Select Committee on International Development Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Christian Aid

  In the 50 years that Christian Aid has worked in the Middle East, we have not seen a humanitarian crisis as grave as that today in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Since Oslo, and with increased urgency since the onset of the second intifada in September 2000, Palestinians have experienced an economic squeeze unparalleled in the region, alongside an ever-tightening military occupation. The relentless spiral into poverty and despair witnessed by our own staff and by our Palestinian and Israeli partners is the hidden story behind the daily news. Unemployment in some communities in which we work now tops three-quarters. 1.8 million people rely on food aid and two-thirds of Palestinians live on less than £1.25 a day. Children are as malnourished as those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Zimbabwe.

  The ability of humanitarian agencies to operate, including Christian Aid's Israeli and Palestinian partners, is under unprecedented constraint. "We have never been so penned in, by soldiers, by checkpoints, by curfew," Jihad Ma'ashal, director of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees, told Christian Aid earlier this year during a visit to Parliament. Two British MPs visiting the walled-off town of Qalqilya earlier this year, accompanied by Christian Aid, were threatened while trying to enter the town at the sole point of access, a military checkpoint, when an Israeli soldier threatened to throw a grenade at their van.

  Under tighter Israeli occupation, aid has become a lifeline—but it is a lifeline that does not provide a long-term solution.

  Christian Aid believes that no amount of aid will resolve the political conflict over the Israeli occupation or bring about the peace which Israelis and Palestinians so desperately need. The solution to Palestinian poverty is an end to occupation and an agreement which recognises the right of Israelis and Palestinians alike to live in peace and security.

  Christian Aid unreservedly condemns the suicide bombing and attacks on Israeli civilians by Palestinians, as do its human rights partners in both the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel. Israel's right to recognition and to safety for all its citizens, as well as its right to independent economic development, is not in question. Christian Aid believes that the Palestinian people should be afforded that right as well.

SUMMARY

  This submission looks at the humanitarian crisis today in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the structural reasons underlying Palestinian poverty, and the role of UK and EU aid, including that from Christian Aid and British government, in economic development. It looks also at how aid can further a political solution to a seemingly intractable conflict.

  Christian Aid is the official relief and development agency of 40 church denominations in the UK and Ireland. We work wherever the need is greatest, regardless of religion, by supporting local organisations which are best placed to understand local needs. Christian Aid believes in helping poor communities to find their own solutions to the problems they face. We strive to expose the scandals of poverty and to contribute to its eradication.

  These same principles apply to our work in the Middle East, where we have been present since the 1950s. Currently, Christian Aid works in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), Israel, Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq. In the OPT and Israel, we work with around 25 humanitarian and human rights organisations to which we refer as "partners". Our views and our recommendations are shaped by their experience on the ground as well as by the findings of our own staff.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

1.   Humanitarian crisis

  1.1  It is essential to continue humanitarian aid in the short-term.

  1.2  The international community must put in place an international protection mechanism. This would serve three purposes: to protect both Israeli and Palestinian civilians, especially as an alternative to the so-called security barrier being built around the West Bank; to enable humanitarian staff to move freely and provide essential humanitarian aid and to monitor any peace process.

  1.3  DFID's support for Palestinian Authority reforms is valuable and should be continued to facilitate a more responsive and democratic government and encourage effective use of aid.

2.   The Wall of separation

  2.1  The UK Government must use its influence to halt construction of the Wall—one of the most serious current threats to peace and development—and dismantle existing sections.

3.   Structures of poverty: the occupation and the PA

  3.1  UK and other international donors must recognise the structural constraints on Palestinian development created by Israel's occupation and that Palestinian poverty is in large part a creation of the occupation; aid must be given in this context.

  3.2  The UK should use its influence to press the Israeli government to end the occupation, including the dismantling of checkpoints and lifting of closure; the equitable distribution of access to water; releasing of any PA tax revenue currently held; and impose a freeze on settlements in line with its obligations under international law.

4.   Priorities for development assistance

  4.1  The UK Government should contribute to the rebuilding of Palestinian infrastructure and to the Palestinian economy through job-creation schemes and support for private sector expansion. Support for civil society organisations is vital.

