Palestine and Western aid
Will it be cut off?
The Israelis ponder their next move in the wake of Palestinian reconciliation
FEW Arab towns collect rubbish as smoothly as Bethlehem. No sooner have the merchants lowered their shutters at the end of the day than the dustmen under the command of Iyad abu Rudeineh are primed to enter its tangle of restored old alleys. Much of this success, he admits, is due to an American road-building project that has eased access. Yet in the wake of a recent reconciliation agreement between Palestine's two main rival parties, the secular Fatah and the Islamist Hamas, he fears that American support may cease. For the United States and many Arab and European countries deem Hamas a terror group. They are prepared to support the Palestinian Authority (PA) run by Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah (pictured), but not if Hamas is involved. By the time the pope visits Bethlehem on May 25th, he may find the streets strewn with rubbish.
很少有阿拉伯城镇会像伯利恒（耶稣降生地）那样平净地回收垃圾。繁忙的一天快结束了，商人们刚想拉下百叶窗打烊，受命于Iyad abu Rudeineh的清洁工人们就会涌进一条条充满活力却混乱的小巷。他认为这种成功归功于美国的道路修建计划，这计划大大消除了道路压力。然而随着近日巴勒斯坦的两个最大竞争党世俗主义的法塔赫与伊斯兰教的哈马斯和解声明公布，他担忧美国将会停止对以支援。究其原因则是美国和许多阿拉伯、欧洲国家将哈马斯视为恐怖组织。他们做好了支持由Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah所领导的巴勒斯坦民族权力机构（又称巴勒斯坦自治政府）的准备，但前提是哈马斯没有牵扯其中。在教皇于五月二十五日访问伯利恒之时，可能他会发现那里遍地垃圾。
The risks are real. Barely two years have passed since America ended its most recent boycott of Bethlehem. That lasted seven years, after its townspeople had elected representatives from two factions designated by America as terror groups to its council. Mr Abu Rudeineh worries that the billboards recently erected hailing the accomplishments of America's aid arm, USAID, could soon look out of date. Palestinian officials say USAID officials cancelled meetings, albeit apologetically, the day after Hamas and Fatah announced their agreement. Congress, the American officials explained, would not let them “finance terror”. Whereas the agreement offers Gazans the prospect that their seaside enclave, run by Hamas, may no longer be boxed in by Israel and Egypt, Mr Abbas's fief in the West Bank, inland, could end up paying the price.
But America has not yet cut ties as a result of the deal. The day that USAID officials cancelled the meeting, the World Bank awarded 13m for wastewater projects and America's secretary of state, John Kerry, hosted a banquet for businessmen to drum up cash for a scheme for investment in Palestine. On the same day, says a senior Palestinian, Barack Obama talked to Mr Abbas for half an hour on the telephone. While new projects may be put on hold, American officials say old ones may continue. A music festival backed by USAID in Jericho, in the Jordan valley, for instance, went ahead.
Israel's government says it wants the West to show “moral clarity” by cutting support for any Palestinian government backed by Hamas, a group that has been responsible for killing more than 1,000 Israelis, many of them civilian.
America's Congress may concur with the Israelis, and cut funds to the Palestinians in response to the Fatah-Hamas deal. But other American officials see a possible benefit if Hamas comes to accept the notion of a two-state settlement with Israel. These Americans argue that Hamas's dire straits in Gaza may enable Mr Abbas to secure an advantageous deal for himself, paving the way for his return to power there. And they fear that past boycotts of Hamas may have deprived Western countries of influence in Gaza and helped the Islamists to tighten their grip there. In any case, says one, it would be good if Europeans and Arabs were to make up the shortfall in aid to the Palestinians, should Congress prompt the American administration to pull out.
So far the Israeli government's response has been more bark than bite. In response to the Fatah-Hamas deal, Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, declared that he was suspending negotiations with Mr Abbas and stopping the transfer of customs revenues which comprise two-thirds of Mr Abbas's PA budget. But he did so only after first allowing the monthly transfer to proceed, nervous lest the PA might collapse without it, thereby stoking general mayhem in the West Bank. Israel, it has been noted, has itself bargained with Hamas in the past, arranging repeated ceasefires with it since 2004.
Some Israelis think that they have something to gain by having Hamas on board. “Political accommodation between the two major Palestinian factions offers Israel the assurance that its negotiating partner has the political legitimacy, even if not the full backing, of the Palestinian people,” says Yonatan Touval of Mitvim, a liberal foreign-policy think-tank in Tel Aviv. Before cutting aid for good, Mr Netanyahu may wait to see who exactly will be in the Palestinians' unity government and what its programme will be—indeed, whether it will happen at all.
一些以色列人认为，拉拢哈马斯会获得相当可观的利益。“巴勒斯坦两大主要派别的政治和解确保了以色列的政治合作伙伴具有合法性和正统性，即使这并非为所有巴勒斯坦人所支持。”一位身处特拉维夫市、名为Yonatan Touval of Mitvim的自由主义外交政策研究者如是说。在切断援助之前，内塔尼亚胡可能会先观察一下组建巴联合政府的都有谁，还有就是这个新组建的联合政府究竟会打什么算盘——确实是这样，不管这一切是否会发生。 译者：许宝明