Accueil > Rubriques > Paix et Justice - Géopolitique > If you ring the alarm bell, there will be no dinner : Salam Fayyad’s (...)

Source : Ma’an

If you ring the alarm bell, there will be no dinner : Salam Fayyad’s Letter to the EU

by Akram Atallah Alayasa

mardi 17 juin 2008

The Palestinian Authority (PA) employs around 150,000 people, serving in all public sectors, health, education, police, and so on. The end of each month, for the vast majority of these people, especially the ones with very low income (1500-4000 NIS), is almost a nightmare. They are never sure if they will get their salaries and if they get them in time. This complicates their life economically, and affects all social aspects of the Palestinian family, whose suffering is magnified with the increases of prices of the most basic goods.

Between 1967 -1993, before the PA took over the civil and political authority in Palestine as mandated by the Oslo accords, no Palestinian could be employed in the public sector if he was not approved in advance by the Israeli security agencies. Today, the equation has become more sensitive and more dangerous. Now, the good behavior of Palestinian officials, as judged from an Israeli official viewpoint, is what decides whether salaries will be paid to Palestinian workers. The message Israel sends to Palestinian officials is clear : If you ring the alarm bell, there will be no dinner.

Recently, Israel has released $180 million of an expected $250 million of Palestinians tax money. There is no obvious reason for this except Israel’s attempt to ensure its control over Palestinians.

After the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006, the donor countries, including the rich Arab countries, withheld all financial assistance to the PA. The justification was that Hamas, who won the elections, is a “terrorist” organization. The all-too broad definition of “terrorism” was applied to Hamas, because, among other things, of its refusal to recognize the establishment of Israel. As a result, the salaries of Palestinian public employees were not paid for over a year. Another problem was that of Palestinian tax money. This is gathered by Israel as a part of its duties under the Oslo agreement. But this tax money has also become a tool of political pressure, used on the Palestinians until today.

The problems related to this tax money date back to the beginning of the second Intifada. Back then ; with Hamas still in the shadows, the allegations were that Yasser Arafat funded Palestinian “militias” using this money. These problems dragged on through the days of Mahmoud Abbas and Ahmad Quria’ as prime ministers under Arafat. By the presidential elections of 2005, and in the shadow of Arafat’s death, Israel owed the PA $500 million in tax money. Israel, after those elections, used all kinds of arguments for not paying its debt. Israel argued that Abbas treated Hamas with “a gentle sense,” or my all-time favorite, “did not do enough to stop terrorism.” This was Israel’s way of saying : “Abbas does not deserve this money because he did not lead his country into civil war.” This is the status that Israel wanted the Palestinians to be in ; a state of civil war, where we accept the occupation without naming it.

Now, Dr. Salam Fayyad did not send the EU anthrax in the mail, however Israel would not have been as alarmed and upset as it was, if he did. He wrote to the EU explaining the situation on the ground to the donors. He wrote saying that Israel has continued building settlements and expanding existing ones, in more than a hundred locations in the West Bank. He explained that 847 new settler houses were built in existing settlements after the Annapolis conference last November. In addition, 185 Palestinian houses were demolished and the number of checkpoints in the west bank has reached 600 after the conference.

Dr. Fayyad also spoke of Israel’s neglect of the international court’s advisory opinion concerning the Israeli segregation wall in 2004. The ruling was that the wall was illegal according to the international law and so was the land confiscations in the west bank. He said that if the EU was to strengthen its relations with Israel at this moment in time, the Palestinians could only analyze this as a reward for what is illegal, considering the Israeli violations.

Since Hamas took control over Gaza strip in 2007, and the formation of Dr. Fayyad’s transitional government, the latter has focused most of its attention upon complying with the international donors’ demands. This government stepped even further and complied with some Israeli demands. These steps, although were considered compromises by most Palestinian parties, were the only way in which the most minor margin of prosperity and security can be achieved for the Palestinian people.

On the internal front, Fayyad’s government was able to achieve numerous crucial changes in the anarchy that was the Ministry of Finance. Improvements were made concerning the collecting of taxes and customs in the west bank although minor and inconsistent. However, the most crucial change that this government has tried to make is the establishment of security, of some shape, for Palestinians. Although much could be said about the urgency and the priority of the made changes, it is not the purpose of this article to address this subject.

After the reestablished Palestinian police presence in Nablus took place, Israel was still not satisfied. Israel tried to downplay the move and the effort, so did many Palestinian parties, to discourage the young government. Israel even took its argument further on the ground invading the city multiple times to establish new obstacles in the way of the new move. Perhaps this was done for the sake of embarrassing Fayyad and his government in front of the Palestinian people. Through a discussion with a friend, a foreigner, about the subject he described the move as a “plastic surgery”, while the Israelis wanted a deeper “procedure.” Did “deeper procedure” mean killings, arrests and a few fake busts of fake “terrorists” here and there ? That is a great mix for a civil war. Through its neglect of international law and of its agreements with the Palestinians, Israel shows that its last concern is Palestinians safety or well-being, neither is it interested in a just peace process with the Palestinians.

An Americanized mind might say that all the previously mentioned is an attempt to establish trust and basis for peace, not to mention a “peaceful, democratic Palestinian society." On this level, and at this point in time, Palestinians are profoundly not fond of such overly clichéd vocabulary. However, what puzzles me most is the answer sought after by such minds. These thinkers might have been hoping for another cover up, but this time from the side of the Palestinians. They could have hoped for Fayyad to write in his letter that there were 30 checkpoints in stead of 600, or that Huwwara and Wadi An-Nar checkpoints have been removed. Perhaps a simple lie about how Hebron is made more peaceful by the settlers and their army bodyguards. A simple lie about the presence of actual food in Gaza would have probably done the trick, or maybe if Fayyad denied the fact that 8-year old settler children are carrying semi-automatic weapons.

Away from sarcastic remarks, it would not be an exaggeration if I said that probably a lot of Israelis still want Palestinians as slaves, or maybe servants. Many might want to choke us to death with poisonous gases like in Nil’in and Umm Salamona, along with all those who stand by us. While many others want to butcher Gaza’s children whenever a homemade missile is launched from Gaza. However, all Israelis consider us terrorists if we stand by our neighbors when their houses are being demolished. They, the very same ones, consider us rude if we don’t smile to a soldier who’s humiliating us on one of the endless checkpoints all over the West Bank.

The Israelis make the judgment, on the anthrax-free letter from the Palestinian prim minister to the EU, as uncivilized. The outcome is to freeze Palestinian tax money because the man responsible for the well-being of Palestinians refused to call their lives prosperous while they are pitiful.