BOOMING WEST BANK VS. DEPRESSED GAZA
Michael Oren reports; The Palestinians are flourishing economically. Unless they live in Gaza.
Imagine an annual economic growth rate of 7%, declining unemployment, a thriving tourism industry, and a 24% hike in the average daily wage. Where in today's gloomy global market could one find such gleaming forecasts? Singapore? Brazil? Guess again. The West Bank.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the West Bank economy is flourishing. Devastated by the violence and corruption fomented by its former leadership, the West Bank has rebounded and today represents a most promising success story. Among the improvements of the last year cited by the IMF and other financial observers are an 18% increase in the local stock exchange, a 94% growth of tourism to Bethlehem—generating 6,000 new jobs—and an 82% rise in trade with Israel. . . .
The vitality of the West Bank also accentuates the backwardness and despair prevailing in Gaza. In place of economic initiatives that might relieve the nearly 40% unemployment in the Gaza Strip, the radical Hamas government has imposed draconian controls subject to Shariah law. Instead of investing in new shopping centers and restaurants, Hamas has spent millions of dollars restocking its supply of rockets and mortar shells. Rather than forge a framework for peace, Hamas has wrought war and brought economic hardship to civilians on both sides of the borders.
In other words, history is repeating itself. When acting peacefully, the Palestinians benefit from living next door to Israel. It is only Intifadas and"resistance" that hold them back. So, where peace and security reign, the Palestinian economy flourishes. A political entity would have also followed and may still do so. For when all said and done, Palestinians remain masters of their fate whether they wish to acknowledge it or not.
Politically, they have a long way to go in their relationship with Israel as World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder notes in his article Mideast Peace starts with Respect:
More than one American president has tried to bring peace to the Middle East, and more than one has failed. So as the Obama administration outlines its own prospectus for a comprehensive settlement to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians and the wider Arab world, it would do well to take note of some potential pitfalls.
Rule No. 1: Respect the sovereignty of democratic allies. When free people in a democracy express their preferences, the United States should respect their opinions. The current administration should not try to impose ideas on allies like Israel.
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