EU blames Israel for Palestinian economic disaster

The European Commission issued a press release yesterday, saying

“…the European Union certainly takes the view that all Israeli settlement in the occupied territory is illegal and that it seriously undermines progress towards a two-state solution,” said Mr. Roy Dickinson, the European Commission’s Chargé d’affaires in Jerusalem. “Yet the economic impact of settlements on the Palestinian economy and the PA’s revenues also deserves attention. The expropriation of fertile land; the settler-only roads which carve up the occupied Palestinian territory, and the checkpoints and roadblocks which exist solely to protect settlements: these all contribute to strangling the Palestinian economy, thus they reduce the PA’s revenues and make the PA dependent on handouts from donors. And it is European taxpayers who pay most of the price of that dependence.”

What are they paying for?

Today the European Union made its seventh contribution this year to the Palestinian Authority’s payment of its civil service salaries and pensions both in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Its contribution of over NIS 71 million (€ 13 million) was delivered through PEGASE[1] and benefitted [sic] almost 80,580 civil servants and pensioners.

Yes, that’s correct. The EU is paying the salaries and pensions of Palestinian Authority [PA] civil servants in Gaza. Of course, Gaza is entirely under control of Hamas, so either these “civil servants” are working for Hamas or they are being paid for doing nothing.

And let’s also ask who are these ‘civil servants’ in the West Bank and Gaza? Are they teachers, doctors, etc.? Well, some of them are. But most are members of the various ‘security’ and police services. It seems that Palestinians need far more police officers per capita than Israel, New York or Los Angeles, despite the much lower rate of reported criminal offenses in their jurisdiction.

They need lots of weapons too. Today the Jerusalem Post reports that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, after meeting with US envoy George Mitchell, approved the transfer of 1000 Kalashnikov assault rifles to the PA.  And there are 50 Russian armored vehicles waiting in Jordan to be delivered. In the past, arms given to the PA have been used in attacks on Israelis — sometimes PA police officers moonlight as al-Aqsa brigades or even Hamas terrorists. And when Hamas took over in Gaza in 2007, they inherited huge quantities of weapons from the fleeing PA forces.

In any event, the European Commission’s worries about the costs of settlements are probably misplaced. I suggest that they worry about the amount of their aid that is going

  • Directly to Hamas,
  • Indirectly to Hamas,
  • To corrupt PA officials,
  • To support the militarization of the PA.

I am sure that the total would exceed what the Palestinian ‘economy’ loses to settlements.

If I could grab Mr. Roy Dickinson and shake him, I would point out that

  • The checkpoints and bypass roads that he decries are not a result of the presence of settlements — they are there because otherwise the Palestinians will shoot and bomb the Jewish residents. Dickinson seems to accept the Arab point of view that  terrorism against ‘settlers’ is justified, since he prefers removing the settlers to ending the violence.
  • Palestinian behavior is probably impacting the Israeli economy a whole lot more, being responsible for the enormous security establishment necessary to protect Israelis from Palestinian terrorism.
  • It is not the settlements that are obstacles to the two-state solution. Israel has twice — at Camp David / Taba and during the recent negotiations between the Olmert administration and the PA — offered to dismantle a large number of settlements and compensate the PA for land in the settlement blocs that would remain. These negotiations failed primarily because of Palestinian demands for all of Jerusalem and ‘return’ of refugees.

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