Hope and Change? U.S. makes $900 million pledge to Gaza

February 24, 2009

Yesterday, the U.S. State Department leaked an upcoming pledge of $900 million to reconstruct Gaza and support the Palestinian Authority.  No money will pass through Hamas but will be filtered through non-governmental organizations.  I applaud this assistance but question the effectiveness of aid without negotiations and opening the borders.
Daniel Levy, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and an Israeli citizen, wonders whether money will pass into Gaza at all:

“The next step is opening the border crossings, and that requires more than just signing a check.”

The irony, of course, is that the US is supplying aid to victims of US made weapons.  The U.S. has been trading arms with Israel while donating to Palestinian reconstruction.  In fact, the Obama administration has continued Bush’s pledge of $30 billion in military assistance to Israel over the next 10 years.   There are no investigations into whether US weapons were used in the recent conflict to harm civilians.  And given that the US refuses to speak to the governing power in Gaza,   who, then, can be held accountable?  And how?
These structural obstacles to the $900 million pledge present a challenge for the Obama administration.  Levy goes on to analyze this:

“There are structural flaws – not least, that Israelis and Palestinians cannot negotiate the core issues alone and need an outside broker and that Palestinian statehood cannot be incubated under Israeli occupation. The very structure of the peace process has become a disincentive for peace itself. There now exists an opportunity to do away with the illusion, even if the danger also exists that events may take a more violent, confrontational and bloody turn.
A different approach would require the US conducting back-to-back talks with the Israeli side and with a Palestinian (or Palestinian plus Arab states) interlocutor, in which one attempts to address the key legitimate needs and concerns of each party. It will be the role of the US and international partners to produce a proposal and implementation plan.”

That’s not to say that aid is not needed:

“Two separate Palestinian surveys have put the cost of the damage at just under $2bn.” – the BBC reports.

But maybe the problem’s too big for a check—no matter how large or generous-to fix.  Nonetheless I am cautiously optimistic about this overture from the US and I hope the US follows up by pressing Israel to open up the borders so that aid can enter without hindrance.

Co-written by Zahir Janmohamed and Ally Krupar