The Star (Editorial)
December 19, 2007 - 3:42pm

Canada and the world have just cast a vote of confidence in the Mideast peace process by pledging $7.4 billion in aid to the Palestinians at a donors conference in Paris. The show of generosity surprised Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who had asked for $2 billion less.

But as the Canadian government rightly cautioned, Ottawa's pledge of $300 million to the Palestinians over five years is not unconditional. "We will need to see demonstrable progress in negotiations by both sides" toward establishing a Palestinian state in 2008, warned Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier.

It is a theme U.S. President George Bush will no doubt reinforce when he makes his first trip to Israel and the West Bank next month, hoping to nudge forward the peace process he relaunched several weeks ago at Annapolis. Abbas can count on getting $2 billion in 2008. That should strengthen his administration, ease Palestinian suffering, provide a potent financial incentive to curb terror attacks on Israel and undercut the popularity of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. But the rest of the cash will depend on how Palestinian/Israeli peace talks go.

Moreover, the World Bank has warned that even $7 billion in aid over the next three years can't substitute for rebuilding Palestinian economic prospects. The bank has urged Israel to ease stifling restrictions on movement and trade that cost the $5 billion Palestinian economy $8.4 billion between 2000 and 2005, or $1.4 billion a year, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

Today, under Hamas, Gaza remains sealed off from Israel and Egypt. Communications, trade, cash flows, power and fuel are disrupted. And on the West Bank, Israel's separation barrier and other security restrictions make it difficult for Palestinians to conduct business.

What is urgently needed is an easing of Israel's security measures, in tandem with stringent Palestinian police measures to thwart terrorists from exploiting any let-up by Israel. As long as bombers threaten Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Israelis will not lower their guard.

The money pledged in Paris is, in effect, the down payment on a stable Palestinian state living in peace with Israel in a larger economic space. Both sides should put the cash to good use, suppressing terror, promoting trade and encouraging the forces of moderation.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017