No people, territory or issue on earth have had more international attention devoted to them than Palestine and its people. Yet no conflict looks further from resolution, and no people further from achieving the freedom promised them. More Palestinians lack more basic freedoms today than they did 60 years ago. While an expensive and extensive peace process was in full swing, Israel managed to illegally expropriate most of the occupied West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem, install hundreds of thousands of illegal settlers, kill more Palestinian families, arrest more young men, destroy more crops, homes and businesses, build a monstrous wall deemed illegal by the international court of justice, and set forth, unchecked, a policy of aggressive expansionism in Palestine that continues until this moment.
Citizens of this country may wish to ask why this is so, and what on earth their government has been doing all this time with their money. Yesterday the government attempted to answer this question with the launch of a report on the Economic Aspects of the Peace Process. What the report doesn’t explain is the direct link between throwing economics at this conflict and the repeated failures to solve it.
The symbiotic relationship between the illegal “facts on the ground” created by Israel in occupied Palestine; the simultaneous loss of nerve by almost all international leaders and institutions to reverse those facts; the subsequent flurry of international activities designed to avoid challenging illegal Israeli actions – this triangle of desolation has been masterfully described in a remarkable publication by Chatham House, entitled Aid, Diplomacy, and Facts on the Ground: the Case of Palestine. Its authors – World Bank representatives, UN officials, humanitarian agencies – detail the economic, political and diplomatic strategies by which international donors have (by deafault or by design) encouraged illegal Israeli practices that have made peace impossible. Without polemics or partisanship, these expert contributors coolly demonstrate the calamity of this approach, and suggest practical solutions to redirect attention towards doing good.
Two of the most treacherous mechanisms of avoidance need highlighting: diplomacy through international negotiations, and the type of economic assistance given to an increasingly impoverished Palestinian people. Since the Oslo agreement in 1993, every subject Israeli governments refused to discuss was removed from the negotiating table. Unfortunately this required excluding the people and issues essential to resolving the conflict: the Palestinians and their right to their land.