Middle East Online, March 6, 2009 - The international pledges of some $4.5 billion in aid to the Palestinians to rebuild the Gaza Strip and promote the development of the West Bank seem like a monumental folly in view of the surrounding political context of this gesture. The financial generosity of the donors is largely offset by their political cowardice on two fronts:
• Challenging Israel to live according to the norms of law in its treatment of Palestinian land and people under its occupation; and,
• Coming to grips with Palestinian political realities, especially the legitimacy and role of Hamas.
On both counts, generous donors seem unwilling to admit that they are perpetuating a wasteful cycle of Palestinian and international construction in Palestine that is set back by repeated Israeli destruction through war, followed by repeated rounds of reconstruction. This recurring cycle is striking for its sheer waste, but also for what it reveals about the willingness of the international community to use reconstruction aid as a political tool -- a failed tool that should be abandoned in favor of a more productive approach.
It was bad enough when the Israeli government in recent years was able to convince the United States to largely adopt its positions in the Arab-Israeli conflict; it was another step backwards two years ago when the four Quartet members (United States, European Union, United Nations, and Russia) also sided with Israel by refusing to deal with Hamas until the latter recognized Israel and stopped military resistance. This trend has now gone one step further by lining up a wide range of donors who seem to be willing to use their aid to try to bolster the government of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, while denying Hamas any international legitimacy and ignoring Israeli actions on the ground that make peace-making seem so distant.
This occurs while Israel makes it clear that it plans to continue expanding its settlements in the occupied West Bank, and the expected coalition that will rule in Israel seems to represent a step backwards -- in its unwillingness to formally accept the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza as a realistic element of a permanent peace agreement. Throwing large amounts of money into Palestinian reconstruction while reinforcing a political context that only perpetuates Israel’s regular destruction of Palestinian institutions is wasteful folly at best, and complicity in criminality at worst....
Rami G. Khouri is Editor-at-large of The Daily Star, and Director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, in Beirut, Lebanon.
Copyright © 2009 Rami G. Khouri – distributed by Agence Global.