Someone − probably from the Israeli government since Washington doesn’t have an ambassador in Tel Aviv worthy of such a title − should send Nikki Haley, the United States’ ambassador to the United Nations, or Donald Trump himself, a video of the end of the school day in Gaza. There are so many children in the Gaza Strip that most schools have to organize two separate exits, sometimes even three, so that all those kids will fit. At the beginning and the end of the school day, a swarm of children that seems to come out of nowhere takes over the streets of Gaza. Dozens and dozens of Palestinian children, the future. Many of them are refugees, children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren of refugees, who came from villages that have been literally wiped off the map in what is today Israel. These children go to schools set up by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. Trump and Haley have threatened this agency, and the Palestinian National Authority in general, with a withdrawal of economic support if the Palestinians don’t return to the negotiating table, which has been empty since 2014 (figuratively speaking).
Putting aside the obvious fact that blackmail doesn’t tend to be the best way of building trust between two parties to a conflict (at least not when it’s done so blatantly and via Twitter), one doesn’t have to be a genius to figure out what would happen to the schools and the children who study in them if the U.N. relief agency was left without funds.
Aid and Assistance
Aside from its contribution to the U.N. coffers, the United States earmarks $400 million for Palestine every year, a sum that is divided between its cooperation agency (USAID) and direct aid to the PNA. With this money (and the money from the rest of the international community) the PNA offers services and pays salaries, the U.N. relief agency alleviates the miserable living conditions of the refugees, and dozens of international and Palestinian non-profit organizations carry out dozens of projects.
It’s thanks to this network of aid, assistance to refugees and direct help to the PNA that the economic and social situation in the occupied territories isn’t worse than it is. Or, for that matter, more explosive. Besides, even though this isn’t its goal, the system allows Israel to avoid its administrative responsibilities as occupying force (educating the children of Gaza, for example), allows the Palestinians to consume Israeli products, like a captive audience, and allows the Palestinian security forces to do the dirty work for them in the West Bank.
Trump and Haley’s threats prove, once again, their ignorance of, or indifference to, the dynamics of the Middle East. Beyond blackmail, they have to pay attention to the way things are headed: a break with the status quo, the sidelining of the Palestinians and the PNA pushed into a corner and humiliated with nothing to offer and nothing to lose. It’s not in the best interests of Israel, which always uses the status quo to its advantage, to be left without something like a Palestinian National Authority on the other side of the wall. Sometimes, there are friends who kill.