Select Committee on International Development Second Report

Conclusions and recommendations


1.  Rates of malnutrition in Gaza and parts of the West Bank are as bad as anywhere one would find in sub-Saharan Africa. The Palestinian economy has all but collapsed. Unemployment rates are in the region of 60-70% and many of those who are employed are dependent upon NGOs or international relief organisations for employment. (Paragraph 6)

2.  There has to be a sense of realism about what development assistance can achieve. The World Bank told us that removing the "access controls" imposed by the Israelis would have increased real GDP by 21%, whereas a doubling of development assistance—without easing closure—would only reduce the number of people living in poverty by 7% by the end of 2004. The situation in the OPT, in other words, is not one which donor assistance can resolve. (Paragraph 10)

3.  We agree with the UK Government that the Geneva Conventions apply to the Israeli occupation. The 4th Geneva Convention should remain the standard by which the GOI should perform in the OPT. The UK Government has its own obligations to uphold the Convention, and monitor breaches of the rules of the Convention as regards to the civilian population. (Paragraph 18)

The development context: closure, settlements and the barrier

4.  Settlement activity, with its associated road building, threatens Palestinian territorial contiguity in the West Bank and the viability of a future Palestinian State. Freezing settlement activity and removing outposts would boost Palestinian confidence in the peace process. (Paragraph 24)

5.  We can understand why Israel, fearful of its security, wants to build the barrier. But any such security fence should be constructed on Israeli, not Palestinian, land. The construction process and path which the barrier takes support Palestinian fears about the motivation which lies behind it. The barrier destroys the viability of a future Palestinian state. One of DFID's key objectives is to help build the institutions of the Palestinian Authority in preparation for statehood—a statehood which the barrier jeopardises. (Paragraph 34)

6.  Food aid is only ever an emergency solution. But in the OPT farmers cannot readily fill the gaps in food production because of the extreme dislocation brought about by closure and, in particular, the impact that movement restrictions and land confiscation have had on agriculture. (Paragraph 39)

7.  Israeli control over water and restrictions on development of Palestinian infrastructure has, and continues to, severely affect the development of West Bank and Gaza. The wilful destruction of water infrastructure by the IDF and settlers is simply unacceptable. We commend the work that DFID, other donors, NGOs and their partners are doing in enhancing Palestinian access to water, a basic human right. But we also think that there needs to be a revision of water access arrangements. This is an urgent need, which cannot be deferred to the final status negotiations. It is an area where the UK Government should be applying political pressure to move negotiations forward. (Paragraph 45)

8.  We accept that ambulances might be used to carry terrorists and their weapons and that there can be no automatic exemption for ambulances from the requirement to be searched. But equally, there is no reason why an ambulance carrying an urgent case cannot be given priority for any security search which may be needed. We discussed these matters with the Israeli authorities in Tel Aviv and whilst reassurance was offered, their description of smooth-running arrangements at checkpoints conflicted with what we ourselves had seen. We were told that checkpoints are now issued with lists of local people suffering from chronic illnesses so as to facilitate their speedy transfer to hospital when necessary. However, such a system would not work for emergency cases and might cause even more problems for those whose names are not on the lists. Nor, of course, could this practice work with temporary or "flying" checkpoints. (Paragraph 48)

9.  The management of checkpoints is all too often handled by young, inexperienced IDF conscripts who may lack the training and experience to deal with large numbers of people passing through on their way to work or to study. We heard that waiting Palestinians often suffer harassment at the hands of both the IDF and local settler communities, making checkpoints a flashpoint for antagonism. A more sensitive and appropriate approach to checkpoint management could be learned from experience elsewhere, including British experience in Northern Ireland. (Paragraph 49)

10.  The import of pharmaceuticals should be prioritised and classified as "humanitarian" to facilitate speedy delivery. (Paragraph 50)

11.  In a society where half the population is under 18, the effect of closure on education is widely felt. The psychological impact on children, arising from school closure and exposure to violence, is damaging future generations of Palestinians and will only serve to perpetuate the cycle of violence and hatred. (Paragraph 52)

