The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has slammed the brakes on a water and sanitation initiative for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, where earlier this year it began soliciting U.S. contractors to build small-to-medium-scale local facilities. The agency previously said the construction of such facilities was critical to improving the quality of life of the Palestinian people in the Israeli Occupied Territories. Last Monday (March 20), however, USAID cancelled a presolicitation notice whose original aim was help the Palestinians meet their “immediate water supply and wastewater transport and treatment needs while developing sustainable systems.”
The project cancellation comes at a time when the U.S. Congress continues to debate and seek support for various bills that would cut off aid to the Palestinian government, which is now led by Hamas. The Bush Administration and some members of Congress have vowed to cut-off aid to the Palestinians until Hamas renounces policies calling for the destruction of Israel. Bill supporters reject the legitimacy of Hamas’ rise to power, despite attaining that power via democratic elections that the U.S. government advocated and even sought to expedite.
Some Congress members, such as Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Cal.), say the elections are meaningless, referring to the historical fact that the German people elected Adolph Hitler in 1933 before the Holocaust.
Among the possible projects that could have stemmed from the USAID initiative were the installation of sanitary sewers, rehabilitation and construction of water distribution systems, water supply disinfection systems, water and sanitation pipeline installation, and water reservoir construction or rehabilitation.
USAID, it should be noted, had spent millions of dollars on previous projects in the past. Commenting on the successes of those projects, USAID Project Development Officer Tony Rantissi last year said those initiatives “measurably improved the quality of life for Palestinians in areas where existing water infrastructure could not meet basic needs. USAID supported similar work through grants to local and international NGOs and through direct contracts with local firms. Following on the success of this program, USAID plans to launch similar projects in the future."
Similarly, there's no indication that the cancellation of this particular project will affect as separate USAID endeavor to train and provide water-related commodities to the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA), the West Bank Water Department (WBWD), Joint Services Councils (JSC), and local governments in the West Bank.