  4.2  Bilateral trade and other agreements must comply with international law.

5.   Aid and the peace process

  5.1  Part of a real peace will require a clear improvement in Palestinians' lives—an end to the current humanitarian crisis. Well-targeted, sustained and substantial development assistance can aid in this process.

  5.2  But aid is not the long-term answer: the solutions are an end to Israeli occupation and reforms to the PA. In this regard, UK policy must be governed by close cooperation between all relevant government departments including the Foreign Office, DTI and DFID so that each strand of policy reinforces each other in the interests of achieving a lasting peace.

1.  A HUMANITARIAN CRISIS: SPIRALLING POVERTY, AID LIFELINE

  1.   Below the poverty line. In 1999, just four years ago, a fifth of all Palestinians lived below the official UN poverty line of £1.25 per day. By 2000, on the eve of the second intifada, the proportion of Palestinians living in poverty had climbed to just under a third. Today, 60% of all Palestinians live below the poverty line—a figure which rises to 80% in parts of the Gaza Strip where Christian Aid partners work. Unemployment stands at 53% of the workforce; in Gaza, it exceeds 70%. As we wrote in our investigation into the causes of poverty, Losing Ground: Israel, Poverty and the Palestinians, launched in January 2003 by the Rt Hon Clare Short MP at the House of Lords, "Palestinian society is rapidly falling into poverty and despair."[23]

  1.2  The poor get poorer. While the trend towards greater overall poverty has slowed in recent months, those who are classified as poor—living under the poverty line—are getting even poorer. In 1998, average daily consumption among poor Palestinians amounted to £0.94; by 2003 it had fallen to £0.85.[24] The World Bank estimated in July 2002 that 70% of Palestinians were living on £1.50 a day or less.

  1.3  The cost of poverty. This sharp plunge into poverty is exacting a brutal toll on Palestinians and their children. From our daily work and that of our partners, we can testify to the impact of rising unemployment and shrinking salaries. In June 2003 one doctor from Christian Aid partner, the Middle East Council of Churches, told Christian Aid staff visiting his clinic in the Shija'ia district of Gaza City that he had seen a marked increase in both childhood anemia and stunted growth. Chronic malnutrition, in August 2002, stood at 13.2%, with acute malnutrition at 9.3%[25]. In the West Bank, closures and curfew have caused a 52% decline in post-natal care attendance and a similar drop in numbers of women able to reach hospital before giving birth. Emergency services, including those run by Christian Aid partners, are severely hampered by closure, while rising poverty makes them all the more essential. Nor do the statistics given above capture the full reality of the degree of social deterioration—the rise in domestic violence, the impact on the school drop-out rate, and mental illness—which illustrate how desperate life has become for ordinary Palestinians. As a 16-year-old boy in Khan Yunis, whose brother was shot, told us: "I simply want a normal life, only for one day."

  1.4  Aid as a lifeline. In this context, aid is a lifeline for increasing numbers of people, and the direct source of foodstuffs, money for school books and small-business loans to keep people afloat. It is also a prime source of regular and stable employment. Together, the Palestinian Authority, the United Nations and NGOs are key employers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Private enterprise provides some employment opportunities but remains particularly sensitive to the vagaries of the changing political and military situation. During extended periods of curfew or closure, for instance, NGOs and the PA continue to function and pay their employees, whereas much private business comes almost to a standstill.

  1.5  Development under pressure. Yet, increasingly, the work of our partners has come under difficult external pressures, in some cases undoing years of hard work, including that funded by the UK public. These pressures represent a dismantling of Christian Aid partners' efforts, with international support, to build a viable Palestinian society.

  1.5.1  Destruction of projects. Farmers' greenhouses in the north of the Gaza Strip, built by the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC) to help increase production for home consumption and export, have been bulldozed to make way for a security zone around the Israeli settlement of Dugit. Similarly, the construction of the separation fence and wall has caused more destruction to agricultural programmes. The Ramallah offices of UPMRC and other partners were ransacked during Israeli military incursions in April 2002 including the destruction of computers and records.

