Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Wishful thinking

The Paris Donor Conference may make the Palestinian Authority richer but it cannot improve the economy of a no-state under Israeli occupation

By Khaled Amayreh from East Jerusalem
Al-Ahram Weekly

".....Islamic and leftist camps within Palestine, though, view the Paris pledges as little more than an attempt to buy political concessions from a Palestinian government almost entirely dependent on international aid. Their scepticism will only have been reinforced by the continued killing of Palestinians by the Israeli army -- 10 Palestinians were murdered on Monday alone -- and by relentless settlement expansion in the West Bank, especially in and around East Jerusalem.

Ramallah-based economist Adel Samara dismisses hopes for genuine economic recovery under the Israeli occupation. "It is akin to trying to breed fish in toxic water," he says, alluding to restrictions imposed by the Israeli army on free movement of individuals, goods and services within the West Bank and the hermetic blockade of the Gaza Strip.

"Israel, not the PA or even the international community, holds the key to the success or failure of the Palestinian economic recovery plan. And Israel will only be cooperative if the PA makes political concessions."......

There have been no indications Israel is about to reconsider its repressive measures against the Palestinians in either the West Bank, the seat of the PA regime, or in Gaza, where a million and a half Palestinians have been effectively cut off from the outside world......

Despite repeated calls for an end to crippling restrictions, Israel has been unwilling to remove any of the 650 roadblocks in the West Bank that make normal economic activity impossible. Coupled with the siege in Gaza, which many observers describe as slow motion genocide, the Palestinian Economic Plan could easily prove to be still-born.

According to Reuters, Hamas, which gathered nearly half a million people to celebrate the group's 20th anniversary, has called the Paris conference a "declaration of war on Hamas". Hamas leaders have lambasted the PA for repeating the same blunders of Oslo.....

Under the second -- there's no such thing as a free lunch -- scenario Israel hopes that the international community will pressure the PA to show "the required flexibility" through financial inducements.

If many Palestinians are dubious about the possibility of any economic recovery, they are also worried that in the absence of complete transparency the bulk of the money pledged will simply evaporate in the corridors of the notoriously corrupt PA regime......

Corruption has been at the heart of the growing tensions between Fayyad and Fatah. A few months ago Fayyad fired thousands of Fatah operatives and activists who for many years had been receiving salaries while either sitting at home doing nothing or else occasionally arranging public activities for Fatah in the occupied territories.

It is uncertain if Fayyad will be successful in weaning these activists off the public payroll. The one thing that his attempts to do so have made clear is that financial transparency is not easy to impose in the absence of true democracy. Which begs the question on which bedevils all Palestinians: What on earth can democracy mean in the absence of a state?"

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