Saturday, June 21, 2008

Palestine: The Programmed Failure of the "Silence-for-Food Program"

Contributed by Lucia in Spain

By Julien Salingue

"One year ago, as a consequence of the failed coup d'état attempted by the Fatah MP Mohammad Dahlan, the Palestinian President Abu Mazen decreed a State of Emergency, appointing in place of the Hamas-dominated government, a new cabinet run by Salam Fayyad.

Fayyad's party had received only 2 seats out of 132 in the January 2006 legislative elections, but Fayyad, a high ranking officer of the World Bank and of the International Monetary Fund, was the Prime Minister that the United States and the European Union wanted. The blackmail of withholding financial assistance and tax receipts since Hamas was elected easily overcame Abu Mazen's minor objections to this "choice." Fayyad began in his new position in mid-June 2007 and started undertaking a series of reforms in the West Bank Palestinian Territories. One year later, it is relatively easy to understand the job assigned to Fayyad: to disarm the resistance and move the centre of attraction of the Palestinian question from political to economic, by normalizing relations with Israel. It consists in imposing what I call a "Silence-for-Food Program," the objective of which is to stabilize the West Bank by improving the living standards of part of the population without fulfilling the national demands of the Palestinian people.

"Imposing Law and Order" and... Disarming the Resistance

This is one of the two priorities set by the Salam Fayyad cabinet: the "return to security" in the Palestinian territories. This has four components.......


Beyond these reservations for the short and medium terms resides a major obstacle, which is the main weakness of the "Silence-for-Food Program": colonization and land seizures continue at a frantic pace (Israel recently announced the building of 800 new houses in two West Bank settlements) and no realization of Palestinian national rights is in view. The major omission of the plan is the Gaza Strip, unless it is no longer regarded as part of the Palestinian territories: who can seriously think that the catastrophic consequences of the Gaza blockade imposed on its 1.5 million inhabitants cannot be the cause for an explosion tomorrow?

The neutralization of armed gangs and the resumption of international grants enable Fayyad and his cabinet to stay in place in relative calm. But the fragility of the situation, the clear limitations of the Blair-Fayyad plan, and its inherent weaknesses indicate major future disappointments for anyone who thinks that the Palestinians will give up their national demands. The current stage is temporary and everyone here knows that in a society in which 50 percent of the population is under 15 years old[14] it is not promises of "lendemain qui chantent" (a bright future) and a few thousand Palestinian uniforms that will prevent a new generation with nothing to lose from revolting and resisting in its turn."

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