Like the living dead, the Oslo Accords hover overhead: When it's good for Israel, we rush to embrace them; when it's not, we ride roughshod over them. This is an intolerable situation. Perhaps it really is time to declare Oslo dead, as Minister Tsachi Hanegbi repeats ad nauseum on the TV promo for "Politika." But there is a price to pay, for which Israel doesn't seem ready for.
Last week, the High Court of Justice heard the petition of a four-and-a half-year old boy from Jericho, Shamas a-Din Tabiyah, diagnosed with lymphatic cancer. The State of Israel has refused to finance oncological treatment for the boy, although there is no children's oncology ward in the territories. What are the parents supposed to do? Let him die?
By turning its back on him, that is the fate that Israel has prepared for him. Israel claims that according to the interim agreements, the Palestinian Authority is responsible for "providing medical services to minors and adolescents living in PA-controlled territory." All of a sudden, Israel has remembered the interim agreements. But when the High Court ordered the Physicians for Human Rights association, which submitted the appeal in the child's name, to produce a promise of payment from the PA, representatives of the association discovered that there was no one to talk to: Ramallah was under curfew and no one answered at the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
In a nutshell, reality was exposed in all its absurdity. Israel places responsibility for the health of citizens on a ministry that Israel itself has closed or prevented from carrying out its duties. A health ministry cannot be run under prison conditions, and the same goes for other government ministries, some of whose buildings have been destroyed by Israel. After a few days, Shamas' problem was resolved. But that is slight consolation: It took an appeal to the High Court to save the life of a Palestinian child because the state hides behind signed agreements that it ignores itself every day, all for the sake of shirking responsibility for the fate of a sick boy. Think how many ailing Palestinian children never made it to the High Court.
If the Oslo Accords are valid, as the attorney representing the state claimed in court, Israel must immediately halt its daily incursions into Area A, perhaps the most flagrant violation of these accords. It must lift the siege and allow the Palestinian Authority to run at least the civilian side of life in the territories. It seems doubtful that the current government will agree. The implication is that Israel perceives the Oslo Accords as null and void. If so, Israel must renegotiate, without delay, its legal and moral responsibility for three million people who are again living under what is actually full occupation. It must provide these people with education, social services, sanitation and health care, as required by international law. Israel cannot continue to burn the candle at both ends.
In Operation Defensive Shield, Israel not only destroyed the security services of the Palestinian Authority, but also a large part of its civilian infrastructure. As a result, the population is now facing a situation it has never experienced before: There is no governing body that deals with daily affairs. The civil administration of old is gone, and the Palestinian Authority has basically been destroyed. Who is in charge of sanitation? Who supplies water? Who runs the schools and the welfare system?
Israel says it's the PA's responsibility, but in practice, it does not allow the Authority to do its work. It is impossible to collect the garbage and deliver water because of the blockades. How, for example, can water reach the Furik family, whose house is not connected to the water supply, if the roads are closed? How can teachers get to Beit Dajan, or students to Bir Zeit? And this is without even mentioning the empty coffers of the Palestinian Authority, the tax money that Israel refuses to hand over, the closure of Israeli markets to Palestinian produce, the restrictions on the transport of farm products and industrial goods within the territories and the high unemployment rates - all resulting from the Israeli siege. Amid all this chaos, all this desolation and destruction, one needs quite a bit of cynicism, insensitivity and moral obtuseness to claim, as Israel has, that the Palestinian Authority is responsible for the medical care of its citizens, among them a little boy with cancer.
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