In his recent piece on the implications of cutting U.S. aid to the Palestinian people (“Wielding Aid Against Democracy,” op-ed, Apr. 6), David DeBartolo demonstrated a rare grasp of the intricacies of aid politics and the importance of far-sightedness and cultural insight in U.S. foreign policy.
As an American Harvard graduate employed by a U.S.-funded program for humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians, I live the new post-Palestinian election reality, in which Palestinians feel rightly proud of holding successful democratic elections (despite an ongoing military occupation) and hopeful that the Hamas-led government can bring a new and more successful approach to internal governance and relations with Israel.
While, like many Palestinians, I am anxious to learn how a Hamas-led government will choose to implement its Islamist party values in the fairly liberal Palestinian society, I also share the widespread conviction that the democratically-elected majority party is the last chance the Palestinians have to create an effective, transparent, and responsive government under the current post-Oslo political structure.
Hamas’s success in government is central to short-term stability for Palestinians. This is also keenly true for Israelis, for the five-year intifada has proven repeatedly that Palestinian militancy is driven by economic instability and social frustration.
If international donors follow through on their threat to cut aid to the Palestinian government, Hamas may be doomed to failure. But, the immediate consequences of an aid cut for the Palestinian people will overshadow the long-term consequences for the Hamas government.
First, there will be a security meltdown, then the majority of Palestinians will find themselves in an intense humanitarian crisis (with shortages of food and medicine), and then there will be social chaos (with youth on the streets, non-functioning schools, social violence rising with unemployment and insecurity, and absence of effective law enforcement).
After a while, the Hamas-led government might collapse. But by that point, the Palestinians will already be in a socio-economic hell—and they will blame their torturous descent not on their government but on the international community that punished them for making a democratic choice.