12.  Children's education, be it Palestinian or Israeli, must be kept free of incitement. We commend the positive work that the PA has carried out recently as well as the work of organisations such as Save the Children in working with the Palestinian Ministry of Education on curriculum development. In light of the allegations against the PA, we recommend that it acts to counter incitement allegations and demonstrate that it is upholding commitments made at Oslo as part of a wider programme of enhancing its public image across the world. (Paragraph 54)

13.  We strongly support the work of organisations such as the Parents' Circle in the education of the younger generation of Palestinians and Israelis. Support for this type of project is a way in which development can support the peace process. (Paragraph 55)

14.  Whatever immediate security benefits the barrier may appear to bring to the Israelis, the level of despair and anger felt by ordinary Palestinians at being denied the possibility of any semblance of an ordinary life is likely to further increase the supply of militants and suicide bombers. (Paragraph 57)

The Palestinian Authority

15.  We are aware of the criticisms of the PA. Nevertheless, the PA is the only representative organisation of the Palestinians and, as such, building its capacity and institutions and ensuring the success of its reform programme, in order to make it an effective administration, are the keys to laying the foundations of a future Palestinian state. (Paragraph 63)

16.  We are impressed with the reforms implemented by the Minister of Finance. But there is still need for further reform in the Palestinian Authority, particularly in relation to the accountability of the presidential accounts and in terms of the legal, executive and judicial reforms outlined in the 100 day reform plan. Continuing to drive through planned reforms is the best way for the PA to deal with its critics. The PA is an institution which is developing into what could be a credible foundation for a Palestinian state. It is in everyone's interest that every penny of international development aid to the PA, whether from DFID or charities, is fully and transparently accounted for. Some of the PA's critics would prefer to see donor funding stopped. But we believe this would do more harm than good. It would push more Palestinians below the poverty line and lead to total collapse of the PA. A collapse which would have a detrimental effect on the peace process. In the absence of the PA, people would be more likely to turn to extreme positions and measures and support terrorism. (Paragraph 68)

17.  It is vital for the credibility of the PA that it obtains a renewed popular mandate through elections as soon it can, including the election of municipal government structures (Paragraph 72)

18.  We believe that suicide bombing, as well as being morally abhorrent, has been a catastrophic tactic that has done great harm to the Palestinian cause, and that the targeting of innocent civilians is indefensible. The Palestinian Authority, we are told, also takes this view; its condemnation needs to be heard more widely. (Paragraph 73)

19.  We recommend that the donor community targets the Palestinian civilian police for "technical" assistance as part of building state institutions and the rule of law. Pressure should be put on Israel to allow this as part of the building of state institutions. The issue of security services should be dealt with as part of political and security negotiations. (Paragraph 75)

The Palestinian economy

20.  We know of no other examples where this level of economic decline has taken place without the complete dissolution of the governmental apparatus, at least certainly not in a middle-income economy such as West Bank and Gaza. (Paragraph 77)

21.  Removing the "access controls" imposed by the Israelis would increase the size of the economy by 21%, and reduce the rate of poverty by 15%, whereas a doubling of development assistance would bring only a 7% reduction in the rate of poverty. This is not therefore a situation which donor assistance can solve. The lifting of closures would, in the World Bank's view, allow the economy to rebound quickly in income terms but not in capital terms. There would therefore be a role for donors to help replace assets, which had been lost. (Paragraph 78)

22.  Our visit to Awarta demonstrated clearly to us that the restrictions placed on the internal movement of goods within the OPT were not always justified by security considerations. We raised the issue with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). Neither explained the logic of the system. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that there is a deliberate Israeli strategy of putting the lives of ordinary Palestinians under stress as part of a strategy to bringing the population to heel. The West Bank back-to-back system, operating as we saw it, is not providing increased security to Israel or to settlers living in OPT. It merely serves to increase Palestinian poverty and suffering by strangling the local economy. (Paragraph 83)

23.  Movement restrictions have caused an unacceptable situation whereby an EU trade agreement is obstructed by a party (Israel) which itself benefits from preferential EU trade terms. (Paragraph 87)

