Foreign Policy Blogs

An International Seat, Frozen Assets and a Million Dollar Bounty

After many long and tense months (years? decades?) the “situation” from the UN is starting to “resolve” itself. The US threatened a veto should they not be able to find the votes to keep the Palestinians from passing their resolution in the Security Council aimed at fully recognized statehood in the UN. The Palestinians went to the General Assembly. And then there was quiet.

But this week, that quiet ended. The Palestinians officially saw their status upgraded and were welcomed into UNESCO, the UN’s cultural agency. The Palestinians came in, and immediately the money went out. The US promptly did what they had said they would do under such an outcome, and separated the agency from their $60 million contribution to its budget. Canada quickly followed suit, and there went ¼ of UNESCO’s budget.

Of course Israel has also withdrawn their funds. And presumably none of this money is going to be made up by the newest addition to the table, the Palestinians, who are currently struggling with similar fund-slashing of their own.

Israel collects taxes on the Palestinian’s behalf and hands over these funds around the first of every month. They are not enough to pay the government worker’s salaries, a serious Palestinian industry, but they are close. The PA says that it needs $150 million a month just to keep the lights on. Israel’s checks are coming in at $100 million. So Israel’s contribution pays two out of three Palestinian workers. The US has also frozen their own aid package to the Palestinians to the amount of $200 million.

Israel and the US have also made it clear that they will cut off any other international organizations that welcome the Palestinians into their fold. (The US has even threatened to cut off aid to any state who votes in favor of Palestinian recognition in any international forum.) This is in direct response to the Palestinians stated desires to keep the ball rolling and plant themselves permanent seats at several more prestigious tables, including further UN agencies and other international organizations. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General to the UN, chimed in with concern at the cost to “millions” as American dollars are pulled from worthy causes to make room for the Palestinians.

It was reported that PM Fayyad was taking out loans from local banks to make his payroll this month. This is certainly not a long-term strategy. The Palestinians have had a long and complicated financial history with the larger Arab world. Much has been promised and certainly some has been delivered. And this week Saudi Arabia rode to the PA employee’s rescue, as the oil rich state walked rather than talked in regards to Palestinian aid. They wrote a check to the tune of…$200 million. And thus managed to keep the lights on another day.

But apparently, the Saudi’s did not share everything that they could afford to share at this time, because recently, a million dollar bounty has been placed on the head of any Israeli by two separate Saudi nationals. Several weeks ago, Dr Awad al-Qarni, a radical not affiliated directly with the regime, offered a $100,000 reward for any kidnapped Israeli soldier. His goal, as he explained it, was not to kill the prisoner, rather to use him (or her?) to swap for further prisoners currently held within Israeli prisons. It is now well understood that the price for Israeli soldiers has risen significantly in the last several weeks.

A few days ago, Saudi Prince Khaled bin Talal decided that $100,000 was not enough and added another $900,000 to the pot. So to be clear, the head of a single Israeli soldier, kidnapped from anywhere by anyone, is now set at an even million dollars. (Just out of curiosity, does anyone think that the Saudi’s would pay that price to bring home one of their own soldiers?)

I say to Saudi Arabia, cancel the bounty and next month, write your check to the Palestinians for $201 million. You clearly have that extra money just lying around. Your money will do A LOT more that way to help the Palestinian people and a lot less to help start the next regional war. Unless of course your goal is the latter, rather than the former.

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Josh Klemons
Josh Klemons

Josh Klemons has an MA in International Peace and Conflict Resolution with a concentration in the Middle East from American University. He has lived, worked and studied in Israel and done extensive traveling throughout the region. He once played music with Hadag Nachash.

He now works as a digital storyteller/strategist with brands on finding, honing and telling their stories online. Follow him on twitter @jlemonsk and check him out at