Select Committee on International Development Second Report

7 Conclusion

159. We support Israel's right to defend itself against terrorist acts. But Israel's response to the security threat, through its policy of closures, has not only sent the Palestinian economy into reverse, it has stopped any semblance of normal life for Palestinians living in the OPTs. The sense of despair and anger among all sections of Palestinian society is palpable. Travelling around the West Bank and watching people's experience at checkpoints convinced us that at least some of the security measures had little to do with effective security and more to do with a wish simply to make life difficult. This impression was further borne out when we heard senior GOI sources refer to their policy of increasing the "misery index" of the population in order to put pressure on the PA to make concessions.

160. Checkpoints can be removed overnight, but the building of the security fence inside the West Bank carries with it all the implications of the de facto imposition of a new border. Those Palestinians whose homes are outside the fence will find that their lives are made so difficult that they have no alternative but to relocate behind the fence. We can understand the fear expressed by Palestinians and international agencies that the Israelis have another motive at work here—a wish to create the ultimate "fact on the ground" by reducing the West Bank to a series of Bantustans. If so, then the barrier/fence is a deliberate attempt to weaken PA's negotiating position when final settlement negotiations take place.

161. In such a situation, discussion of a two state solution almost takes on the feeling of living in a parallel universe. But there is a growing awareness in Israel that the two state solution has to be grasped while it is still on offer. It is in Israel's interest to have a prosperous and stable Palestinian state as a neighbour and not another failed state which spawns terrorism. The PA is the sole representative of the Palestinian people and as such needs to be supported in its reforms and helped to become a credible partner, rather than being undermined by Israel.

162. The Palestinians have no means of redress concerning the conditions in which they are forced to live. Nor is there any coherent, high level monitoring of the extent to which the occupation is humane, or of the extent to which it is carried out in accordance with international law. Nor is there a system that makes sure pressure is put on Israel when these breaches are reported. This is why we call for a stronger role for UNSCO in ensuring that that the IDF honours and follows international law as set out in the Geneva Conventions and elsewhere.

163. The Palestinians are one of the most heavily-aided populations in the world. And yet donor assistance is plainly unable to solve the problems in the OPT or improve living conditions. Easing the closure restrictions and eventually ending the occupation are the only way to do this. So we are faced with the question: what are the NGOs and international donors doing in the OPT? DFID's objectives in the OPT are long-term support to the peace process and laying the foundations for a future Palestinian state, whilst working to alleviate poverty in the short term. Development actors are managing to carry out development work. But the difficult operating environment has altered the shape of development assistance. There is a reluctance to provide physical infrastructure only to have it destroyed by the IDF—so human capacity building is favoured instead. DFID has translated its objectives into a development strategy through which the institutions of a Palestinian state are being developed and strengthened. The external support that donors have provided to the PA has prevented its collapse. PA corruption and mismanagement are being brought under control in a process bound up with donor support

164. Donors face a dilemma: are they doing little more than support the Israeli occupation by providing assistance which it is the occupier's responsibility to provide? We do not believe that donors should withdraw. To do so could lead to an even greater humanitarian crisis and would throw away the institutional development that has occurred since Oslo. What is needed is advocacy to increase humanitarian access. The ICRC is pulling out because it feels it is prevented from doing its work by the Israeli military authorities. If an increased role in advocacy and mechanisms to apply the humanitarian provisions of the Geneva Conventions can create better access for these agencies, then they will be able to remain to carry out their work.

165. In our report we have stressed the need for donors, not only to be co-ordinated in their approach so as to avoid duplication, but to be harmonised in their approach as well. A more coherent development approach, led by the Palestinians themselves, is achievable. We believe that DFID, given its experience in the region, is well placed to create workable structures of donor harmonisation.

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