POURING MONEY DOWN LEBANON AND GAZA'S DRAINS AND TUNNELS
Lebanon and Gaza's five million population continue to enjoy international largesse on a scale not offered to hundreds of millions racked by Aids, hunger, starvation or conflict in many of the world's numerous trouble spots.
$30 billion in reconstruction and humanitarian aid has already been given to Lebanon and Gaza. This is in addition to the $20 billion shelled out to the Palestinians by UNWRA over the last 58 years.
A further $1.7 billion in international aid has now been promised to repair the latest damage and destruction there following two unprovoked attacks into Israel by terrorist elements operating freely, openly and without Government constraint in both Lebanon and Gaza.
The donors have sent a clear signal to Lebanon and Gaza that they will continue to be compensated for, rather than suffer the consequences of, aggression against Israel emanating from their territory.
One shudders to think what the 15000 United Nations peacekeepers will also be costing during their sojourn in Lebanon and how that money could have been more wisely spent if the current conflict had not erupted.
The world's donations to Lebanon and Gaza have been an unmitigated disaster.
Given freely and generously and with the best of intentions, donors have never sought to attach any strings or demand full and open accountability.
This has allowed a climate of corruption and nepotism to flourish and to create a cargo cult mentality that has done nothing to help the man in the street to make a better life for himself and his family. It has helped prolong conflict in the region rather than resolving it.
Mohammed Dahlan, the former Palestinian Authority Interior Minister aptly summed up the situation when he said that the funds given to the Palestinians "have gone down the drain and we don't know to where." [Guardian 2 August 2004]
It is a safe bet that this latest infusion of money will also end up being either unaccounted for or spent on reconstruction that will yet once more come crashing to the ground in a pile of rubble when the next clash inevitably occurs between Israel and its' two frontline enemies.
It is now time for the world to reflect on the futility of continuing such unprecedented generosity at the expense of others equally, if not far more, deserving.
Donors need to direct their aid funds to other parts of the world where the money may have a lasting and more beneficial effect assisting people crying out for help who are continuously ignored or receive a mere pittance in aid that often arrives too late.
International donors pouring billions of dollars into the Middle East to repair the consequences of conflict is a complete waste of money whilst the region remains in a state of ongoing belligerence.
This is guaranteed to continue as the Arab League presses its demands for
(i) the return of every square centimetre of land lost by Jordan and Egypt to Israel in 1967 and
(ii) the right of return to Israel - the 22% of former Palestine not now under exclusive Arab control - by former Arab residents of that area.
These non-negotiable demands make any international attempts to end the conflict not worth the effort as President Clinton painfully discovered at Camp David in 2000.
These demands have destroyed the Oslo Peace Process and the Quartet's Road Map. They have completely nullified United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 which recognised that Israel's boundaries would never again be those defined by the armistice lines existing prior to 1967.
The world's four most powerful men - Messrs Bush, Putin ,Chirac and Annan - have been exposed as diplomatic eunuchs in the face of the Arab League's uncompromising stance on these two issues.
Until this intransigent mind set is changed, the continued granting of financial aid will only end up being poured down the network of tunnels that have been so assiduously and painstakingly excavated in both Lebanon and Gaza for the purposes of making war not peace.
The Arab League must be told in no uncertain terms that no further international financial aid will be given to any of its' members to repair the consequences of conflict until these demands are dropped and steps are taken to restore sovereignty over each members' territory to the Government of that territory.
Perhaps the withholding of international financial support will bring the breakthrough to peace that has remained so elusive for the past 125 years. If not, at least it will lead to the money being spent where it will be put to better use.
If the Arab League fails to respond then let it answer for and provide the aid to repair the damage and destruction that will inevitably continue to occur if these demands are not abandoned.
There is no light at the end of the tunnels in Lebanon and Gaza, only the promise of ongoing conflict and suffering.
Those who fail to recognise the folly of continuing financial aid for reconstruction in such a region are truly suffering from tunnel vision.
David Singer is an Australian lawyer and convenor of Jordan is Palestine International, an organisation calling for sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza to be allocated between Israel and Jordan as the two successor states to the Mandate for Palestine