Danger ahead

It doesn’t take the UN to say it, but the UN Special Coordinator on the Middle East, Robert Serry, today told the UN Security Council that “The events of the past month demonstrate a dangerous combination of no political progress, instability and violence on the ground, especially in Gaza, and an increasingly precarious situation for the Palestinian Authority [PA] … The very viability of the Palestinian Authority is at stake, and ensuring its sustainability remains a fundamental priority”.

Right.

That has come to mean throwing money at it.

Twice a year, major Donors who keep the PA afloat meet to discuss the financial situation — and the spring meeting was held in Brussels this year, on 21 March.

Serry told the UNSC today that, in that meeting, “the primary concern of all AHLC members was the dire financial situation of the Palestinian Authority”.

Barak Ravid reported in Haaretz, just ahead of the meeting, that the between-the-lines significance of the report presented by Israel was: the Palestinians are not ready to have a state. A very self-serving message indeed. He wrote that:

    “Parts of the report are worded in a way that aims to make clear that the Palestinian economy is unable to support an independent state … ‘While the present fiscal crisis was caused by a shortfall in donor aid, there were also deviations in the execution of 2011’s budget’, the report said. ‘The public finance management system’s role in the current crisis may undermine its track record as a system that meets the requirements of a well-functioning state’. The report also indicated that the PA’s fiscal management contributed to the current crisis. ‘This demonstrates the need for further reform in order for the PA to meet the standards of a well-functioning state … The fiscal crisis is especially acute because much of the West Bank economy still depends on the public sector and on construction projects, both still heavily financed by foreign aid. It also serves as an alarming warning sign for the stability of the Palestinian economy … The current fiscal situation raises doubts about whether the PA will be able to reduce its dependency on foreign aid in the coming years’.”

Barak Ravid’s article, based on an insider briefing, is posted here.

Amira Hass took the Israeli report apart, in another article entitled Ignoring Israel’s complete domination, published in Haaretz here:

    “Who better than these delegates [the Donors, at the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting in Brussels last week] knows the great service the family of nations is doing to Israel by providing massive, ongoing aid to the Palestinians? Taxpayers around the world are the ones who are relieving Israel of its obligations as an occupying power and repairing the damage it is causing. It turns out it’s easier for the family of nations to fund the occupation than to force Israel to put an end to it. The guys in our finance and defense ministries – upon whose data the report is based – state, in fact, that the donor countries should get their checkbooks ready, because our policy this year won’t be different.

    With smug arrogance, the report’s authors ignore Israel’s complete domination over the resources essential to economic progress and expansion: land, water, time, a Palestinian population registry, currency, territorial expanse, air space, radio-frequency spectrums, territorial contiguity, banking services and television broadcasts, freedom of movement, border crossings, foreign nationals who are allowed entry and the duration of their stay, highways, and personal and communal security.

    With all the precision of a shopkeeper, the drafters of the report recount all of the measures that Israel, in its great magnanimity, has taken ‘to support economic growth in the West Bank’. But beyond all the means of support detailed in the report, there are the unmentioned hours wasted by Palestinian, American and European bureaucrats seeking to convince their Israeli counterparts to put them into practice

    The number of tourists coming to the West Bank city of Bethlehem last year, for example, was 1,174,280 (compared to 1,092,811 – note the precision! – in 2010), according to the report. Then there was the extension of the hours of operation at checkpoints; the agreement over the Palestinian police presence in Area B (which is under Israeli military control and Palestinian civil responsibility); construction of a visitors’ lounge for meetings between Palestinian and Israeli business people at one of the checkpoints; the drilling of four wells in a nature reserve’s eastern aquifer; 17 (again, note the precision!) preparatory meetings (regarding water infrastructure) with representatives of the U.S. State Department and USAID; one meeting with a Dutch representative over Israeli-Palestinian cooperation; 434,382 cars, owned by Palestinian citizens of Israel, that were allowed passage via the West Bank town of Jenin; consideration of a Palestinian request for a customs exemption for cars owned by foreign investors and the disabled; and approval of 2,777 requests for changes of address on ID cards from Gaza to the West Bank (of 3,857 people who sought approval).

    With a whiff of the theories of economist Milton Friedman, the report sneers at the size of the Palestinian public sector. But if there is anything that assures Palestinian social stability – and in turn quiet and prosperity for Israel – it is the regular (if unreasonably low ) salaries paid to that public sector. Since the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO were drafted in the 1990s, payment of wages has been a major means by which support of and dependence on the PA leadership has been buttressed. The adaptability of the Palestinian leadership to Israel’s policy of carving out Palestinian territorial enclaves was based in part on that very internal instability“…