  1.5.2  Human shields. Partner staff themselves have been under threat. UPMRC employee Doctor Skafi, was used as a human shield during a raid on Ramallah in April 2002; ambulances and their staff have been held at gunpoint. On a regular basis, partner staff are unable to travel, blocked at military checkpoints, and turned back at key points despite being needed to provide urgently needed services. One reason that UPMRC and the Israeli NGO, Physicians for Human Rights, work together on their Saturday visits to remote West Bank villages is because Palestinians are often denied access to the urban centres where medical facilities are available due to roadblocks and checkpoints.

  1.5.3  Humanitarian access. Not only Palestinian, but international staff, are blocked from visiting projects by Israeli military restrictions. Over the past three years, Christian Aid's programme manager for Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories has been repeatedly denied access to the Gaza Strip despite being told in advance that the crossing was open. This has seriously impeded monitoring of projects as well as restricting essential training for partners in Gaza. Christian Aid directors and two Anglican bishops travelling with Christian Aid were all denied access to the Gaza Strip in May 2003.

  1.5.4  Shift to emergencies. As a result of the great demands under tightening occupation, our partners have had to adapt the way in which they work in order to incorporate emergency relief as well as continuing their long-term development projects. PARC trains farmers, but it now also provides emergency food aid. The YMCA, while still encouraging the growth of small business, now offers emergency short-term loans for women whose husbands have lost their jobs due to closure. This is a clear handicap to development—but nevertheless essential for survival although it is also an extra burden on our partners' capacity.

  1.5.5  Inefficiency. Even where the work of our partners is not directly impeded, the very fact of occupation, with the partition of the Gaza Strip into three sections, the imposition of closure and the inability of staff to travel between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, means a huge and inefficient organisational restructuring. Staff cannot travel what would normally be a one hour journey between Gaza and the West Bank, or between Jerusalem and Ramallah, to hold meetings. Duplicate systems, such as financial arrangements or small, localised medical centres, have to be set up in case of a staff's inability to travel or communicate. Palestinians are aware of the waste involved in setting up duplicate systems—but there is no other way for them to carry on operating at a time when they know they are more badly needed than ever.

  1.6  Palestinian Authority's use of aid. The failure of the Palestinian Authority to tackle poverty and develop accountable and transparent institutions is a further cause of the ineffectiveness of aid. In part, this reflects the PA's lack of commitment to development alongside a dearth of strong self-government and the absence of democratic institutions. Funding allocations show the priorities: between 1997 and 2000, the PA's budget allocation for health was reduced from 14 to 9%, while security amounted to 37% of the total budget.[26] DFID's support for PA reforms, including civil service reform, is now creating greater accountability and a far better climate in which aid can be used effectively.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1.  Humanitarian aid for immediate relief is essential as Palestinian poverty continues to deepen and the humanitarian crisis mounts.

  2.  Donors must ensure that Israel allows humanitarian access to the OPT so that humanitarian agencies, including Palestinian NGOs, can carry out vital relief and development work unhindered. Israel is obliged, as the occupying power, to ensure safe access under the provisions of the Geneva Conventions.

  3.  An international protection mechanism is essential for civilian protection on both sides. It would also ensure that humanitarian staff are protected and able to carry out their jobs. Such a mechanism should include an international presence, including UK representation, in both Israel and the OPT.

  4.  DFID's support for essential PA reforms should be continued.

2.  THE WALL OF SEPARATION (SEE MAP ON EV 95)

  2.1  Making way. "Standing on the crest of the village, looking toward Israel, all the land that we could see before us had been confiscated by the Israeli authorities to make way for the Wall —including large, well-established olive groves, fields of vegetables and acres of greenhouses," wrote Christian Aid's Alison Kelly, head of the Middle East team, during a visit to Qalqilya in October 2002. "Over 20 km2 have been confiscated from Qalqilya alone. Most of the agricultural land was lost to the other side of the Wall. Many people now come out of their front doors literally to face the Wall at the end of their gardens."

