Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Netanyahu's Economic Peace: Discuss

Sam Bahour and I explore the importance, and difficulty, of engendering the Palestinian private sector under occupation.


Y. Ben-David said...

"Occupation" is not, in and of itself, a barrier to economic development. Hong Kong was under British occupation for 150 years, yet they built a thriving economy. Japan and Germany were under a very strict military occupation for some years after World War II, and yet both built the basis of their economic powerhouses during that period.
The problem for the Palestinians is that many want to build a thriving economy at the same time they are carrying out attacks on Israel. The two just don't go together. If the Palestinians want to devote their energies to nation-building, even before any "final-status" agreement, they can do so. They are the biggest per-capita recipients of foreign aid in the world, so they have the resources. However, if they want to continue the terror war against Israel, then they are going to find their lives disrupted and normal commercial and industrial channels interfered with. The choice is theirs, no one else's.

William Burns said...


What attacks have the Palestinians been carrying out on the West Bank lately?

Not that under the best conditions in the Occupied territories this would be a good time for a political strategy based on economic development. There is the little matter of a worldwide recession.

Y. Ben-David said...

Mr Burns-
The various terrorist organizations are active in Judea/Samaria (the West Bank) all the time. The IDF is continually operating against them, and it is reported daily in the media. Yes, I know an internal security force under the supposed control of the Palestinian Authority is present and the Americans are trying to build it up, but its purpose is only to deal with internal Palestinian law and order. They will not operate against the terrorist organizations. The PA has made it clear that they will not be "subcontractors" for Israeli security. In addition, the official state-controlled media of the PA keeps them on a war footing by maintaining a constant drumbeat of antisemitic and anti-Israel propaganda.
Only after the PA decided to teach its people to live in peace (as opposed to merely making vague statements about peace to Western reporters and diplomats) can development really take off.

NathanM said...

Mr. Ben-David, I think it is somewhat of a stretch to compare the "occupation" of Hong Kong and even Japan and Germany to the current situation of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. It is very convenient that the security and the checkpoint system can be defended as "anti-terrorism" measures while they simultaneously severely hinder the abilities of the Palestinians who are not involved in such activities to carry on with their everyday lives - go to school, work, obtain drinking water, receive medical attention, etc. Mr. Bahour touched on this and many other issues in the discussion. I would recommend watching the entire thing.

I would just like to close by saying that listening to this discussion - very cordial, well reasoned and well articulated - gives me some hope for the future of this conflict. And I've been feeling hopeless for quite a while. Thanks for sharing!

Ibn Verga said...

Hi NathanM.

Why not? Considering that Arab student population at Haifa University is 30%. I believe that Israeli occupation is much more beneficial to Arabs then British had been to Chinese or Indian. Look at the interview of Y. Assad (the son of PA president) Problem how I see it, the Israel is moving toward tribal ethnocracy to equalize surrounding Arab states Islam theocracies.

Y. Ben-David said...

The barriers and such in Judea/Samaria which restrict the movement of Palestinians do not exist because of the "occupation". They exist because of the "peace process". Before the Oslo fiasco was foisted on Israel and the Palestinians creating the autonomous "Palestinian Authority", there was "full occupation", but there was also free movement for Palestinians, including between Gaza and the "West Bank". It was Oslo, and the importation of Arafat and his FATAH fighters resulting from it that caused the massive deterioration in the security situation which Israel responded to by building the security wall which everyone screams about and the roadblocks in Judea/Samaria.

If the Palestinians turn from their ongoing war of attrition against Israel and towards internal development, they will advance socially, politically and economically, with or without a "peace agreement".

Potter said...

This is well worth the time investment in listening. I don't know how one can make a comment otherwise.

If ending occupation and the conflict will more likely than not ultimately improve the security situation and perceived existential threats for Israel, then, it is reasonable to conclude that Israel’s maintaining of the occupation, not working towards ending it and thus the collective punishment of the Palestinians, is also Israeli self-destruction and a self-imposed existential threat.

The continuing formula, as I understand it has been and is, simply put, -if it is to be believed- Israel will end occupation when Palestinians show they can behave responsibly. But if there is no willingness on the part of Israel to end occupation, to really arrive at a settlement of the conflict with it’s hard compromises, then avoiding that stated goal which is evidenced in all manner of harsh measures, would be the reality- which is what we see. This engenders Palestinian disbelief in Israel’s seriousness about that formula. “The only thing they understand is force” is a strong belief on both sides which maintains the ‘status quo” ( which is not really a fixed state of affairs).

