The Situation in the Palestinian Territories


NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

FOR ORAL REPLY

QUESTION NO: 65

PUBLISHED IN INTERNAL QUESTION PAPER NO 17 OF 12 JUNE 2006

Dr A N LUTHULI (ANC) TO ASK THE MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS:

(1) What is the situation in the Palestinian territories and;
(2) What will be the consequences of the European Union, United States and Israel not recognising the democratically-elected Hamas government and;
(3) Withholding monies due to Palestinians from Israel?

N662E

REPLY:

Part I

The South African Government is very concerned about the continued deterioration of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and especially in the Gaza Strip, as a result of the escalation of violence and the unfolding humanitarian crisis. The unprecedented military attacks on Palestinians by Israel including its continued campaign of extra judicial assassinations, have resulted in extensive human casualties and the destruction of much needed infrastructure.

The reaction of the of the international community to the stand taken by the Palestinian Government, following the formation of a Hamas led Government, and the demands placed on the Palestinians and their leadership on how to pursue their goals, has placed a great deal of pressure on the Palestinian leadership. This has dramatically increased rivalry and tensions between Hamas and Fatah. Since the deployment of a new security entity by Hamas there has been an increase in armed clashes on the streets of Gaza. These clashes have also been exacerbated by the lack of payment of salaries of civil servants and security officers.

Part II and Part III

There are a number of developments since the outcome of the democratic elections that took place in Palestine on 25 January 2006, that have contributed to this dire situation. Key among these:
a. The outcome of the elections has resulted in a cessation of aid from the key donor countries from within the international community, upon which the Palestinian Government and society is heavily reliant. This has led to a near collapse of the Palestinian economy and infrastructure.
b. Secondly, the decision of the Quartet (i.e. EU, Russia, the USA and the UN) not to provide financial assistance to the Palestinian people through the new Hamas-led Government till the latter complies with the Quartet's conditions has contributed substantially to the hardship of the Palestinian people
The withholding of monies due to the Palestinians from Israel is exacerbating an already dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This measure has the potential to seriously damage all economic and social infrastructure that the Palestinian people have been able to maintain in difficult circumstances over the past years. Such a collapse is not in the interest of any party and could contribute to further violence resulting from a feeling of despair.

South Africa, as a proponent of democracy could not challenge the consequences of a democratic process. The South African Government therefore welcomed the democratic process that took place in Palestine on 25 January 2006, as it was a clear expression of the will of the people of Palestine. The South African Government is furthermore of the opinion that the elections in Palestine and in Israel offer a new opportunity for the leadership of both sides to take forward the Middle East peace process and we have and will continue to urge all interested parties in turn to recognise the democratically elected government of Palestine.

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