  2.2  The cost of the Wall. As is now well documented in the news media, Israel's construction of the so-called "security wall", at a cost of £1 million a mile, is sealing off the West Bank. Once completed, it will be a barrier, accessible only through Israeli military checkpoints and armed gates that snakes down the entire length of the West Bank. No other single event or development, our partners report, is creating such conflict or such acute poverty—heightening the sense of crisis, despair and powerlessness, and stripping Palestinians of their land and livelihoods. Christian Aid partner B'Tselem, a leading Israeli human rights organisation, calculates that over 210,000 Palestinians living in 67 towns, villages and cities will be directly harmed by it. Almost 12,000 people living in 13 communities will be imprisoned in isolated enclaves to the west of the Wall, with another 128,500 residents cut off on the east side. Tens of thousands of Palestinians will be separated from their farms. Not only is the Wall carving out Palestinian land while incorporating settlements on the Israeli side of the Wall, but it has psychological consequences. As Alison Kelly wrote last October, "the Wall is effectively making the area into a giant prison camp".

  2.3  Origins of the Wall. The building of a barrier was originally proposed by the Labour Party in 1989-90 and opposed by Ariel Sharon, then in opposition. The idea was for a barrier to follow the Green Line, thus demarcating the border, and for settlements to be dismantled. In April 2002, the Israeli Cabinet approved a plan to "improve and reinforce the readiness and operational capability in copy with terrorism"[27] Significantly, Prime Minister Sharon approved construction providing the Wall did not follow the Green Line, so as to avoid legitimising the border. Both Israel left and right now oppose the Wall, the right because it is an obstacle to settlement of the entire West Bank, and the left because of its echoes of apartheid. Many Palestinians, including Christian Aid partners, see the Wall as creating a de facto border between Israel and a future Palestinian state.

  2.4  Concrete and razor wire. Although it is called a wall, the barrier is actually a combination of wall and fence, depending on the section. The entire width of the separation wall or fence averages 70 metres, with some areas up to 100 metres wide. At its most extensive, the Wall consists of an electronic "smart" fence to warn of attempts to cross it, a trench or ditch on the east side as a barrier to vehicles, another fence, and a paved surface road next to the delay fence. West of the "smart fence", on the Palestinian side, is a trace path of fine sand, to detect footprints, a two-lane patrol road, a road for armoured vehicles and another fence. Watchtowers and entry gates dot the periphery. An additional "depth barrier" is planned a few kilometres east of the main Wall in areas with large Palestinian communities so that people are forced into security monitoring points.

  2.5  The route of the Wall. The Wall rarely follows the Green Line demarcating the West Bank from Israel. By deviating from the Green Line, the Wall has cut off communities from their land and Palestinians from their villages, even snaking into Palestinian territory to encompass Israeli settlements. Of the proposed 350 km, 140 km has been completed. The mainstream Israeli press has revealed plans to extend it to the Jordan Valley, one of the region's most fertile agricultural centres and the heartland of Palestinian agricultural production and exports, and to restrict travel to neighbouring Jordan.

  2.6  Land confiscation. The Wall reduces the availability of farmland to West Bank Palestinians in two ways. It has built on top of, and blocks access to, private Palestinian land. The first phase of construction has resulted in the destruction of 10 km2 of privately owned land in the western West Bank. Confiscation is achieved through issuing "requisition for military needs" orders. Plans and maps are dropped on farmers' land or posted on trees, often leaving owners with as little as a week to appeal. Owners of land are entitled to compensation, but few farmers have requested it for fear of legitimising the confiscation. No appeal cases have resulted in a reversal of the requisition orders.[28] According to PENGON, a network of Palestinian NGOs including Christian Aid partners, a total of 120 square kilometres has been confiscated to date. When British MPs Jenny Tonge and Oona King visited Qalqilya with Christian Aid in June 2003, they met farmers who could no longer get to their fields or greenhouses despite the promise of access gates. The greenhouses were clearly visible on the other side of the fence, some badly damaged.

