).

Saudi Arabia has just announced that it will donate $200 million to the Palestinian Authority.

This is very good news. First, the PA needs the money to meet payroll expenses, and in recent months has been able to pay only half salaries on two occasions. The Saudi gift should keep the PA solvent to the end of the year, when combined with other expected aid. Second, this shows a continuing Saudi commitment to Prime Minister Fayyad’s effort to build the institutions of an eventual Palestinian state. This strengthens Fayyad’s hand politically, because it is reasonable to think that were he not guiding the expenditure of this money the Saudis would be even more reluctant to give it. Third, the Saudi gift may lead others in the Gulf to be more generous as well.

Why did the Saudis give this much, and why now? That remains unclear. I hope they were embarrassed by their failure to give the PA much support this year: prior to this week they had given Jordan $1.4 billion and the Palestinians only $30 million. Perhaps they thought this supported the Palestinian moves at the UN. Whatever the reason, the effect is good. The theatrics at the UN will not bring Palestinian statehood any closer. Building state institutions from the ground up will, and that requires supporting serious work by the PA.