Palestine: Money Does Not Suffice to Make Peace

truthout.org , December 18, 2007

By Pierre Haski
Rue89

At a different time, we could have considered the results of the Conference of Paris on Palestine as excellent news. Over $7 billion was committed to the Palestinians, when less than $6 billion was expected. So the international community has pledged itself to action to allow this Palestinian state – the name of which is pronounced before it has even emerged – to be born.

And yet, this international consensus is dictated less by optimism than by fear. The fear of seeing the Middle East sink inexorably into crisis once again and of seeing despair push Palestinians into the arms of the most extremist movements. If money donors meeting in Paris needed a booster shot, the photos of Gaza Saturday, where more than 300,000 Palestinians demonstrated to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the birth of the Islamist movement Hamas, should have sufficed.

This show of force by Hamas haunted the minds of those attending the Conference of Paris: it is the symbol of the failure over the last fifteen years to find a peaceful negotiated arrangement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The belated reawakening of diplomacy, and particularly that of a United States stuck in its war in Iraq, finds a changed Middle East.

Yesterday, Paris celebrated President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. But last summer, the PA was driven out of the Gaza strip manu militari by Hamas’s men, and about a third of the Palestinian population today escapes its control and is not ready to come back to it either. So there we see the limitations on the aid promised in Paris yesterday.

Three weeks ago, in Annapolis in the United States, Palestinians and Israelis committed to negotiate the modalities of the birth of a Palestinian state before the end of 2008. But for that to happen, interlocutors able to implement the decisions taken are required. That point is valid for the Israeli side, where Ehud Olmert’s fragile government must show itself capable of evacuating the Jewish settlements on the West Bank and of lifting the hundreds of military road blocks that thwart a viable state.

And, in spite of the significant sums announced yesterday, it’s true on the Palestinian side. The goal of the international community’s money is to strengthen the stature of a Palestinian Authority largely discredited at home. And the PA will have to demonstrate its ability to act more effectively than in the past. But even that will not suffice to change the context in the Gaza Strip, where one and a half million inhabitants are sunk in poverty and imprisonment under the impact of the Israeli blockade – and of a war that threatens to flare up at any moment.

It’s a vicious circle: no development without peace and no peace without a political agreement. The Conference of Paris billions may help, but they are not sufficient in themselves to guarantee a positive outcome in this last-chance salvage effort.

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