General Comments on “Quick Impact Projects”
December 10, 2007
A. Threat to Permanent Status Interests
Many of the proposals in the paper directly undermine Palestinian claims to sovereignty in the West Bank, and indirectly support its cantonization. In addition, agreeing to the Israeli-driven security and other ad hoc arrangements in the paper may infringe on Palestinian negotiations positions on key permanent status issues (including Jerusalem, water, borders, security and state-to-state relations). For example, the paper acquiesces to, if not endorses, the present Israeli checkpoint and closure regime and formalises certain checkpoints as borders, without any legal or political safeguards. Such proposals not only run contrary to permanent status positions (for example as regarding the 1967 border), they may become precedents or models for state to state relations in the future between Israel and Palestine.
B. Violations of International Law and Donor Guidelines
Certain proposals involve violations of international law, in particular of the law of occupation. As stated by the ICJ in its decision on the illegality of the wall and associated regime, third states (i.e. donors) have the obligation not to not to “render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by the construction of the Wall” and its associated regime (which includes the restrictions on Palestinian movement and access which relate to the system of the Wall). The PA (MoP) has in the past formulated a policy for donor guidelines for project funding that aim to mitigate the effects of the wall without depriving the Palestinian population from much needed assistance. Many of the proposals are not only contrary to these donor guidelines but are clear violations of the ICJ opinion. For example, the recommendation to establish ?separate lanes? for tourists at checkpoints, or setting up dedicated roads with ?unimpeded access? exclusively for particular projects essentially call upon the donor countries to fund the occupation regime, and are likely to constitute grave violations of customary international law.
C. Israeli ?Security? Precedes Economic development
Israeli ?security? considerations are a primary focus throughout the paper, as a precondition to improvement of the Palestinian economy. The onus is consistently placed on Palestinian side to provide security plans or arrangements, even when it lack the capacity (under existing agreements) or the practical ability (given Israeli policy) to do so. This approach has not worked, and in fact the “security first” approach has been explicitly rejected in the past by both the Palestinian side and the international community (see comment on AMA below) for the obvious reason that economic development and improvement of the daily lives of the population is the key to improving security, not the inverse. Holding Palestinians hostage to arbitrary and unilaterally-proclaimed Israeli security demands actually renders both economy and security worse for all.
D. No Reference to AMA
The paper contains no meaningful reference to the Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA) or the immediate need for its implementation. In fact, the AMA is not even a terms of reference for any of the projects. This is particularly troubling given that the AMA remains a binding agreement on Israel, which was heavily negotiated through the mandate of the Quartet Envoy Wolfensohn, Mr. Blair?s predecessor. It was also brokered and supported by the US government at both the political and technical levels.
E. Selective Reference to Existing Agreements
The paper is often not cognisant of the existing legal and institutional framework established by the Interim Agreements (the Oslo Accords), and only refers to them where convenient. The treatment of areas A, B, and C and their conversion and use is a major illustration of this failing, and allows Israel to pick and choose which parts of the agreements it wishes to impose, all the while applying new ad hoc procedures where convenient.
F. Lack of Strategy and Link to Political Process
The paper lacks an overall strategy for economic recovery and proposes ad hoc and insular projects that apply to discrete areas, while excluding others that may be related. This approach is likely to cause further fragmentation of the oPt into non-contiguous cantons, as demonstrated by the Bethlehem tourism project, where tourism in Bethlehem is cut off from East Jerusalem and the rest of Palestine, to the detriment of future development of the Palestinian tourism sector. Moreover, if the projects are undertaken in the absence of a political process providing some guarantees on the core issues, the de facto imposition of the scenario of non-contiguous autonomous cantons may become the political reality.
G. Other Projects
Several of the projects outlined in the paper are in fact long term projects, with potential early benefits being quite limited ? especially when compared with other potential projects that are not recommended in the report. Some examples of such projects are: electricity infrastructure, fuel for Gaza, the telecommunications sector, development of solar power in the Jordan Valley. It should be noted that the choice of projects to include in the paper seems to be based more on what Israel accepts or has an interest in, rather than on urgent Palestinian needs and policies.
H. General Tone
The overall tone, without making any judgement as to intent, is paternalistic and frequently uses the style and jargon of the Israeli occupation authorities. Some of the terms (eg. ?separate lanes? and ?tourist-friendly checkpoints?) are unacceptable to Palestinians and seem to advocate an apartheid-like approach to dealing with the West Bank.