Thursday, July 2, 2009
Does Foreign Aid Fuel Palestinian Violence?
Middle East Quarterly, by Steven Stotsky On December 17, 2007, eighty-seven countries and international organizations met in Paris and pledged to provide $7.4 billion over three years to the Palestinian Authority (PA), an amount far in excess of any previous level of U.S. or European aid to the Palestinians. The conference participants justified the aid as a means of providing "immediate support to the entire Palestinian population," and as a reward intended to strengthen those Palestinians who favor peaceful coexistence with Israel.
In the midst of the effort in Paris to bestow unprecedented sums of foreign aid on the Palestinians, there was little discussion of the unintended consequences — often deadly ones — of previous aid regimens. The recent history of foreign assistance shows a distinct correlation between aid and violence. Perhaps aid itself does not cause violence, but there is strong evidence that it contributes to a culture of corruption, government malfeasance, and terrorism that has had lethal consequences for both Israelis and Palestinians over the past decade.
The Paris conference aid package continues fifteen years of international funding that has established the Palestinians as one of the world's leading per capita recipients of foreign support (see Table 1). Figures published by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development for 2005 show that Palestinians received $304 per person in foreign aid, second only to the war-torn Republic of Congo among entities with populations larger than one million. Unlike the Congo, though, the Palestinians have received such subsidies for decades.
Table 1 Largest Recipients of Humanitarian Aid per Capita, 2005(with populations exceeding one million) Entity: Aid per capita (US$) Republic of Congo: 362 West Bank and Gaza: 304 Timor-Leste: 189 Nicaragua: 144 Serbia and Montenegro: 140 Jordan: 115 Macedonia: 113 Source: Calculations based on data fromWorld Bank Development Indicators Data Base, 2005
Amidst the internal turmoil of 2006 and 2007, aid to the Palestinians increased by more than 50 percent, and in July 2007 the Israeli government handed over $300-400 million in import taxes it had collected on behalf of the PA. This revenue windfall came despite the 2005 warning by George Abed, head of the Palestinian Monetary Authority, that "if you poured in a lot of financing at this time, it would not have a big impact. It would not be very effective … It would be wasted." International organizations and diplomats acknowledge Palestinian misuse and diversion of aid money, but they remain reluctant to study the deeper implications of how such aid affects Palestinian political culture.
An examination of key measures of violence reveals a troublesome correlation between the number of homicides committed by Palestinians and the level of funding provided to the Palestinian Authority. As aid to the Palestinian government increased, there was a corresponding increase in the number of people, both Israeli and Palestinian, killed by Palestinians. The correlation between aid and homicide statistics does not mean that foreign aid causes violence, but it does raise a question about whether the flow of aid to the Palestinian government has helped fuel Palestinian violence and hindered efforts to restore calm.
Correlating Aid and Violence
Figures 1 and 2 (see below) illustrate how the number of homicides and level of donor aid correlate.
The graphs show that increased aid to the PA after the start of the second intifada in September 2000 precipitated an increase in the Palestinian murder rate of both Israelis and Palestinians in 2001 and 2002. After June, 2002, Israeli countermeasures against Palestinian terrorism, such as checkpoints and targeted killings of terrorist leaders, began to reduce the number of Israeli dead. By August 2003, the first portion of Israel's security barrier was in place, leading to a rapid decrease in Israeli fatalities. While Israel's new security measures reduced the number of Israeli victims, factional and societal violence increased the number of Palestinian victims. By counting both Palestinian and Israeli victims, the correlation between increased aid and violence continued into 2007.
The correlation between aid and terrorism murders becomes even stronger when the amount of aid given in one year is compared to the number of terrorist murders the following year (Figure 2). The lag between increased aid and increased homicides suggests a cause and effect association. However, when comparing the number of attempted terrorist attacks against Israelis with the level of aid, the correlation is stronger, without introducing any time lag (Figure 3).
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