Israel Should Be Poor; Palestine, Rich
Then We'll Have Peace?
Palestinian poverty is not a plague or an earthquake: it is intimately related to Palestinian government policy.
Last week, before meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pronounced Israel's prosperity an impediment to "peace" with the Palestinians. "I think there is an opportunity [for peace], but for many reasons it's not on the tips of everyone's tongue. People in Israel aren't waking up every day and wondering if tomorrow there will be peace because there is a sense of security and a sense of accomplishment and of prosperity."
He appears to have meant that if Israel is stable, educated, prosperous, free and democratic, these accomplishments have somehow made Israelis feel that peace is not important, not a pressing matter, because, after all, life is pretty good right now.
If that is so, however -- if Israel would place a higher priority on "peace" if it were struggling economically or felt its security to be precarious -- what is one to make of Mr. Kerry's announced determination to raise $4.2 billion in private investment for the West Bank with the aim of increasing Palestinian GDP by 50%, cutting its unemployment by 66% and just about doubling median Palestinian income? But wouldn't such economic benefits make the Palestinians less interested in "peace"? Wouldn't that give them a "sense of security and a sense of accomplishment and of prosperity" that would make them self-satisfied?
Or is that true only of Jews?
But Secretary Kerry appears to have forgotten one general point about investment, and one specific point about the Palestinians.
Generally, in the real world, investment flows organically to places that have an educated population, security, and rule of law that protects intellectual property and the repatriation of profits. It flows, for example, to Israel. Countries or areas with corrupt financial practices, a dictatorial, bifurcated government, multiple security services and an education system that is heavy on ideology and the veneration of violence get less.
Palestinian poverty is not a plague or an earthquake; it is intimately related to Palestinian government policy. Palestinian leadership is at war with the country best able to employ its people – Israel. And Israel does, in fact, periodically employ a great many of them. Kerry promised that his plan would be "bigger, bolder and more ambitious" than anything since the Oslo Accords, so a quick review of post-Oslo Palestinian economics shows that open warfare against Israel is the best predictor of Palestinian economic difficulty. The Oslo timeline, from an article I published in 2012, includes:
- 1992: 115,600 Palestinian workers entered Israel every day.
- 1996: A devastating series of bus bombings, including a particularly gruesome nail bomb in the center of Tel Aviv killed more than 100 Israelis. Palestinian workers in Israel were temporarily reduced to 63,000.
- September 1995-September 2002: Despite the interruption in 1996, Palestinians unemployment decreased from 18.2% to 11%. In mid-2000, 136,000 were working inside Israel -- 40% of all employed Palestinians. Another 5,000 worked in the joint Israeli/Arab run Erez Industrial Zone in the Gaza Strip. Thousands more worked in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in Israeli-owned businesses.
- September 30, 2000: Arafat launched the so-called "second intifada." Begun at the peak of Palestinian economic integration with Israel, the terrorist war killed more than 1,000 Israelis and wounded more than 5,600 (comparable U.S. figures would be 40,000 and 224,000). The number of Palestinians working in Israel was reduced within six months to 55,000. The Erez Industrial Zone was closed after 11 Israelis were killed there.
- 2005: There was no impediment to independent Palestinian economic activity at the time Israel removed its presence from the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian news agency Ma'an waxed ecstatic about economic opportunities, particularly the acquisition of greenhouses and agricultural equipment the Israelis were leaving behind in a $14-million deal brokered by then-World Bank President James Wolfenson.
- 2006: Palestinian looters destroyed the greenhouses almost immediately, and by early 2006, the greenhouses and the $100 million in annual exports to Europe they had produced were gone.
- 2007: Hamas took control of Gaza after a brief and brutal war with Fatah and then escalated the rocket war that had begun in 2001. After more than 9,000 increasingly long-range and accurate rockets and missiles, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in 2008/09.
- 2009: Israel and Egypt instituted the security blockade of Gaza, which the UN has acknowledged to be a legitimate security measure.