  2.7  Whose water? Because it runs directly over the western groundwater basin, the Wall will have a severe impact on water access. A number of villages are losing their only source of water—a devastation for olive and citrus production, both of which account for the bulk of the West Bank's agricultural export earnings. The Palestine Hydrology Group, a Palestinian NGO, has listed 30 wells in the Qalqilya and Tulkarem districts alone that have been lost in the first phase of the wall's construction. Qalqilya itself will lose 19 wells—a third of the town's water supply. Israel, however, will make substantial gains in water access as the Western Aquifer System—the richest of the West Bank's three groundwater basins—now falls on the west side of the Wall.[29]

  2.8  A dying village. The village of Jayous has had hundreds of thousands of pounds invested in its agricultural development since the 1980s, having been identified by donors as a model village for development due its unusual levels of fertility in the otherwise arid West Bank. The Wall will separate 3,000 villagers from their farmland by running 5.6 km, inside the Green Line, decimating its agricultural capacity. Now, as well as providing development assistance, PARC are supplying emergency foodstuffs such as flour and cooking oil.

  2.9  Isolated communities. Thirteen communities in the northern governorates—12,000 people—will find themselves trapped between the Green Line to their west and the Wall to their east. The legal status of such people remains uncertain. Having already suffered from severe movement restrictions into Israel, on which they once depended for employment, these communities will now find serious restrictions in moving east into the rest of the West Bank. Nine of the 13 lack medical facilities; others lack emergency and specialist care such as dialysis and chemotherapy. Based on the experience of closure, it is likely that residents will not be able to travel to receive these essential services.

  2.10  A farmer's story. Abdel Nasser Mahmoud Quzmar from the village of Izbat Salman is the breadwinner of a family of six. Once a farmer with 27,000 m2 of olive and citrus groves, vegetables and greenhouses, he has lost almost everything to the Wall. Besides his land which has been destroyed by Israeli bulldozers, his land now lies behind the Wall to the west and is inaccessible. The water cisterns which irrigate the land have also been destroyed—even if he could get to his land, its productivity would be reduced. All the papers, documents and evidence that Abdel Nasser holds demonstrate his ownership of the land. He has filed legal complaints but they have had no response to date.[30]

  2.11  Fear of attack and Israel security. The Israeli government argues that the Wall and fence are legitimate security measures—that Israeli citizens, living in fear, must be protected from suicide bombers and other attacks. Christian Aid questions the efficacy of the Wall as a security measure but not Israel's right to live in security. With 12,000 Palestinians, to date, trapped on the western side, it does not appear to have been designed to prevent Palestinians from entering Israel. Moreover, Palestinians are acutely aware that their rights are fundamentally affected: their freedom of movement curtailed, their land confiscated, and their livelihoods lost. The humanitarian consequences, by walling off entire villages and making travel virtually impossible, promise to be severe. These threats to Palestinians livelihoods and freedoms cannot help but contribute to greater conflict and strife, as well as heightening the humanitarian crisis.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1.  The UK Government should use its influence to see that construction of the Wall is halted and existing sections dismantled.

  2.  An international protection mechanism would be a preferable way to ensure protection of Israeli and Palestinian civilians as opposed to the creation of physical barriers.

  3.  Land confiscated should be returned immediately and compensation provided for damage to homes, orchards and wells.

3.  STRUCTURES OF POVERTY: THE OCCUPATION AND THE PA

  3.1  From Oslo to today. Responsibility for today's humanitarian crisis rests principally with Israel's occupation of the OPT. But the foundations of impoverishment were laid long ago. Starting with an already poor agrarian economy, Palestinians have seen their hopes for a secure future eroded by the progressive loss of land since 1948. The Oslo Accords, which led to the creation of the PA in September 1993, failed to address the underlying causes of poverty. And, as we have noted, the PA's commitment to poverty eradication has been notable for its absence.

