Israel's position in its periodic report to the donor-coordination group for the Palestinian Authority reminds one of the boy who kills his parents and then demands an orphan's pension. Israel describes the failings of the Palestinian economy as if the colonialist occupation is not their primary cause.
The authors of the report express the view that the dependence of the Palestinian Authority on foreign aid will not diminish in the coming years. In doing so, they are showing disrespect for the intelligence of the donor countries' representatives, who met last week in Brussels. Who better than these delegates knows the great service the family of nations is doing to Israel by providing massive, ongoing aid to the Palestinians? Taxpayers around the world are the ones who are relieving Israel of its obligations as an occupying power and repairing the damage it is causing. It turns out it's easier for the family of nations to fund the occupation than to force Israel to put an end to it. The guys in our finance and defense ministries - upon whose data the report is based - state, in fact, that the donor countries should get their checkbooks ready, because our policy this year won't be different.
With smug arrogance, the report's authors ignore Israel's complete domination over the resources essential to economic progress and expansion: land, water, time, a Palestinian population registry, currency, territorial expanse, air space, radio-frequency spectrums, territorial contiguity, banking services and television broadcasts, freedom of movement, border crossings, foreign nationals who are allowed entry and the duration of their stay, highways, and personal and communal security.
With all the precision of a shopkeeper, the drafters of the report recount all of the measures that Israel, in its great magnanimity, has taken "to support economic growth in the West Bank." But beyond all the means of support detailed in the report, there are the unmentioned hours wasted by Palestinian, American and European bureaucrats seeking to convince their Israeli counterparts to put them into practice.
The number of tourists coming to the West Bank city of Bethlehem last year, for example, was 1,174,280 (compared to 1,092,811 - note the precision! - in 2010 ), according to the report. Then there was the extension of the hours of operation at checkpoints; the agreement over the Palestinian police presence in Area B (which is under Israeli military control and Palestinian civil responsibility ); construction of a visitors' lounge for meetings between Palestinian and Israeli business people at one of the checkpoints; the drilling of four wells in a nature reserve's eastern aquifer; 17 (again, note the precision! ) preparatory meetings (regarding water infrastructure ) with representatives of the U.S. State Department and USAID; one meeting with a Dutch representative over Israeli-Palestinian cooperation; 434,382 cars, owned by Palestinian citizens of Israel, that were allowed passage via the West Bank town of Jenin; consideration of a Palestinian request for a customs exemption for cars owned by foreign investors and the disabled; and approval of 2,777 requests for changes of address on ID cards from Gaza to the West Bank (of 3,857 people who sought approval ).
With a whiff of the theories of economist Milton Friedman, the report sneers at the size of the Palestinian public sector. But if there is anything that assures Palestinian social stability - and in turn quiet and prosperity for Israel - it is the regular (if unreasonably low ) salaries paid to that public sector. Since the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO were drafted in the 1990s, payment of wages has been a major means by which support of and dependence on the PA leadership has been buttressed. The adaptability of the Palestinian leadership to Israel's policy of carving out Palestinian territorial enclaves was based in part on that very internal instability.
And what about the bloated Palestinian security forces, which are an inseparable part of the public sector? They are subcontractors for the Israeli Shin Bet security service and the Israeli army, who have tasked them with participating in controlling, suppressing and containing the various manifestations of Palestinian resistance. It's as if the big Israeli boss is not only benefiting from the workers supplied by the subcontractor, but is also complaining that there are too many of them.
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