Julio Godoy
Inter Press Service (IPS)
July 9, 2008 - 4:47pm

International donors have promised to channel more aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA), particularly to strengthen the police and the judiciary.

But the Berlin Conference in Support of Palestinian Civil Security and the Rule of Law failed, as did an aid conference in Paris in December last year, to address the most pressing issues: Palestinian territorial unity, how to deal with the Hamas party that controls Gaza, and to end Israeli occupation and settlements in Palestinian territory.

International donors committed 242 million dollars to finance the judiciary, police, and similar institutions in the West Bank. The area is governed by the PA, which is seen as relatively conciliatory towards Western countries and Israel. The aid announcement does not cover Gaza, in line with efforts to isolate Hamas.

Israel, which withdrew its troops from Gaza in September 2005, has established a near total blockade of the strip after Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007, following its electoral victory a year earlier.

But the new promise of aid does not represent additional cash for the PA either. The money will come out of 7.4 billion dollars pledged by donors at the conference in Paris.

The Berlin conference on Tuesday was attended by delegations from 40 countries, and high-level representatives from international institutions, including the UN, the Arab League and the European Union (EU).

The promised money will be channelled to the PA over the next three years to pay for more police forces, rebuilding destroyed courthouses, training judges, providing vehicles and forensic help, and improving legal facilities at the ministry of justice in the West Bank, German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told media after the conference.

Steinmeier added that the funds would also finance an expansion of the European Union Police Mission in the Palestinian Territories, established in 2005 to train Palestinian police forces.

"The international community is ready to provide for greater security in Palestine and build up a functioning judicial system," he said. "For every dollar we pay for improving the legal system and police force I hope that every dollar will be paid back as an economic dividend to the Palestinian people."

The conferences in Berlin and Paris followed new peace efforts between Israel and the PA, re-launched in Annapolis in the United States last November.

Participants at the Berlin conference agreed that a functioning criminal justice system was fundamental to a solution.

"There will never be a two-state solution just by people sitting in a room negotiating...a state will only be created when people take action to create the reality that allows a state to be credible, credible for the Palestinians...credible for the Israelis," former British prime minister Tony Blair, now EU representative in the Middle East Quartet, said at the conference. The quartet is formed by the UN, the EU, the U.S. and Russia.

"A (Palestinian) state that cannot run its own security is a state only in name," Blair said.

But Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said other measures, such as an immediate freeze on new Israeli settlements, and the dismantling of Israeli checkpoints, were equally vital for a viable state in Palestine.

"There needs to be progress not just on the security front but also on the political side," Fayyad said. But Fayyad praised the meeting as an event that "gave us Palestinians a glimpse of the enthusiastic international consensus that is present in favour of the freedom for all people and the establishment of an independent state of Palestine."

Other participants at the Berlin conference urged the EU and the U.S. to end the isolation of Hamas. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said that peace in the Middle East is impossible without Hamas.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said that "reconciling the Palestinians in Gaza and the government of Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank" was critical for peace, and that the international "veto" on their relations had to be lifted.

But the U.S. government reinforced its stance of refusing to negotiate with Hamas. "You cannot have peace if there is not a partner who respects the right of the other partner to exist," said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The Israeli government agreed a ceasefire Jun. 19 in the Gaza Strip following mediation by Israel. That lasted until Tuesday, when Israeli reports said Hamas militants launched rockets at targets in Israel. After the rocket attacks, the Israeli government again closed the border checkpoints, stopping any further delivery of goods to the Palestinian territory.

The Middle East quartet has urged that the ceasefire be respected. The quartet said it was looking forward to increased humanitarian flows through Gaza crossings -- under the management of the Palestinian Authority -- following Israel's promise to ease its blockade. It also expressed its "strong support for the steady and sufficient supplies of fuel to Gaza and for the resumption of stalled UN and other donor projects there."


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