an interview with Dov Sedaka
bitterlemons: Can humanitarian aid bring peace or maintain the peace
Sedaka: Aid alone cannot maintain the process. But it can and does
grease the wheels of peace.
bitterlemons: Some in Israel and the international community argue
that the provision of international humanitarian aid to the Palestinian
population actually prolongs the conflict.
Sedaka: Aid does not prolong this conflict. It is the right thing
to do. International aid began with the occupation back in the 1960s, and it
was justified then as now. The aid organizations did good work in the field.
They recruited local resources in the areas of education and development and
played an important role in the well being of the population.
bitterlemons: How does Israel's Civil Administration fit into this
Sedaka: It assists the dozens of international organizations, the
United Nations, Red Cross and many [non-governmental organizations] that are
present in the field. The Civil Administration is very familiar with these
groups. This stems from the fact that the state of Israel cannot fill the
organizations' function. Since the aid is necessary, it is best filled by
the international groups and not, say, Hamas. Better to create a real
humanitarian infrastructure and not that of Hamas' terrorist summer camps.
The Civil Administration has trained its own "international organization
officers." The Israel Defense Forces [IDF] has now integrated humanitarian
aid into its combat doctrine.
bitterlemons: Yet the international organizations complain of
friction with the IDF.
Sedaka: It is not always simple to balance combat with
humanitarian aid. There are issues of time and space: first the battle has
to end. Moreover, over the years fears and suspicions develop. [We have
learned that] not every ambulance and aid shipment is "clean"; so suspicions
arise. With good communications we can solve these problems. This insight
has now penetrated deep into the IDF combat echelon; the soldier at the
roadblock better understands the need for aid.
bitterlemons: Yet over the past year or so, the aid organizations
have talked about pulling out.
Sedaka: They won't depart. There was a disguised threat to leave,
but largely to pressure Israel to let them get the job done. If they were to
pull out, this would not end the conflict; on the contrary, the resultant
poverty would worsen the situation. The vacuum would not be filled entirely
by Israel but by Hamas.
bitterlemons: Why? Why can't Israel provide the aid if need be? Or
the Palestinian Authority?
Sedaka: You can't turn back the clock to status quo ante. If the
aid ends [even under conditions of peace], the Palestinian Authority is
still not capable of filling the gap. But [neither can we, because the
Palestinian Authority] aspires to independence and has learned not to work
with us. In any case Israel never provided 100 percent.
bitterlemons: There are allegations that Palestinian inefficiency
and corruption complicate the aid picture.
Sedaka: Inefficiency contributes to lack of development. This
touches not on the question whether there's enough food, but rather on
infrastructure development, for example the Palestinian water economy. Of
course, the conflict makes things worse, but (even without it) Palestinian
government offices are not organized as they should be. [Minister of Finance
Salam] Fayyad has still not succeeded in breaking the monopolies on energy
supply, cement and agricultural exports.
The aid organizations come to us with these complaints, but there is
little we can do. We try to provide security, mobility, and the necessary
statutory permits--areas where the Palestinians are weak.
bitterlemons: Does the international aid improve or hinder
Israel's relations with the aid-giving countries and organizations?
Sedaka: Improve, unequivocally. In the eyes of the aid-givers as
well, the joint projects and working relationships contribute to relations.
bitterlemons: Israel and the Palestinian Authority developed a
complex economic relationship after 1993. In retrospect, was this
Sedaka: The present situation of intifada is not natural and does
not bear faithful testimony to the relationship. In view of the huge
disparity between the economies, the Oslo and Paris agreements were the
right ones in their day. The Palestinian economy was supposed to grow, to
stand on its own two feet. They were to have their own air and sea ports and
economic independence. The process can still be renewed with joint
industrial zones and the return of Palestinian labor to Israel.
The trade balance at its peak was about $2.6 billion per annum in
Palestinian imports from Israel and $800 million in Palestinian exports to
Israel. This was Israel's biggest trading relationship after the United
States. This has declined radically since the intifada began. -Published
Brigadier General (ret.) Dov F. Sedaka was the head of the Civil
Administration in the West Bank until 2003.
Israel - Palästina:
Zur Notwendigkeit einer internationalen