This morning's Times, like most other news sources, reports that at an
international conference in Paris presided over by Nicolas Sarkozy -- a
gathering which Jacques Chirac would have never been allowed to chair -- the
attendees pledged nearly two billion dollars more than the Palestinian
Authority had requested from what is coyly termed the "international donor
community."  This turned out to be, as the Times reminded, the "most
ambitious" such venture since 1996, at which point Yassir Arafat was still
ruling the roost from Ramallah and there was absolutely zero progress on
arrangements between Israel and the Palestinians.  Now, whenever the
putative "good guys" announce future contributions, the skeptic in me
reawakens...and doubts.

Start with the U.S.  Condi Rice trolled her sad song: "The Palestinian
Authority is experiencing a serious budgetary crisis...This conference is
the government's last hope to avoid bankruptcy."  But, of course, it may go
bankrupt and that's because money designated for the P.A. does not always
go to the P.A.  There is one consolation: the new prime minister, Salam
Fayyad, is trusted by all of the outsiders, including the Israelis.  He is
a professional, and it is hard to think of him as a patronage dispenser.
Still, even the American pledge is a bit dicey, being "misleading, because
much of it had been announced previously by the White House but has not
been approved by Congress."

Rather more reliable are the European nations and especially the Norwegians
and Swedes.  But, the Times points out, "Many countries do not fulfill
pledges that they make at such conferences.  Egypt and other Arab countries
are known for pledging funds to the Palestinian Authority that they do not
deliver."  Although, of course, they do weep for the Palestinians.

Which is really a bigger story.  This narrative is told in a Policy Watch
of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy called
"Aid to the Palestinians and the Role of Oil-Rich Arabs."  It was written
by Simon Henderson and the brothers Michael and David Makovsky, serious
scholars all.  It is actually indecent how these Arab states ignore the
Palestinians.  Except that, since they are chintzy towards others, it hurts
them when their cash is misused which is almost always.  And there is no
guarantee that their cash won't be misused this time either.