Palestine and Palestinians: A Very Political Economy: Peacebuilding and Foreign Aid in the West Bank and Gaza

By Sullivan, Denis J. | The Middle East Journal, Spring 2001 | Go to article overview

Palestine and Palestinians: A Very Political Economy: Peacebuilding and Foreign Aid in the West Bank and Gaza


Sullivan, Denis J., The Middle East Journal


A Very Political Economy: Peacebuilding and Foreign Aid in the West Bank and Gaza, by Rex Brynen. Washington, DC: US Institute of Peace, 2000. 229 pages. Notes to p. 268. Index to p. 287. $19.95 paper.

Reviewed by Denis J. Sulllivan

Peace is not merely made; it also must be built. And foreign assistance, despite all the appropriate criticisms that one can muster against it, can help in the construction and development of that peace. Rex Brynen has favored readers with an insightful analysis of how a flawed process that has yet to make peace between Israelis and Palestinians nevertheless is, through international assistance, building peace. Sometimes this assistance has an impact in one area (e.g., halting the deterioration in the Palestinian economy) while there is little "progress" in another area (e.g., movement toward final status agreements between Israelis and Palestinians). The obvious conclusion is that "truly sustainable development in Palestine can come only with peace" (p. 222).

Yet, Brynen goes far beyond the obvious to expose the multilayered "development 'mosaic' in Palestine": a place of limited natural resources (land and water especially), an explosive rate of population growth, economic dependency on Israel (and the resulting subservience to Israeli policy whims, primarily border closures), cor-ruption among Palestinian leaders, political patronage, and public-sector weaknesses (including a bloated bureaucracy already in the pre-state period).

Enter the world community to help improve this picture and the bottom line is: without such assistance, Palestine would certainly be worse off today than it was in 1993. Yet, Brynen also leads readers to conclude: shame on the world community for exacerbating certain inequities and-- especially-for ignoring some of the more obvious problems (e.g., Israeli policies especially, primarily border closures). Donor policies "sometimes aggravated the very problems that donor programs sought to address.... [D]onor support could reinforce the fragmentation of the Palestinian Authority, with different donor agencies each supporting competing institutions.... [D]onors avoided problematic sectors [agriculture] thus compounding the weakness of those sectors by starving them of needed resources, [which] tended only to further deter donor support" (p.

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