THE BLOG

Kerry's Financial Plan for Palestine Unlikely to work

During the Israeli reoccupation of major Palestinian cities in 2002, the Israeli army took over the building that was housing Al Quds University's Educational Television station, of which I was the director at the time. After 19 days, Israeli soldiers withdrew from Ramallah, leaving behind destroyed equipment. Some of the equipment destroyed had been donated by the US government.

A similar problem occurred in 2011 when Israeli special troops raided Wattan TV and Al Quds Educational TV, confiscating the transmitters and destroying computers and other equipment, again some of which had been purchased with a grant from the "American people".

In both cases, when US officials in Jerusalem and Washington were informed of the destruction of the equipment, they chose to quietly purchase replacement equipment rather than chastise Israel for its unprovoked act of destruction. No statement was made and there was no public attempt to hold Israeli accountable.

I recall these rather minor cases this week because of the initiative by US Secretary of State John Kerry's plan to invest about $4 billion in the Palestinian economy.

To be fair, Kerry said that this would not be a US-only investment but that other major world powers would chip in to cover this fund. The US secretary of state also stated that this economic investment will not replace the political process, but will be parallel to it.

Forty-six years of continuous Israeli occupation that the world community called in 1967 "unacceptable" and scores of peace offers later, it should not surprise people if Palestinians are not totally enthusiastic about the US initiative.

Despite these assurances, it is hard not to be sceptical about this typical American approach to attempting to solve problems by throwing money at it. It should be reminded, also, that Kerry's suggestion followed statements by Israel's prime minister, which are called Israel's "economic peace" offers.

Palestine, whose population is rather small and mostly educated, does not have an economic problem like highly populated countries with an uneducated populace. As various international studies have repeatedly stated, the biggest cause of Palestine's economic troubles is the existence of a foreign military occupation that controls the movement of people and goods and that has a colonial philosophy that considers Palestinian lands "fair" territory for its own population to settle in and where to enjoy unique privileges.

The World Bank and other international agencies issued report after report saying that restriction of movement of people and goods causes the economic woes in Palestine.

Politically, Palestinians are almost certain that such a financial initiative will lessen, rather than increase the Israeli desire to make the hard decisions that include withdrawal from the areas it has occupied since 1967. In addition to the political difficulties, Israel will have a major financial loss if it no longer controls the borders of Palestine and keeps its population totally dependent on it for goods and services.

Furthermore, many worry that Kerry's financial "bribe" is aimed at keeping the Palestinians from pursuing political aims.

Palestinian troubles with the donor mentality are current. It has not been a long time since the US and a few other Western countries abruptly cut off major funding that was committed to Palestine for political reasons.

When the Palestinian leadership decided to go to the UN to seek recognition as a state, the US Congress immediately took measures to cut off aid to the Palestinian territories. Even an important UN agency such as UNESCO was punished by the US, which cut its annual contribution to this agency, to the amount of $60 million.

What would happen if after receiving this large investment, or part thereof, the Palestinian government decides to go to the International Court of Justice? Will the US and its partners again abruptly pull out their investment?

Financial support to areas that are suffering under occupation are important to strengthening the resolve and allowing its population to resist constant pressure to emigrate.

But the declaration of such a large fund does not reflect a serious effort on the part of the Obama administration to end the crisis, despite declarations to this effect.

If Israelis are shown two options, they will opt for economic peace, which causes them no political pain, rather than the political process that will produce major internal opposition.

The time has come for serious decision making in the Middle East. The US administration must have the courage to come up with a strong and fair peace initiative and to follow up on it with the weight of the US presidency, and then declare publicly which party to the conflict is the obstacle peace. That, and not some financial initiative, should be the main preoccupation of the US government.

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