Monday, June 18, 2007

Economics for the 21st century

From today's Al-Quds al-Arabi:
[We] learned from sources working for NGOs in Palestine yesterday that they have received from the USAID organization a request for them to present large-scale project proposals for financing [by USAID] in the West Bank on an accelerated basis. According to these sources, USAID ...requested, less than 12 hours after the appointment of Dr Salam Fayadh to form an emergency government, ideas for huge projects to be carried out in the West Bank, on condition that these projects be capable of showing quick results in the life of people in the West Bank and that they involve large numbers of Palestinian workers. The sources told [us] that these are [supposed to be] projects in which it will be apparent that there is large-scale American funding for improvements in the life of the people of the West Bank, and that this [American connection to the quick improvements] should be readily apparent to the eye and tangible on the ground....
And lest there be any doubt, these NGO sources spelled out the political content of this:
The sources said what is being asked of them is to convince the people of the West Bank that they are fortunate having the government of Fayadh and the decision of Abbas to form this government, in contrast to Hamas which controls Gaza. Concerning the possibility of carrying out any projects in the Gaza Strip, sources who asked not to be identified by name said they are being told it is not allowed to let even one dollar reach the Gaza Strip.
The sources said the USAID office in Tel Aviv will be busy with formulating details for this today and in the days to come. The reason these need to be projects with short-term tangible effects to influence the results of the elections Abbas and his handlers hope to call soon.

Hijacking of economic aid to serve the anti-Hamas agenda isn't new. In the document headed "Action Plan" (of US authorship, written sometime in February of this year) published in the Jordanian paper Al-Majd last month, there is an elaborate set of plans for enhancing the strength and reputation of the Abbas group at the expense of the elected Hamas government, and the scheme was exactly the same then as it is now: Using a variety of means to bolster Fatah and weaken Hamas, ahead of hoped-for new elections in fall 2007. In particular, the Action Plan document included this:
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas should propose, in consultation with the World Bank and the European Union, a plan that defines specific sectors and projects that are in need of financing, and that will show useful and tangible results on the ground in the space of six to nine months, centering on the alleviation of poverty and unemployment. And since some projects will take more than nine months, there should be a guarantee of adequate results within the nine months. This is so as to guarantee the usefulness of these projects before the elections.
So the plan isn't new at all, in fact the new geographic/political separation of Gaza from the West Bank makes it easier to implement. Or you could put it another way. The reason these "huge projects" are only being launched now, and not at the time of the February Action Plan could well be this: At the earlier time, it was possibly seen as too difficult to wall off Fatah/Abbas bailiwick from that of Hamas. And on that line of thinking, the Gaza-WestBank split could be seen as representing a positive factor (planned or unplanned) in the overall American/Israeli scheme.

It is worth noting that apart from the efforts of Conflicts Forum and War in Context (with an honorable mention from Tony Karon), the Action Plan document, important as it is, was boycotted not only by the corporate media but by the "progressive" blogosphere as well.

The point being that the Gaza events are generally seen another catastrophic defeat for the Bush administration (followed by remedial plans such as these seat-of-the-pants economic projects), while in point of fact the events in Gaza could just as well be seen as something (planned or unplanned) facilitating the implementation of a pre-existing plan.


Anonymous Lysander said...

The only problem of this plan (from the neocon point of view) is that to implement it, Israel will have to lift its check points and allow ease of transport for west bank residents. I don't think they're prepared to do that. If they do, even one suicide bomber will make them change their minds again.

Also, the west bank is stuck with the fact of vast settlement blocks, closed off "Jews Only" roads and, of course, the wall.

Since neither Fayadh or Abbas is unprepared to do anything about those problems, the west bankers will know the real deal pretty soon if they don't already.

Therefore, the West Bank will follow Gaza in 1-2 years.

1:47 PM  
Blogger badger said...

Sounds right to me. And on the basic point, Mark Perry at Conflicts Forum also agrees with you. He says:

"So here is what will happen. The United States will fail to deliver. Some money will trickle in, but not nearly enough. The little that does trickle in will be spent unwisely. Israeli may remove some outposts, but only a few, and the settlements will continue to expand and settler roads will continue to be built and Palestinians will continue to die. Israelis will die too. A Palestinian security guard will be trained and it will march smartly through the streets of Ramallah. If it should exchange fire with a militia led by Hamas it will just as smartly be defeated. And if there is an election in “Fatahstine,” Hamas will win, while at the White House, Tony Snow will talk about how the outcome was engineered in Tehran. And nineteen months from now, in the waning days of the Bush Administration — with American foreign policy in tatters — Elliott Abrams and Keith Dayton will proudly stand alongside a smiling President Bush as he honors them, the newest recipients of the Medal of Freedom."

7:30 PM  
Blogger Randal said...

The above points seem valid to me. Between corruption, incompetence and the fact that such bribery is easily seen through, the strategy never succeeds as easily as the best and the brightest always seem to think it will.

Another point that occurs to me is that there are likely to be serious issues here for Egypt in the next few months. If the US/Israeli plan to support the West Bank regime while either re-occupying or besieging Gaza begins to result in (even more) real hardship for Gazans, the Egyptian regime is going to be right in the firing line for the backlash, and could be seriously destabilsed.

3:02 AM  

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