Making Democracy Work

November 14, 2006

In a bid to reclaim Western aid, authorities in the Palestine have made steps forward toward a unitary government.

Aid to Israel was cut off when Hamas was elected to the Palestinian government; Israel, Western Countries and the Arab League, all stopped funds transfers to the Palestinian Authority, leaving civil servants without pay and leaving the area economically devastated. The new unitary government is likely to be headed by a scholar, Mohammed Shabir, who is not politically affiliated but is close to Hamas.

Work on establishing a unitary government quickly went ahead after last week’s fatal week which peaked with the bombing at Beit Hanoun in the Gaza strip. The Hamas leadership made it clear that it would give place to a unitary government if that meant getting aid back to Palestine: Israel owes Palestine about $60 million a month, which is collected as a tax.

Over the weekend, the Arab League decided it would recommence fund transfers to the Palestinian Authority as a result of the Beit Hanoun killings of 19 innocent civilians. The real test for the Palestinians, though, is getting Western aid back.

The sad part in all this is that aid was blocked because of a democratically elected faction. Instead of having civil servants working to make the democracy work, the West is only promoting radicalism by leaving those servants without pay. And unwilling or not, the civilian casualties don’t help either, especially with an Israeli Prime Minister who expresses regret only to add that similar incidents “may happen” yet again.

And then, none other than the US vetoes a UN Security Council Resolution condemning Israel’s conduct in Beit Hanoun.