The Bush Administration, which at one time claimed it was actually seeking a way of providing assistance to Palestinians in dire economic straits, seems to have changed its tune. According to the NY Times, a European plan to channel aid through the World Bank has run afoul of the U.S. Treasury Department’s sanctions against banks which do business with Hamas. Apparently, no bank is willing to run the risk of being declared an aider and abettor of terrorism and face the subsequent legal and business sanctions:
The Europeans have proposed that the World Bank set up a “mechanism” through which donations from Europe and the Arab world can get to the Palestinians.
But American and European officials say that might violate American sanctions laws, which could lead to penalties against any bank that allows a transfer of money to employees in a Hamas government, even if the transaction is overseen by the World Bank.
“This is a nasty situation,” said a European diplomat, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the issue. “No bank wants to run afoul of American banking laws and get shut down by the Treasury Department.”
The United States Treasury has barred almost all financial dealings with the Palestinian Authority in response to Hamas’s rise to power, under a federal law that makes it a crime to provide funds to terrorist groups…
Faced with criticism from Arab countries, the United States joined with Russia, Europe and the United Nations in early May on a plan to speed aid to the Palestinians, bypassing the Hamas government.
But as negotiations on the plan proceeded, a rift opened between the Bush administration and its allies in the Middle East negotiating process. The World Bank is now caught in the middle, various officials said.
The bank president, Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary in President Bush’s first term, has told European negotiators that he wants to help the Palestinians but that the bank has not received adequate guidance from the United States and the Europeans about where the money is to go.
“The World Bank would like to facilitate the delivery of assistance that a number of donors are eager to provide, so that the Palestinian people do not suffer from a lack of social services, particularly health and education,” Mr. Wolfowitz said Wednesday.
I find the italicized phrase laughable. Paul Wolfowitz wants to help the Palestinians about as much as Aipac does. In fact, he’s a certified member of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington (“Wolfowitz is considered by many political analysts a neoconservative…known for his passionate pro-Israel advocacy.” —Wikipedia). I don’t believe for a second what he says here. He’s merely using the issue of “lack of guidance” as a convenient excuse for inaction.
This is closer to what Wolfowitz actually believes:
European officials charge that there is a real humanitarian crisis because of the aid cutoff, and some say the Bush administration may actually be seeking to block funds in order to promote chaos and eventually bring down the Hamas government. Bush administration officials strongly deny the accusation.
“There is no humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territories,” the senior administration official said. “There is a political and security crisis, and the Hamas government has to make some responsible decisions about how to handle it.” The best way, he said, would be for Hamas to reject violence and recognize Israel.
This statement alone illustrates perfectly why the Bush Administration will never and can never play a constructive role in bringing the parties together for a peace negotiation. It is hopelessly compromised by such lunatic, divorced-from-reality views which have, as their sole basis, a deep, pro-Israel bias.
The “senior administration official” quoted above clearly subscribes to the Dov Weisglass approach to the current Palestinian crisis (“It’s like a meeting with a dietitian. We need to make the Palestinians lose weight, but not to starve to death.”). Utterly cynical and diabolical. While I have no control over Dov Weisglass’ twisted views and utterances, I am utterly disgusted that my own government is endorsing them lock stock and stinking barrel.
Every academic and humanitarian study about the current situation in the Territories notes the dire nature of the need; the hunger; the impending health crisis; the descent into abject poverty. Yet our blinkered officials can see “no humanitarian crisis.” Makes you sick to your stomach and ashamed to say you’re an American.