While recent reports about an "economic boom" in the West Bank may be

exaggerated, there's no ignoring the fact that there has been improvement in the

living conditions of the Palestinians living there.

The improved conditions are mainly the result of a US-led effort to boost "moderate"

Palestinians and thwart any attempt by Hamas to extend its control to the West


Many government officials in Israel, the US and Europe believe that shopping malls

and festivals, as well as fashionable restaurants, five-star hotels and Turkish Baths

would have a moderating effect on the West Bank's Palestinians.

However, it is wrong to assume that Palestinians would wake up one morning and

sing the Israeli national anthem Hatikva simply because they have access to movies

theaters and shopping malls.

Building a strong economy is not going to solve the Israeli-Arab conflict. For a

majority of Palestinians, the conflict is not about economic projects or financial


The billions of dollars won't change Palestinians' negative attitude toward Israel,

especially not when anti-Israel incitement and fiery rhetoric continue.

Even the poorest Palestinian would tell you that he or she would never give up his

home or land in return for all the money in the world.

Palestinians who chose to receive money in return for their homes and lands have

been condemned as "traitors" or killed.

If the donors want to continue helping the Palestinians financially, they must insist

on an end to incitement and inflammatory statements.

This is a political, national and religious conflict. It's actually about accepting Israel

as a homeland for the Jewish people in this part of the world.

This does not mean that the Palestinian media should start singing praise to Israel.

All they should be asked to do is to "lower the tone" and start relating to Israel as a

potential peace partner and not as an occupation force that an alien body that needs

to be uprooted from the Middle East.

The US and other Western donor countries have poured billions of dollars on the

Palestinian Authority government headed by Prime Minister Salaam Fayad over the

past few years.

Most of the funds have gone to economic projects, while improved security has

attracted investments from many wealthy businessmen.

As a result, shopping malls, tourist resorts and luxurious hotels have popped up in

many Palestinian cities.

Turkish Baths and cinemas, once considered symbols of corruption and immorality in

Palestinian society, have reopened in some cities, signaling the beginning of a return

to normal life.

Even Israel's Arab citizens are benefiting from the changes. For the past decade, the

Israeli military banned all Israeli citizens, Jews and Arabs alike, from entering

Palestinian cities out of concern for their safety.

But in the context of efforts to ease restrictions on the Palestinians and help

strengthen the economy in the West Bank, Israel is now allowing thousands of its

Arab citizens to converge on Palestinian markets almost on a daily basis.

As citizens of Israel, these Arabs enjoy a higher standard of living and are considered

the Palestinians' favorite clients.

Although Israel continues to maintain dozens of checkpoints in various parts of the

West Bank, today Palestinians find it much easier to travel from one city to another.

In addition, the number of Palestinians who are being granted permission to work

inside Israel has increased over the past few months, particularly in light of the

improved security coordination between the Palestinian Authority and the Israel

Defense Forces.

If an “economic boom” were all that was needed, the conflict would have been

solved a long time ago, especially in light of the billions of dollars that the

Palestinians were given after the signing of the Oslo Accords.

  • Follow Khaled Abu Toameh on Twitter

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