Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Swell timing

The European Union, in a burst of confidence in Hamas, Fatah and everyone else in Gaza, has decided to resume the sending of aid to the Palestinian Authority, despite the fact that none of the conditions laid down after the Hamas electoral victory had been fulfilled.

With astonishingly accurate timing the aid was resumed on the day that yet another cease-fire between Hamas and Fatah collapsed. To be fair to the EU, any day on which the aid was going to be resumed would have seen the collapse of another cease-fire.

Al-Jazeera gives the following account of what happened in this last bout of fighting:
Officials confirmed to Al Jazeera that four people had been killed and at least 15 injured in one incident at Beit Hanoun hospital in northern Gaza.

Nour Odeh, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Gaza, said the gun fight "began outside the hospital and extended inside the hospital ... where many of the wounded were already receiving treatment".

In the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, Jamal Abu al-Jedian, a co-founder of Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, was killed in a Hamas assault on his house.

His home was attacked after a Hamas fighter was killed.

"Help us. They want to kill us," a woman inside the house pleaded earlier in a telephone call to a radio station.

Jedian's brother was also seized by Hamas fighters and was later found dead, Fatah officials said.

In a separate incident, at least three Palestinians were killed in a clash in a refugee camp in Gaza City.
While it is not precisely true that aid had been suspended for this year, as money had been going into Gaza through various “humanitarian organizations” with none being accounted for, this latest decision means that the Palestinian Authority and its various sections do not have to worry at all about such mundane matters as running a country, which is what Gaza is.

It seems that money is not going to be given directly to Hamas officials as that organization is on the list of terrorist ones but to individual members of the Authority, such as Salam Fayyad, who has already expressed the opinion that the PA finances were a great big black hole.
The EU's financial assistance begins with a four million euro ($5m) project intended to ensure "that Palestinian taxpayers' money is spent efficiently and that all expenditures are accounted for to the highest international standards".

The money will be paid in installments until June 2009 and Ernst & Young, the international accountancy firm, will provide training to the PA as part of the project.
We shall watch this with interest, not least whether Ernst & Young will manage to get some notion of accountability installed into the Palestinian authorities.

Nevertheless, given the chaos that Gaza has been ever since it has been ruled by the Palestinian Authority, one cannot help wondering whether it is such a good idea to give aid either directly, indirectly or in the form of “technical training”, which has been tried before and failed. Money is, after all, fungible and if the EU provides subsidies for hospitals, for example, the PA does not need to think of finding money itself. In fact, the last thing that seems to be on anybody’s mind is economic development and the building of a functioning state. More aid will probably exacerbate that situation.


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