The European Union’s decision to join the U.S. and Canada in halting funding to the Palestinian National Authority is greatly sharpening the ongoing crisis Palestinian people face in the Occupied Territories. Ever since Hamas won elections in January, the U.S., the EU and Israel have intensified their efforts to isolate, blockade and starve the Palestinians into submission.

The cutoffs come after decades of the Israeli government’s systematic ravishing of the economic and social basis of Palestinian society.

In recent years Tel Aviv has been building an illegal wall that cruelly separates Palestinian family members, cuts farmers off from their fields, schoolchildren from their schools and workers from their jobs. Israel has withheld tens of millions of dollars it collects on behalf of the Palestinian government. Add the persistent Israeli shelling of Gaza and its targeted assassinations, and the life of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories is one continuous brutal assault.

The PNA says it is now out of funds and cannot meet its payroll. A January 2006 United Nations report said the salaries paid to PNA employees last year supported almost a million Palestinians, a quarter of the population.

Acts like the Passover Week suicide bombing, which killed nine people in Tel Aviv, deepen the tragic consequences of this conflict for both sides, but do not point to a solution.

This crisis can be resolved. The majority of the Israeli people support withdrawal from the Occupied Territories and evacuation of the settlers, clearing the way for a viable Palestinian state. But observers warn that the newly forming government led by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promises to continue repressive policies.

In many ways Washington holds the key to the Palestinian people’s future. For over 30 years the U.S. has given Israel far more aid than it has any other country, with far fewer strings attached.

The Bush administration as well as the new Israeli government must be compelled, through mass political struggle, back to the negotiations table and to recognize and uphold the Palestinian people’s right to an independent state.