  3.2  A process of de-development. Christian Aid's Palestinian and Israeli partners have described how actions taken by the Israeli government since Oslo, for security or other reasons, have created a situation of de-development—of systematically stripping away the ingredients of a viable Palestinian economy and society. Individually, these acts would not cause extreme poverty. But together they add up to a series of policies that, especially in their intensified form after September 2000, fundamentally undermine an already vulnerable economy. As we detailed in our January 2003 report Losing Ground, the key structural reasons for today's poverty include:

  3.2.1  Loss of land. Since the 1967 Six Day War established a new border, Israel has gradually encroached in Palestinian land through expropriation, occupation and acquisition of so-called "state land". After Oslo, agreement on Israeli security meant that Israel effectively controlled 82.8% of Palestinian territory. Since the outbreak of the second intifada, and in particular with the construction of the Wall, more land has been lost.

  3.2.2  Settlements. According to Christian Aid partner B'Tselem in an in-depth study, almost 42% of the West Bank is controlled by Israeli settlements and regional municipal councils. The number of settlers has doubled since the Oslo Accords, to 200,000 in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) and 5,000 in the Gaza Strip. Settlements around East Jerusalem include a further 175,000 settlers in communities that surround the annexed eastern part of the city and effectively cut it off from the West Bank.

  3.2.3  Water. Israeli control over access to water limits Palestinian irrigation for agriculture, the drilling of boreholes and personal consumption. Israelis' allocation of water is five times more per person than that of Palestinians in the OPT. Israeli settlers in the Gaza Strip use almost seven times more water than Palestinians.

  3.2.4  Closure, curfew and permits. Since the start of the second intifada, a tightening of the network of 175 secured military checkpoints and more than 200 roadblocks has placed three million Palestinians under virtual siege.[31] Not only can Palestinians not travel between Israel and the OPT, but they cannot travel freely in their own land. Villages are cut off from one another; it is often impossible to travel from one part of the West Bank to another, as well as between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The uncertainty as to whether journeys can be made is both psychologically and economically damaging. And if a journey can be made, it will almost always be longer; what was once a 30-minute journey may take two to three hours. In addition, Palestinians are subject to a complex permit system by Israel whereby individuals are required to seek permits in advance to travel from one West Bank system to another. For most Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Jerusalem is off-limits; the city has been annexed by Israel and Palestinians from East Jerusalem now have Israeli ID cards. These restrictions not only have implications for individuals but for the economy. Palestinian farmers, unable to get to market or with their harvest rotting at a checkpoint, cannot compete. Between 1993 and 2002, agriculture fell from 27% of GDP to just 7% as farmers found themselves on an uncreasingly unequal playing field. Israel also uses curfews as a means of controlling the population and collective punishment. During heightened security alerts whole cities are placed under curfew for days at a time.

  3.3  Palestinian Authority and poverty. The non-prioritisation by the PA to poverty alleviation and widespread corruption have also contributed to the structural reasons for the impoverishment of ordinary Palestinians. Within the OPT, there is significant debate among NGOs about the need for Palestinian reforms to encourage a more democratic and responsive administration. But, by any measure, the PA's failure to deliver humanitarian aid or essential services in the midst of crisis is also severely constrained. From the beginning of the second intifada, in September 2000, to July 2002, the Israeli government withheld taxes collected on behalf of the PA, claiming that funds might be used for corruption or to support terrorism. International aid has contributed to the construction of government buildings and schools, employment creation and infrastructure—the building blocks of Palestinian administration and economy, yet much of this aid has either been poorly spent or has been lost as a direct casualty of war. From September 2000 to the end of 2001, damage to physical infrastructure in the OPT, including roads, water and sewage, municipal buildings, orchards and homes, came to an estimated US$305 million.[32] Crop damage and the destruction of houses, particularly in 2002 and 2003, have added to the total costs.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1.  Occupation must end for Palestinians to truly benefit from development assistance. In the immediate future the UK Government should consider use its influence to press the Israeli Government to:

    1.1.1  lift the closure and dismantle checkpoints within the OPT, allowing the free movement of people and goods;

    1.1.2  release any PA tax revenue currently held by Israel to a transparent fiscal agency within the PA;

    1.1.3  ensure equitable distribution of water rights as directed under international law; and

    1.1.4  end all land confiscations and impose an immediate freeze on settlements.

DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE AND PRIORITIES FOR THE UK GOVERNMENT

  4.1  A failure of aid under Oslo. During the Oslo process, the Palestinian economy needed to be transformed both to address short term need and create the framework for enhancing livelihoods in the future. Long term international assistance was needed to back this process. But much of the fundamental reshaping of the economy, so badly needed, failed to occur as the international community failed to grasp the importance of marrying support for the political process with effective economic support and assistance. Israel's introduction of severe closure throughout the mid-1990s, for instance, and the concomitant collapse in employment for Palestinians once working in Israel and collapse in trade meant huge declines in both GNP and real per capita income—18.4 and 36.2%, respectively.[33] By not addressing Israel's ability to impose closure, donors undercut their own efforts to resuscitate the Palestinian economy. Indeed, during the entire seven years of the Oslo negotiations, the key drivers of earlier Israeli policy toward the OPT continued, including closures, trade restrictions, and the expansion of settlements, all of which undermined the negotiations and their progress. Rather than addressing inequalities, key inequalities between Palestinian and Israeli authorities were entrenched.

  4.2  Priorities for UK and international aid. This is not to say that the international community has not responded to the plight of Palestinians with generosity; indeed, as noted above, EU and UN assistance has kept the humanitarian situation from reaching breaking point. But assistance needs to include efforts to address the underlying structural problems of the economy such as its vulnerability to and dependence on often unskilled and temporary jobs in Israel. Employment in Israel is essential in the short-term but is damaging to the prospects for the development of a Palestinian economy. It is also subject to Israel issuing permits to workers and to closures and is therefore an unstable source of income. Assistance needs to be focused on job creation, through efforts to raise revenue, enhance rural livelihoods, and encourage the expansion of domestic and international investment and trade, underpinned by efforts to diversify the economic base. But not even international aid on a significant scale can be separated from the context in which it is given. Thus, no amount of international aid can stimulate Palestinian agriculture if the land continues to be appropriated for the building of settlements.

  4.3  The Palestinian Authority. International assistance, especially from the EU, has kept the PA afloat. It is disappointing that the international community did not do more to address the growing evidence of incompetence, corruption and human rights violations during the Oslo period. As we mentioned above, one positive development of the road map has been that the PA has undergone reforms, leading to greater transparency and accountability, a development which is acknowledged by the EU itself and has been welcomed by Christian Aid's partners.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1.  UK development assistance should recognise the structural constraints stemming from the Israeli occupation on Palestinian poverty alleviation and development. Any development assistance programme which ignores this fundamental reality risks being ineffective. The UK Government, together with other international donors, must continue to pledge emergency aid to the OPT. But equally importantly, donors must contribute to the rebuilding of destroyed Palestinian infrastructure and the economy itself through job-creation schemes, support to farmers, support for private sector expansion and exports. Such support for a viable Palestinian economy is essential if there is to be any prospect of peace in the region. As long as extreme poverty and unemployment remain, peace will not be possible.

  2.  The UK Government should ensure that bilateral agreements comply with international law.

  3.  Development assistance must be seen in its political context to avoid the errors of the Oslo. Providing aid without addressing the causes of economic crisis is wasteful and will be seen as ineffectual by Palestinians.

5.  AID AND THE PEACE PROCESS

  5.1  A political solution. The performance-based road map to peace in the Middle East is the Quartet's (US, UN, EU and Russia) plan for creating a viable Palestinian state by 2005. The UK Government appears to have accepted the premise that the humanitarian crisis in the OPT requires a political solution, a position that Christian Aid has long advocated. A key to tackling Palestinian poverty remains the willingness of the Quartet powers to sponsor a peace process that can deliver peace with security and dignity and which is bound by international law.

  5.2  Occupation and international law. It is essential that Israel's occupation of the OPT is viewed within the parameters and subject to international humanitarian law and UN resolutions. Israel, and more recently the US, have spoken of "disputed"—as opposed to "occupied"—territories. However, UN Resolutions 242 and 1397 refer to those territories as the lands occupied by Israel in 1967. Clarity on these issues is a prerequisite for lasting peace.

