bitterlemons: How has foreign aid influenced the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict, particularly in recent years?
Ajluni: Donors have said very specifically for a decade now that
foreign aid is designed to underpin a peace process. They say very bluntly
and openly that aid to the Palestinian Authority is seen as peace
implementation or peace facilitation. Whether or not it has played that role
is another question.
I think that foreign aid has played an important role to some extent in
reducing the distortion in the occupied Palestinian territories that existed
particularly in the period prior to the last ten years. Palestinian incomes
were rising while their public services, infrastructure and public spaces
were degrading for close to 30 years [after Israel's 1967 occupation].
For the last decade, though, personal incomes have been on the
decline due to Israeli measures blocking Palestinian access to the Israeli
labor and commodity markets. The aid has to some extent served to mitigate
the distortion of this occupied economy. In the last three years, much of
the aid has been budgetary support for the Palestinian Authority to allow it
to be able to meet salary payments.
bitterlemons: How then has the aid influenced the course of the
Ajluni: Some donor countries have said openly, and others have
said not so openly, that for the last two years at least, they have been
financing the fallout of Israel's measures rather than allowing Israel to
bear the full weight of its actions and pay for the damage and destruction
that it has caused. Seen from that donor perspective, some might say that
they have fueled the conflict--if the aid had stopped, then the Israelis
would bear a much bigger burden and not engage in the behavior that they
bitterlemons: Is the international community considering pulling
back for this reason?
Ajluni: I think that the donors are engaged in that rethinking. It
is a good question.
bitterlemons: Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority draw a
large portion of their budget from foreign aid. How might each, in a perfect
world, make the transition to a self-sufficient economy?
Ajluni: Were it not for the movement restrictions and the
difficulties imposed on the Palestinian population as a result of Israeli
measures, there would be no need for budgetary support. In 1999, [the
Palestinian Authority] had a balanced operating budget. The Palestinian
Authority, relative to what it has received, however, would have only
minimally been able to cover the development budget that creates medical
facilities, public infrastructure, public space, technical assistance, etc.
Let's keep in mind that we are talking about a population that has a
large component of refugees and that has been under occupation since 1967.
The degradation of public infrastructure has been great and ongoing for
nearly four decades.
Israel, on the other hand, is the largest recipient of external funding
in the world, bar none. On a per capita basis, that equals three times what
the Palestinians receive, and somewhere over $1,000 per person per year.
Could the Israelis do without that? Most of this assistance is official and
comes from the United States. Roughly half of that is military assistance.
If Israel wants to maintain the fourth largest army in the world at the
current level of readiness, then it will probably have to continue to
receive that amount.
bitterlemons: Given the experience of the Oslo accords where
donors gave a large amount of money and then the process collapsed, if there
were to be a comprehensive settlement would there also be a willingness to
Ajluni: My sense is that if there were to be a comprehensive
settlement bringing real peace and justice, the donors would give more. In
the past three years, most of the assistance has come from Arab countries
for budget support [of the Palestinian Authority]. In that case, the Arab
states would play a greater role if a comprehensive solution were to be
found. The other main donors of the Palestinians--the European Union, Japan,
and the United States--would probably also be forthcoming. -Published
Salem Ajluni is an economist and consultant focusing on the
Palestinian occupied territories.
Israel - Palästina:
Zur Notwendigkeit einer internationalen
Israel's disengagement plans provide the aid community with a new and
From hostility to opportunity
The international donor community dangled foreign aid as a carrot and
stick before the Palestinian Authority.
Not a prop for the peace process
An interview with Dov Sedaka:
There was a disguised threat to leave, but largely to pressure Israel to
let them get the job done.
You can't turn back the clock