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Is this the last chance for Palestine?

5 August 2013

It must be good news that negotiations have resumed between Palestine and Israel in

Washington but most would remain very sceptical over the likelihood of this initiative

achieving an agreed solution. Two of the main obstacles to agreement are the illegal

settlements in the West Bank and the problem of Palestinian refugees. When I was in

Palestine last year I saw at first hand the smart new settlement buildings on the one hand

and the abject poverty in the refugee camps on the other. As well as the obvious overt

oppression of the Palestinian people, I learned of the more subtle acts of oppression – the

obstacles the Israeli Government is prepared to put in the way of NGOs and international

institutions to prevent them delivering their relief and development programmes on the

ground. The latest example of this is the Israeli Government decision to bar European

aid staff from entering Gaza as part of Israeli measures in the wake of new EU guidelines

barring cooperation with settlements.

 

settlement

Steel armour-clad protected highway cutting a swathe through Palestinian lands
connecting two road tunnels to illegal settlements (Labour2Palestine)

 

 

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon ordered officials to halt cooperation on the ground

with EU representatives. This includes any assistance to EU infrastructure projects in

Area C, which is under full Israeli civilian and military control. Ya’alon was also reported as

planning to make it more difficult for EU officials to pass through the Erez Crossing, to the

Gaza Strip or back to Israel.

 

As far as we can tell this would apply only to specifically EU activities and not activities

conducted by individual EU member states. These moves are in retaliation for the

European Commission publishing guidelines on July 19th barring EU agencies from

funding entities connected to illegal settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and

residential areas in the Golan Heights.

 

According to World Bank figures, the Occupied Palestinian Territories is the poorest part

of the Middle East and North Africa region apart from Sudan and Yemen, falling into the

Lower Middle Income category. The key economic feature is the restrictions imposed

by the Israeli government on the movement of people and goods within and outside the

territories, and on access to natural resources. These have depressed average GDP per

capita and forced up unemployment and poverty rates. There is high aid dependency and

vulnerability among the Palestinian population, with around 5 million refugees in the region

reliant on the United Nations for basic services.

 

Am'ari Refugee Camp

Am’ari Refugee Camp – a small area of 1 square kilometre with 10,000 residents in centre
of Ramallah (Alastair Osborne)

 

Punishing poor Palestinians by inhibiting the EU to deliver development programmes

sends a clear message to other institutions or organisations engaged in development

as to what is likely to happen if they seriously challenge Israeli policy in the Occupied

Palestinian Territories. This is yet another reason to be pessimistic about a successful

outcome to talks in Washington but also a powerful reason why they must succeed.

 

the wall

The Writing on the Wall (Alastair Osborne)

 

Alastair Osborne is Scottish Officer for LCID

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