In 2005, an extremely wealthy old friend of Yasir Arafat’s, Munib al-Masri, spoke about the missed opportunities he witnessed during Arafat’s time in power for an article in the Atlantic. Here is what he told the author of that piece, David Samuels:
With three hundred, four hundred million dollars we could have built Palestine in ten years. Waste, waste, waste. I flew over the West Bank in a helicopter with Arafat at the beginning of Oslo, and I told him how easy we could make five, six, seven towns here; we could absorb a lot of people here; and have the right of return for the refugees. If you have good intentions and you say you want to reach a solution, we could do it. I said, if you have money and water, it could be comparable to Israel, this piece of land.
It doesn’t sound like a lot of money, a few hundred million dollars. Yet since that helicopter ride, according to a new Congressional Research Service report, the U.S. has given the Palestinians about $4 billion. They didn’t build the state, as al-Masri hoped.