The last month of 2017 was a significant one for Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). On December 6, U.S. President Donald Trump formally recognized occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. To be sure, Trump’s announcement confirmed America’s longstanding role as sponsor and protector of Israeli interests. Still, after decades of obfuscation, the declaration was a dramatic and official renunciation of the United States’s status as broker of “just” peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Doubling down on Trump’s declaration, on January 2, the Knesset passed a law requiring a two-thirds supermajority of lawmakers to approve withdrawing from any part of occupied Jerusalem. The de-colonization of East Jerusalem is necessary to any future peace deal between Israel and the PA based on the two-state solution. This legislation would make that nearly impossible.
In December, the Israeli government also continued its incremental efforts to annex Israeli colonies in the West Bank. On December 31, the central committee of the ruling Likud party approved a draft resolution to impose Israeli sovereignty over West Bank settlements. In the meantime, Israel persists in its colonization of the oPt and suppression of popular protest.
For its part, over the years, the politically irrelevant PA has done more to crack down on grassroots movements than protect them. According to recent opinion polls, a majority of Palestinians in the oPt have little to no confidence that PA President, Mahmoud Abbas, can even minimally represent national interests. Most want Abbas to resign, while an increasing number see the PA as all together more of a burden than an asset. While an alternative (or shared political horizon) may be unclear at this time, the status quo cannot persist in Palestine.
As Palestinians look for ways to regenerate their national liberation movement, it is time to abandon the Oslo framework, especially its financial structure. Since the signing of the Oslo Accord in September 1993, global powers and institutions have funneled billions of dollars in aid into the oPt. Framed as a means of investing in peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the money was meant to establish institutions and national infrastructure, promote “democracy,” and foster socio-economic development in the oPt. Under Oslo, the PA also receives direct budgetary support from the international community, with the bulk of funding going towards buttressing its security apparatus.
In reality, international aid has created a developmental-technocratic model in the oPt that emphasizes security, institution building, and minor improvements in living conditions while ignoring the settler-colonial dynamics driving political realities on the ground. Instead of holding Israel accountable for its crimes, empowering Palestinian institutions, and working towards decolonization, international aid has fortified a donor economy that deepens relations of dependency and ultimately serves to reconfigure Israel’s military regime.
Alaa Tartir, Program Director of al-Shabaka and a research fellow at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, recently published an op-ed in Middle East Eye that echoes the growing call to abandon the aid industry in Palestine once and for all. The piece also provides an up-to-date overview of the flow and distribution of international funds, major donors, and the way money works to pacify Palestinians and prolong the conflict:
Aid flows over the decades resulted in entrenchment of aid dependency and deepened the structural deficiencies and distortions in the Palestinian economy, which stripped the Palestinian people of power to resist colonialism, apartheid and oppression.
This conventional wisdom is as follows: the US decides, the World Bank leads, the EU pays, the UN feeds, and Israel destroys. Laying the Oslo Accords aid model to rest necessitates creating a new equation and formula where Palestinians are in the driving seat, and where accountability, transparency and effectiveness are centered in its core.