24.  Trade agreements are usually based on the principle of reciprocity: that market access, freedom of movement, and tariff and duty regimes applied by one state or authority normally has to be applied even-handedly and in the same way by all participants in a regional trade agreement. Unfortunately, Israel's restrictions on the movement of Palestinian goods, its destruction of Palestinian infrastructure and its total control of the OPTs' borders are denying Palestinian exporters access to EU markets. We therefore urge the UK Government to propose to the EU Council of Trade Ministers that Israel's preferential terms of trade with the EU be suspended until it lifts the movement restrictions which it has placed on Palestinian trade. We recognise that EU exports to Israel, which are greater in value than EU imports from Israel, might suffer retaliatory action, but we do not believe that the EU's short-term economic self-interest with one trading partner should take precedence over a direct challenge to its trade policy in the region and its trade obligations to the Palestinian Authority. (Paragraph 88)

Development challenges

25.  The UK Government should seek assurances that infrastructure will not be destroyed, not only for projects built by the UK and its partners, but for all projects vital to Palestinian communities. (Paragraph 96)

26.  The international community must put pressure on the Israeli Authorities to lift, or at least ease restrictions on the import of goods into the OPT to facilitate delivery of food-aid to the population of Gaza and the West Bank. Limiting imports into the OPT cannot be justified as a security measure. Provided Israel can be sure weapons are not being imported into the OPT, there can be no justification for further restrictions. (Paragraph 97)

27.  A future Palestinian state may be in a position to press for compensation or reparations, but this could only happen where destruction has been documented. DFID should investigate the possibility of its assistance to the PA being used for the systematic documentation of destruction (Paragraph 100)

28.  Rather than concentrating solely on compensation, donors that invest in physical infrastructure should seek guarantees that it will not be damaged. (Paragraph 102)

29.  We would like to see this kind of co-operation encouraged during any negotiations, not least because MASHAV's expertise could make a contribution towards building a future Palestinian state as a viable, stable neighbour for Israel. (Paragraph 103)

The donor/development response

30.  Such money as the international community, including DFID, is spending on improving "good governance" and capacity building within the PA is money well spent. (Paragraph 117)

31.  In the current situation of economic collapse, wage payment maintained by budget support, is an effective method of emergency poverty alleviation. (Paragraph 122)

32.  We are reassured by the EU's investigations, but the EU and other donors must ensure that there is no opportunity given for justified suspicions to be raised. The use of development aid to the PA, whether from EU, or elsewhere, must be fully, openly and transparently accounted for. (Paragraph 133)

33.  DFID has provided substantial support to the PA in the form of technical assistance. DFID could usefully provide greater levels of technical assistance and in particular could support the Palestinian Authority in developing poverty alleviation policies and enhancing Palestinian involvement in development planning. (Paragraph 128)

34.  If DFID were to move towards providing budget support it should investigate the possibilities of a unified monitoring system with other donors. Failure to do so could result in the PA being faced with managing a range of donor conditions and monitoring requirements. If development assistance is to be efficient and effective, aid must be delivered without putting an unbearable strain on an institution with weak capacity. (Paragraph 129)

35.  Donors operate in different ways but co-ordination is necessary to ensure that both development and emergency relief are delivered effectively. The OPT receives a large amount of donor aid. What this aid can achieve would be maximised if all donors can work towards an overall strategy for development. The best way of achieving this would be through a Palestinian-led process of development planning. (Paragraph 133)

36.  While we commend the work of the Task Force on Project Implementation, we are concerned that it is under strain and has difficulty undertaking such a huge and sensitive task. (Paragraph 138)

37.  In light of the continuing negotiations between Israeli Authorities and International agencies and the discrepancy between high level military policy and the on-the-ground reality, we consider that details of cases of obstruction of humanitarian workers should be routinely documented (Paragraph 140)

38.  The USA should use the leverage it has with Israel to facilitate delivery of humanitarian relief. (Paragraph 140)

39.  There is clearly a need for a respected international interlocutor to negotiate with the IDF to try to ensure that the day to day conditions for occupied Palestinians are as humane as possible. (Paragraph 141)

40.  There is a multiplicity of UN Agencies and NGOs, all seeking to deliver a variety of humanitarian and other services to the Palestinian community, but none of these are in a position to negotiate successfully with the IDF or the GOI more humane treatment for occupied Palestinians, and indeed themselves in reality are subject to exactly the same restrictions of movement imposed upon Palestinians. (Paragraph 142)