Given its history, there is no reason for Mr. Kerry to believe Palestinian leadership is suddenly more interested in economic advancement for its people than in continued warfare against Israel. The Palestinian Authority itself announced Sunday that it will not be "bribed" into recognition of Israel as a legitimate, permanent part of the region. "The Palestinian leadership will not offer political concessions in exchange for economic benefits," Mohammad Mustafa, president of the Palestine Investment Fund economic adviser to Mahmud Abbas wrote in a statement.
If Secretary Kerry thinks that economic dislocation and threats beyond its borders will make Israel cede territory and security to a Palestinian Authority that adamantly places warfare above a settlement and the economic growth that such a settlement could produce, he misunderstands both Israel and the Palestinians.
receive the latest by email: subscribe to the free gatestone institute mailing list
Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director of The Jewish Policy Center.
Reader comments on this item
|A good argument - however... [102 words]||Anthony||Jun 1, 2013 12:24|
|The "Palestinians" choose to fight a hopeless battle for a totally audacious and unjust cause [180 words]||Eyal||May 30, 2013 12:32|
|Destruction is their culture. [56 words]||Butch||May 29, 2013 02:16|
|↔ Rattle Rattle [54 words]||Biff H.||May 29, 2013 23:41|
|Mr. Kerry's level of intelligence needs to be questioned. [97 words]||Harb||May 28, 2013 22:50|
Comment on this item
by Khaled Abu Toameh
The "Arab Spring" did not erupt as a result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rather, it was the outcome of decades of tyranny and corruption in the Arab world. The Tunisians, Egyptians, Libyans and Yemenis who removed their dictators from power did not do so because of the lack of a "two-state solution." This is the last thing they had in mind.
The thousands of Muslims who are volunteering to join the Islamic State [IS] are not doing so because they are frustrated with the lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
The only solution the Islamic State believes in is a Sunni Islamic Caliphate where the surviving non-Muslims who are not massacred would be subject to sharia law.
What Kerry perhaps does not know is that the Islamic State is not interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at all. Unlike Kerry, Sunni scholars fully understand that the Islamic State has more to do with Islam and terrorism than with any other conflict.
by Steven J. Rosen
Palestinian officials have generally been silent about security cooperation with Israel. They are loath to acknowledge how important it is for the survival of the Palestinian Authority [PA], and fear that critics, especially Hamas, will consider it "collaboration with the enemy."
"You smuggle weapons, explosives and cash to the West Bank, not for the fight with Israel, but for a coup against the Palestinian Authority. The Israeli intelligence chief visited me two weeks ago and told me about the [Hamas] group they arrested that was planning for a coup... We have a national unity government and you are thinking about a coup against me." — Mahmoud Abbas, PA President, to Khaled Mashaal, Hamas leader.
According to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, if the IDF leaves the West Bank, Hamas will take over, and other terrorists groups such as the Islamic Jihad, Al-Qaeda and Islamic State would operate there.
In recent months, Abbas has been making a series of threats against Israel. If Abbas becomes another Arafat, it could be the Israeli side that loses interest in security cooperation.
by Burak Bekdil
It was the Islamists who, since they came to power in the 2000s, have reaped the biggest political gains from the "Palestine-fetish."
But the Turkish rhetoric on "solidarity" with our Palestinian brothers often seems askew to how solidarity should be.
by Raheel Raza
One blogger writes that Malala hates Pakistan's military. I believe it is the other way around.
I would so like to see the day when Malala is welcomed back in Pakistan, with the whole country cheering.
by Francesco Sisci
Democratic evolution in China was being seriously considered. The failures of U.S. support for democracy in Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt and Libya gave new food for thought to those opposed to democracy. Lastly, the United States did not strongly oppose the anti-democratic coup d'état that overthrew a democratically elected government in Thailand.
On the other hand, Russia -- dominated by Vladimir Putin, a new autocrat determined to stifle democracy in Russia -- provided a new model.
The whole of Eastern Europe and most of Latin America, formerly in the clutches of dictatorships, are now efficient democracies. This seems to indicate that while democracy cannot be parachuted into a country, there is a broader, longer-term global trend toward democracy and that its growth depends on local conditions.
As economic development needed careful planning, political reforms need even greater planning. The question remains: is China preparing for these political reforms?