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? 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?
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 â€“ 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:
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.
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