41.  The fact is that Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have no state, neither de jure, nor de facto; no citizenship; no rights; no remedies, and no one from the international community taking the responsibility to seek to ensure that an occupied people in these circumstances are treated as humanely as possible. (Paragraph 143)

42.  UNSCO's authority, role and resources need to be strengthened. (Paragraph 144)

43.  In addition to strengthening the role of UNSCO and the Special Co-ordinator, it is time for the Secretary-General of the United Nations—with the authority of the Security Council—to appoint a further Humanitarian Envoy or Special Representative to undertake the specific task of ensuring that the occupation is as humane as possible and that there is a coherent and co-ordinated international scrutiny of what is taking place in the OPT. Such an appointment will need to be accompanied by provision of the necessary money, materials and resources. (Paragraph 144)

44.  Unusually for us, during our visit to the West Bank, no one asked us for money! Neither the PA, nor the NGOs, nor the UN Agencies saw their problems as rooted in a shortage of funding. But they all asked for advocacy and political pressure to end the occupation. (Paragraph 146)

45.  All actors need to remind themselves of the need to avoid anti-Semitism and anti-Islamism, as well as stereotyping Arab or Jewish societies. International agencies that are engaged in dealing with the crisis and are witnesses to many of the problems Palestinians face could do much more to convey these facts, in an authoritative and non-polemical manner, to the media and the general public in the UK and Europe. An awareness programme of this kind, by neutral witnesses, and carried out by NGOs, donors, and the NSU, could provide a much-needed education of the public as to the everyday realities in the OPT. (Paragraph 149)

46.  We agree with the Government's position and urge it to be more forceful in its advocacy on these issues. We see DFID as having an advocacy role to play within the UK Government. The Secretary of State assured us that co-ordination with both the Foreign Office and the Department of Trade and Industry was good. It is essential that the Government's position is harmonised across departments and is consistent with all the parties' obligations under international law and agreements. (Paragraph 150)

47.  We do not agree with the European Commission's approach. We believe in principle that where a sufficiently egregious case of human rights abuse has been established as to warrant economic sanctions, the EU should not be deterred from imposing them simply because the trade balance with the country concerned is in its favour. We urge the UK Government to take up this point with the European Commission and with its EU partners. (Paragraph 151)

48.  We welcome the change of policy on the part of the GOI. In this case economic pressure was successful. However, there remains a risk of goods being falsely labelled as produced in Israel rather than in the settlements. We trust that HM Customs will maintain a close watch for false origin labelling (Paragraph 152)

49.  Few would argue for a resumption of Israeli, as opposed to PA, administration in the OPT. However it does seem that Israel's policies and actions in the last ten years have acted as an obstacle to the development of the PA into a government that is able to deliver services to its people—as was intended in the 1993 Declaration of Principles. (Paragraph 153)

50.  In the absence of any international authority mandated to represent the interest of the Palestinians under occupation, and until such "observers" are in place, this presence of bilateral and multilateral donor agencies provide a modicum of international "monitoring", if not protection. (Paragraph 154)

51.  To a degree we can understand the ICRC strategy. We do not think there should be a withdrawal of aid to the OPT but are concerned that the current situation cannot continue indefinitely. (Paragraph 156)

52.  We think that DFID can have an influential role in increasing donor harmonisation through its support for Palestinian-led development. DFID's work in building the PA's capacity has been effective and meets its objectives of supporting the peace process and the development of a viable future Palestinian state. It could increase support to the PA in the area of planning capacity and effective communication with donors. (Paragraph 157)

53.  DFID is developing a country strategy for the OPT. We believe its strategy should seek to alleviate poverty not only through service provision or development, but also through the working to the broader objective of increasing aid effectiveness through donor harmonisation and through a development conversation with the GOI about the relative responsibilities of Israel as an occupier, and the responsibilities of donors in relieving suffering. DFID should also be considering its involvement with advocacy as part of long-term poverty reduction. In particular it should give greater attention to pressuring the GOI for freedom of movement for humanitarian goods and personnel. (Paragraph 158)

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