23 April 2008: Background/Questions for Michael Williams Briefing on Palestine donor funding ahead of Ad Hoc Liaison Committee Meeting in London on 2 May
Question 1 - background
In July 2004, the International Court of Justice in its Wall Advisory Opinion, found that the Wall and its regime, including settlements, created an illegal situation. The Court also found that third states, in light of this illegality by Israel, are under an obligation not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the illegal situation.
Subsequent to this Opinion, and in accordance with its findings, donor states in November 2004 refused to fund an Israeli proposed road project which created separate road networks for Palestinians and for Israeli settlers.
There are concerns that some of the current proposed projects, such as the housing projects planned for the Nablus or Ramallah area, will also entail the construction of a separate road network for Palestinians and for Israeli settlers. Or that a proposed project to facilitate tourism into Bethlehem will entail a separate entrance for tourists while leaving in place the separate entrance for Israeli citizens and settlers, and the checkpoint terminal by which Palestinians are forced to undergo humiliating checks and long delays
Q1 i) Does there currently exist a mechanism by which the UK Government ensures that projects it funds or projects funded by intergovernmental organisations of which the UK is a member (UN, the World Bank, or the EU), do not run afoul of the obligations as articulated in the Wall Opinion?
ii) Would HMG implement a Project Impact Assessment for each of the proposed projects to ensure that these projects are in accordance with its legal obligations as articulated in the Wall Opinion and under EU law?
iii) Are you in conversation with your EU colleagues in relation to these obligations and what steps is the EU is taking to ensure that it also complies with these obligations?
Question 2 - background
Some of the recent or current projects under consideration would entail water infrastructure projects serving Israeli settlements, in addition to Palestinian needs (such as the proposed sewage treatment plant in the Wadi Nar ?Bethlehem area), thereby further entrenching Israeli settlement presence. Alternatively, there are water infrastructure projects which would entail the state of Israel providing water sewage treatment services to Palestinian towns but which in reality further increase Palestinian dependency on Israeli good will and only come about because Israel refuses to allow Palestinian proposed projects in Areas C or other areas of the West Bank.
In light of Israel?s practices of cutting fuel and electricity into Gaza, its attempts to link up development projects with settlements, and its refusal to remove obstacles which facilitate settler movement at the expense of Palestinians, Palestinian colleagues are reluctant to have greater dependency upon Israel.
Q2 i) What steps is the UK government taking to ensure that they will not support projects which do not have Palestinian interests at stake and are not either supporting Israeli settlements or creating greater Palestinian dependency on Israel?
ii) What mechanisms are in place to ensure that the Government of Israel as the occupying power does not approve projects that are against the Palestinian people?s interest and further entrench settlements and Palestinian dependency on Israeli good will?
iii) If Israel refuses approval of projects that serve Palestinian interests in building a viable economy and pose no security threat to Israel, what steps will HMG take to ensure that these projects move forward?
iv) What is your policy of deciding which projects should be funded in the face of Israeli opposition to particular projects which are to serve the needs of the Palestinian population? What steps are you taking to ensure that proposed projects, particularly water and other infrastructure projects are not borne of coercion or continued Israel refusal but rather on the basis of decisions by the Palestinian authorities and their needs?
The BBC yesterday reported that Israel continues to block or hinder the entry of supplies for the construction of a proper sewage treatment plant in Gaza. Several Palestinians died last year as a result from drowning in human sewage when the sand walls of the temporary storage site collapsed. The report also suggests the walls could collapse again.
Q3: How are you and the Quartet Envoy Blair going to ensure that this continued obstruction of supplies will end and this sewage treatment plant is completed ASAP?
Question 4 ? background
In January 2005 the Local Aid Coordinating Committee, composed of donor states and international organizations, in its report related to donor mitigation projects, noted that “donor assistance cannot continue to replace the lack of political action on the part of third states to ensure Israel?s compliance with humanitarian law.”