  5.3  Obligations of the occupying power. Further, Israel is bound by the Fourth Geneva Convention and Hague Convention to provide specific protections to civilians living in territories under occupation. Over 160 states are signatories to the Geneva Convention. Israel accepts the applicability of the Hague Regulations but not the Fourth Geneva Convention, specifically article 49, which stipulates that "The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies", although it undertakes to respect its humanitarian provisions. Israel argues that the OPT was not part of the sovereign territory of either Jordan or Egypt when occupied, and therefore that the Convention does not apply. No other High Contracting Party to the Convention has accepted this argument.

  5.4  A viable Palestinian state? The road map is a welcome recognition of the need for a viable Palestinian state. However, the Quartet have yet to define what constitutes viability for a Palestinian state. At present, Palestinians are subject to restrictions that govern almost every aspect of their daily lives and which have created an extreme humanitarian crisis. Viability must encompass a viable economy and thus include measures to enhance the economic development of the Palestinian territories and enable Palestinians to pull themselves out of severe poverty.

  5.5  Contiguity. Viability must also include territory that is contiguous—territory that is joined together and under sovereign control—and must not be replaced by the notion of transportational contiguity, which would see isolated Palestinian areas linked by road or alternative transport systems. Such transportational contiguity would merely continue the system of closure and division we see today which has created such a profoundly under-developed economy.

  5.6  Aid and the peace process. At the heart of the peace process is the current humanitarian situation—the daily struggle, for the overwhelming majority of Palestinians, to feed their children, get them safely to school and back, keep their jobs and undertake the most basic of journeys. Evidence of peace will be evidence of an improvement in their lives. Well-targeted, sustained and substantial development assistance can support this process, and in this sense aid is vital to peace. Donors, including the UK Government, must take care not to replicate the errors of the Oslo Accords and undermine the success of their own negotiations. But aid is not the answer, either to the corruption and ineffectualness of the PA or to the continuing occupation and settlement of Palestinian land by Israel.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1.  Part of a real peace will be a clear improvement in people's lives—an end to the current humanitarian crisis. Well-targeted, sustained and substantial development assistance can aid in this process. The role of the UK Government, as a member of the EU and, therefore, the Quartet, is vital.

  2.  But aid is not the long-term answer. The solutions are an end to Israeli occupation and reforms to the PA. In this regard, UK policy must be governed by close cooperation between all relevant government departments including the Foreign Office, DTI and DFID so that each strand of policy reinforces each other in the interests of achieving a lasting peace.

  3.  International law and its impartial application are the best guarantee of justice, peace and security for all people in the region. Without determined international involvement, it is difficult to imagine the realisation of the two states as envisaged by the road map. Christian Aid urges the UK Government to use its influence to pursue all avenues to peace.

September 2003






23   Christian Aid, Losing Ground: Israel, Poverty and the Palestinians, London: January 2003. To download a copy see www.christian-aid.org.uk/indepth/0301isra/losing.htm Back

24   The World Bank, "Two years of Intifada, Closures and Palestinian Economic Crisis", 5 March 2003. Back

25   USAID, "Nutritional Assessment and Sentinel Surveillance System for the West Bank and Gaza", 5 August 2002. Back

26   Christian Aid, Losing Ground: Israel, Poverty and the Palestinians, London: January 2003. p. 51. Back

27   Chris McGreal,"Barricade or prison? A journey along Israel's security fence" Guardian, September 2003. Back

28   UNRWA report "Impact of the first phase of the security barrier on Qalqilya, Tulkarem and Jenin districts", 29 July 2003. Back

29   Ibid. Back

30   Palestinian Environmental NGO Network, "Stop the Wall", 2003, p 111. Back

31   Palestine Monitor Website, 10 September 2003. Back

32   World Bank, "Fifteen months", p17. The impact on investment, according to the Bank, was even higher, at US$1.2 billion. Back

33   UNSCO, "Report for April 1997", p 6. Back


 
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