Embargo didn’t stop Palestinian aid flow

By Steven Erlanger

JERUSALEM: Despite the international embargo on aid to the Palestinian Authority since the election victory of Hamas a year ago, significantly more aid was delivered to the Palestinians in 2006 than in 2005, according to official figures from the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

[Why does the EU keep trying to lift the embargo. What embargo? And don’t forget Saudi Arabia has promised $1 billion a year.]

Instead of going to the Palestinian Authority, most of the money was given directly to individuals or through efforts like the World Food Program. One result, some officials said, is that while starvation has been avoided, institutions are withering and a culture of dependence is growing.

The European Union and its member states alone are subsidizing one million households in the West Bank and Gaza, a quarter of the population, as part of their effort to avoid a catastrophe because of the embargo.

The Palestinian economy has sunk into depression since 1999 as a result of security restrictions that Israel put on Palestinian travel and exports, followed more recently by the international boycott and fierce Palestinian infighting between Hamas and Fatah.

In 2007, the United Nations began a humanitarian appeal for the Palestinians of more than $450 million, twice the 2006 appeal, the third-largest UN request, after Sudan and Congo, ahead of 18 other disasters.

“These numbers are quite stunning given the relatively small size of the population of the Palestinian territory,” said Alexander Costy, head of coordination for Álvaro de Soto, the United Nations’ special Middle East envoy. “What we do know for sure is that Palestinians, and their economy and society, are becoming increasingly dependent on humanitarian handouts, and this dependency is growing fast. For a state-in-the-making, I think, this was a step backwards in 2006 and a cause for alarm.”

The International Monetary Fund and the United Nations say that the Palestinians got $1.2 billion in aid and budgetary support in 2006, compared with $1 billion in 2005.

They estimate that direct budgetary support was about $740 million in 2006, more than double the $350 million it got in 2004 and 2005.

But Salam Fayyad, finance minister in the new Palestinian unity government, says he thinks the Palestinians got about $140 million more than that in 2006 when cash from Muslim nations is counted as well as the amount smuggled in by Hamas officials from trips abroad.

“I say the minimum for direct budgetary support was $880 million in 2006 compared to about $350 million the year before,” Fayyad said. He estimates total aid in 2006 was closer to $1.35 billion.

The United States, the European Union and Israel imposed their boycott on the grounds that Hamas supports terrorism and refuses a demand that it recognize Israel, renounce violence and honor previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements. The unstated aim has been to build enough disaffection among Palestinians that they would drive Hamas from power and replace it with the rival Fatah movement. CONTINUE

March 20, 2007 | Comments Off on WHAT EMBARGO?

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