Friday, December 23, 2005

Israel Is Easing Barrier Burden, but Palestinians Still See a Border

Here we have a clear example of the insanely skewed policy that the United States pursues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
Israel is building a border wall, largely on occupied territory. The International Court of Justice has issued an advisory opinion holding that the wall is illegal insofar as lies on Palestinian terrtitory. The United States government has similarly held that the wall, insofar as it is built on "disputed" (the euphemism these days in Washigton for occupied) violates U.S. policy. At the same time, the U.S. is giving Israel $50 million from funds ($200 million) earmarked for Palestinians to make the wall marginally more palatable to the Palestinians. Were the money to come out of the ample pile of cash (nearly $3 billion in U.S. taxpayers' money) that the U.S. officially transfers to Israel annually (over which there are few real controls), it would be quite incredible in that the U.S. would be funding a project that it says it opposes. It is beyond incredible that the Palestinians are obliged to contribute to a border project that is a de facto, imposed boundary on their own land. And George Bush wonders why he has a horrendous public diplomacy problem?

It is also noteworthy that 67% of all Palestinian households are living below the poverty line, according to reliable data. The poverty line is less than $2.20 per person, per day. Poverty is of course exacerbated by the horrible difficulty that the Palestinian economy faces due to the extreme Israeli restrictions on movement in the occupied territories.

Israel Is Easing Barrier Burden, but Palestinians Still See a Border - New York Times: "The United States is giving Israel $50 million for these checkpoints to improve the economic future of Gaza and the West Bank, deducted from $200 million in aid for the Palestinian Authority. American funds are restricted for terminals on or inside the pre-1967 border. A senior American official in Washington, asked about the new terminals, said: 'We prefer not to pronounce on them - after all, what are you approving? We have trouble with the route of the barrier. But we accept that there is a real tension between free movement of goods and people and Israeli security.'
Mr. Kuttab, the Palestinian columnist, says that the American safeguards are meaningless. 'What's more upsetting is that the Congress has turned over $50 million for Palestinians under pressure of pro-Israeli groups to establish these terminals in areas that are part of the Palestinian state. Money is very fungible, and once the money is in Israeli coffers, it's impossible to trace.'"

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