The World Bank, in its May 2007 report, echoed this finding. It noted that the obstacles to movement (both physical and administrative) within the West Bank are to facilitate settler movement between settlements and the state of Israel. It also observed that “it is hard to reconcile the Israeli use of movement and access restrictions for security purposes from their use to expand and protect settlement activity and the relatively unhindered movement of settlers and other Israelis in and out of the West Bank.”
The report goes on to note that settlements have resulted in a) loss of economic space (approximately 50% of the West Bank is off-limits to Palestinians, b) the confiscation of Palestinian land often privately owned, and c) movement restrictions. Since this report, restrictions on Palestinian movement and settlements have increased according to UN OCHA reports.
The report concludes by noting that only through a fundamental reassessment of Israel?s closure and the restoration of the presumption of movement, prior Israeli-Palestinian agreements, can the Palestinian private sector recover and fuel sustainable growth.
Q4 i) Has there been the restoration of the presumption of movement and do facts on the ground support this?
ii) If not, is it a good use of UK taxpayers? money to continue to provide assistance to fund development projects, when the main impediment to Palestinian economic development and assistance ? settlements and the restrictions on movement ? continue to expand on a daily basis?
iii) What steps has the UK government undertaken to ensure Israel?s compliance with international humanitarian law, particularly the prohibition on settlements? And if Israel continues to expand settlements, how can the UK government continue to justify funding development projects, in light of economic and World Bank assessments?
Question 5 - background
The Palestinian Enterprise Learning Fund (ELF) is designed to support the export of goods and services to other Arab countries. It is designed to encourage enterprises to upgrade their capabilities by sharing risk investment in a restricted movement and access regime.
Q5 i) What is the status of this project? Is this being funded in part by DFID, as earlier reports indicate?
ii) If so, does this project run the risk of throwing money at enterprises without addressing the fundamental cause of the lack of Palestinian development as identified by the World Bank in its May 2007 report ? movement restrictions imposed on Palestinians (as described above ?see Question 3)?
Question 6 - background
It is understood that there are agreements related to the agro-industrial park in Jericho, in order to facilitate transportation of goods from the West Bank to Gulf States via Jordan.
Q6 i) Can the UK government explain the status of this project, who is funding it, and what steps are being taken to ensure that Israel?s settlements in the Jordan Valley ? the majority of which are agricultural settlements ? will not derive economic benefit from this project or be one of the beneficiaries?
ii) Would consideration be given to turning over Israeli agricultural settlements in the West Bank to Palestinian enterprises? (either through buy-outs by donor governments or individuals as was done in Gaza).
Such a solution would immediately help the Palestinian economy by 1) bringing an end to the movement restrictions imposed on Palestinians in the Jordan Valley due largely to Israeli settlements 2) end Israel?s unlawful activity of exploiting Palestinian natural resources for economic gain to Israel and its settlements; and 3) enable the expansion of Palestinian agricultural capacity and hence the Palestinian economy?
Question 7 - background
Early reports indicate that plans exist for several industrial parks. Concern has been expressed in the past that such industrial parks will form part of the illegal regime of the wall ? being built into the wall system, as some of the current Israeli designated crossings are.
Q7 i) How will donors ensure that these industrial parks do not form part of the illegal wall and its regime?
ii) What steps are donors, including the UK Government, taking to ensure that the proposed location and/or designation of these industrial zone projects are not a result of Israel?s Wall, settlements and movement restrictions?
The Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has consistently stated that donor projects are not having the desired impact they are intended to because of Israeli policies (closure regime, movement restrictions, expansion of settlements and the wall within the West Bank) and therefore effort should be exerted on changing Israeli policy not spending more money. What will the UK government do to ensure that projects achieve the impact they were intended to provide, in light of these policies?
Can the UK government assure us that UK funding will not be used to upgrade crossings built into the wall situated not on the Green line but within Occupied Palestinian territory, or that funding will not be used to build permanent infrastructure at checkpoints within the West Bank, as per Israel plans?