USAID Involvement in Palestinian Elections Backfires

A U.S. Agency for International Development program in the Palestinian territories put $2 million towards a series of "small, popular projects and events," such as computer donations, a soccer tournament, and free food and water at border crossings, prior to the January 25 elections. The program "bears no evidence of U.S. involvement," and a newspaper ad campaign (also funded by the U.S.) gives credit to the Palestinian Authority, "which the public closely identifies with Fatah." A program report said the goal was "a constant stream of announcements and public outreach about positive happenings ... in the critical week before the elections." U.S. officials are concerned that the governing Fatah party will lose parliamentary seats to Hamas. "We are not favoring any particular party," said USAID's regional mission director. "But we do not support parties that are on the terrorism list." A Hamas leader called for an investigation, while other Palestinian politicians criticized the program. "Let us do our elections entirely on our own," said Mustafa Barghouti. "This effort was completely counterproductive."