World Bank president: Pullout is not enough

By Aluf Benn


Tevet 10, 5765

Disengagement is insufficient if it does not also give hope to the Palestinians, World Bank President James Wolfensohn said in an interview with Haaretz yesterday.

Wolfensohn is here to meet with Israeli and Palestinian officials and obtain their reactions to the World Bank's plan for rehabilitating the Palestinian economy after the pullout.

"What we did in the paper that we prepared was to simply say, look, if you are trying to withdraw [from Gaza], that's a wonderful thing, but if you don't give hope at the same time ... you're not really achieving very much," he said.

The Palestinian Authority currently receives $930 million a year in international aid, and the World Bank wants to raise this by $500 million. But it recommended conditioning the increase on Israel removing checkpoints and closures, and on the PA instituting economic, legal and security reforms.

Wolfensohn, however, dislikes the term "conditions."

"What we were trying to do ... was to say in a neutral way what we think the facts are," he said. "And the facts are that if we go out and raise money for a strengthening of a Palestinian area or a state, the only way to get money for that is (if) that area is viable. Not only economically viable, but ... [you need] to restore the possibility of hope for young Palestinians. I don't think any signature or any agreement has much strength - you know, young Palestinians are like young Israelis ... They want an opportunity, they want a future and most of them want peace. So what you need to do is to create an atmosphere in Gaza and the [West Bank] [where] they can look forward to peace. The donors, essentially, today, having gone through intifada, are going to want to feel that if they put in an additional $500 million a year ... that it is being done seriously and with an opportunity for a viable area. That's just common sense, that's not conditions."

Wolfensohn opposes Israel's plan for economic separation from the Palestinians following the disengagement. He is also unenthusiastic about an Israeli proposal to use international donations to rehabilitate Palestinian refugee camps.

"I call them feel-good projects; they make you feel good and do good things ... but it's not enough. It has to be in the context of something," he added.