Sam Bahour offers proof that under collective punishment circumstances it's pretty near impossible for those, he says, many (Palestinians within Palestine and in diaspora) who want to and can build a thriving economy in Palestine first, ie to fulfill this precondition to be a state. It’s a Catch-22 situation. Only the very brave, caring, those who care beyond caring and financial return will struggle, also as a form of passive resistance, under these circumstances.

Such relatively small achievements should be enough of a clue though about the potential waiting to be unleashed. It would seem to be very much worth the risk of some of Israel’s worst imaginable fears, outcomes, that the “status quo” seems much more likely to bring about. Why is this even debatable?

Isn’t it an elemental conclusion to draw that years of worsening restrictive and harsh conditions cannot induce people under them to let go of their despair and anger, the compulsion (and legitimate) need to resist? Where would the incentive, the will, come from to build a state that is not certain? Where is the something to look forward to, and be responsible for?

Are Israeli roadblocks ( in every sense) intended to have to consequences that they have had? Others have been seeing and saying this for a long time.

But as this strategy becomes more transparent and works against Israel in the eyes of the international community more and more, there will be movement to impose economic pressure, political pressure ) in the form of boycotts and sanctions. These may be the economic changes that Netanyau brings about.

Anonymous said...

Potter - I agree with your analysis.

Moreover, I think that the term occupation is misleading in that context (and incidentally, very convenient to the Israeli authorities).

Israeli authorities are engaged in a process of colonization, their interest goes beyond land resources and aims for the land itself (short of using the word colonization the Israeli authorities have been completely transparent about it, both through policies and rhetoric).

Within the international consensus, colonization has lost any legitimacy it has enjoyed in the past, while (temporary) occupation is still viewed more forgivingly.

The exclusive ideology that is part and parcel of Israel's colonization lends it the zero-sum logic and engender much of the radicalization in the Israeli political arena.

The Israeli public lives under constant fear - some due to real dangers and much due to manipulations (intentional or otherwise) by the media and by the political and security apparatus -this fear has proven conductive in stifling debate and confining discourse to restrictive and narrow parameters.

This is a tragic and self destructive path, the Israeli culture by and large has not developed the tools for broad and critical analysis of its leaders, frustration is mostly directed outward and thus exacerbate distrus of others and dependancy on those who thus far led Israel into further moral degradation and misery.

NathanM said...

Thanks to Potter and Anonymous for articulating their thoughts in a far superior manner to myself.

To Ibn Verga - Is the percentage of Arabs at Haifa University REALLY a sufficient reason, or even the primary reason, why the occupation should be considered beneficial?

To YBD - The "chicken and egg" nature of this solution is something I have a hard time with. Let's say there was an increase in violence from the Palestinians, which resulted in the Israelis implementing stricter security measurements, which in turn caused more anger and violence from the Palestinians, and thus it repeats. But I consider the onus to be always with the side with more power to make concessions, to be "the bigger party" so to speak. You mentioned that if the Palestinians break off their war of attrition that they will advance - but is that based on the assumption that if Palestinian attacks cease completely, Israel will lift some of the barriers that are currently hindering them from realizing their full potential? Or will they just be expected to thrive even with such limitations maintained?

Anonymous said...

Hi NathanM,
Yes, it shows that shows that most of the Israeli Palestinians and also West Bank and Gaza Palestinian Arabs are looking on the "occupation" with different eyes. As per Yasser Assam (son of President of PA) and many more Palestinian Arabs from West bank and Gaza, 94% of them want to have an economical improvements with exactly same rights and resposibilities as Israeli Jews. They don't really care if the state they are living is called Palestine or Israel. We are living in post-nation state environment with ethnicity and religion a private matter. Unfortunatelly both sides have an aggressive ethno-theocratic minority. As per Jpost story, the young Jews see them as a country destroyers on Jewish side and I am sure same applies to Arab side. Young Arabs see the education at Israeli Universities as a ticket to get out from the tribal enviroment the Palestinian leaderships (both Fatah and Hamas) are offering them. On Jewish side, if the ethno-theocratic minority becomes stronger, it will annihilate the country as per Jpost story within 10 years. (This is Ibn Verga, again I have trouble to sign in and will have to go on as an anonymous)

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