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THE PALESTINIANS - Dependence On The US.

The Palestinians are deeply dependent on the US for their future. All factions of the leadership, with the exception of the Islamists, realise that they cannot get an agreement or a state without the US having a key role, both in facilitating the talks towards that end, and later in guaranteeing the viability of that state through multiple forms of assistance. Palestinian intellectuals and strategists are aware that they cannot risk alienating the US, and at the same time hope to be able to work out a deal with Israel. Yet, Arafat's leadership appears to be moving in that direction at present.

On Dec. 24, for example, the Palestinian side postponed talks that were to be held to revive the peace process. The two parties had been expected to meet in Jerusalem in ongoing efforts to arrange a summit between Sharon and Qurei and revive the "road map". But it was reported by Reuters, quoting a Palestinian "political source" that "the meeting has been put off in protest at Israel's killing of Palestinians in Rafah", referring to the Dec. 23 raid on the Gaza Strip refugee camp, a militant stronghold. The raid sparked some of the fiercest clashes in two months. The Israeli army said it had uncovered a tunnel there for smuggling arms from neighbouring Egypt.

The Palestinians are also aware that, without US backing for the roadmap, they will have absolutely no leverage with the current right-wing government of Sharon. For his part, Sharon's intention is apparently to complete the construction of the wall - which has been criticised by the US - and separate the two peoples permanently. The wall encroaches into Palestinian territory and, unless the Palestinians become militarily capable of challenging Israel, this means a new border is being drawn in concrete.

The fact that the US has expressed its opposition to the wall is the only thing that is acting as a cautionary note to the Israeli side, with officials having said that the wall would be pulled back once a final agreement is reached. In another signal of support for the Palestinians, on Jan. 1, Secretary of State Colin Powell stated in his resolutions for 2004 that, along with the UN, the EU and Russia, the US "will help Israelis and Palestinians achieve peace, so that a free Palestine will exist alongside a secure and democratic Jewish state in Israel".

The political dependence is coupled with economic dependence. Despite pledges made by the oil-rich Arab states, the Palestinian leadership is well aware that the funds that are disbursed by these countries are not sufficient to keep the economy afloat. The US is a major provider of assistance, having given more than $700 million in aid to the Palestinians since 1996.

In early May 2003, the US announced an additional $50 million in assistance to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. With this $50 million, the US will repair and rebuild critical roads, boosting economic opportunity, increasing access to services, and creating temporary jobs for thousands of Palestinians. The funds will support businesses, including loans for small and medium enterprises that will help them recover from the economic crisis.

The $50 million was in addition to $75 million in US assistance provided in 2003 for assistance programs in the West Bank and Gaza. US funding also supports Palestinian civil reform, including the Palestinian Legislative Council, the Palestinian judiciary and civil society organisations.

It is important to note also that the US does not directly provide any financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority, the Palestine Liberation Organization, or affiliated groups. American financial assistance is provided to contractors and non-governmental organisations in the West Bank and Gaza for specifically identified projects and initiatives.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Fate of the Arabian Peninsula
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Jan 5, 2004
Previous Article:THE PALESTINIANS - The Ground Realities.
Next Article:SAUDI ARABIA - Pax Americana Is Changing - Part 15.

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