No one can argue with the logic that says hungry, unemployed neighbors are
Likewise, prosperous, employed neighbors are much
more likely to be good neighbors, or at least nonviolent ones. In any conflict
situation it is always advisable to create situations whereby the other side has
something to lose. The other side must realize that the cost of resorting to
violence is so great no possible gain could outweigh it.
should easily understand that if the Palestinian economy is strong, the chances
of violent outbreaks are smaller. Just to be clear, economics does not replace
politics. You cannot buy Palestinian national aspirations with money, but an
improved economic situation will help to create the chances for a better
After the appointment of Salam Fayyad in 2007 the
Palestinians became busy with the process of state building.
to work on undoing the damages of the second intifada by reasserting their
authority, fostering rule of law, fighting corruption, reorganizing the security
forces and making an all-out, concerted effort to dismantle the infrastructure
of terrorism in the West Bank.
By all professional assessments the
Palestinian Authority’s efforts have been successful, and as the threat of
terrorism dissipated, with American encouragement Israel began removing
checkpoints all over the West Bank and actively backed Palestinian economic
development. During the first years of the international-Palestinian-Israeli
initiative for economic growth there were impressive advances. Economic growth
was significant, unemployment decreased and there was a sense of hope that was
important for stability and keeping the struggle against radical extremist
elements in the success column.
However, economic growth has since slowed
down, due to global financial realities. Coupled with the lack of a genuine
political process, the security situation in the West Bank is precarious and
potentially dangerous. We need a genuine political process. We also need
additional Palestinian economic growth. Palestinians and Israelis have common
interests in this regard, and there should be wide agreement on the need to
develop an active strategy for turning it into a reality.
Israel needs workers, particularly in construction and agriculture. We have no
need to import foreign laborers from China, Russia, Ukraine, Thailand or
anywhere else. We have a willing, trained and experienced work force right next
door to us who go home at the end of the workday and don’t stay in our cities.
They also use their wages, paid in Israeli shekels, to buy Israeli products.
Their money stays in the economy and is used to build the Palestinian
We have had very good experiences with Palestinian labor and
while employment in Israel cannot be the answer for long-term Palestinian
economic growth, it would serve the immediate end of providing jobs and pumping
a significant amount of money into the economy.
Israel could easily
employ an additional 50,000 Palestinian workers in a very short period. With an
average monthly salary of NIS 5,000, that would pump NIS 3 billion into the
Palestinian economy over the next year.
That money would be taxable by
the PA, and a lot of it would be used for purchasing goods in Israel as
There are about 1,500 hi-tech graduates from Palestinian
universities who enter the workplace every year with little chance of being
employed. They lack hands-on experience. Israeli hi-tech companies outsource
work to India and China. The same outsourcing could be to Palestinians, with
lots of advantages accruing to both sides.
To make this a credible option
there is a need to provide Palestinian hi-tech graduates with a hands-on
internship learning experience. It is possible, with rather little investment
(which could be provided by the international community), to create a robust
internship program for Palestinians in Israeli hi-tech companies. Much of their
work can be done online from their homes or from a local Palestinian incubator
that could be established for this purpose.
I imagine that the best
interns would probably be hired by the Israeli companies. Others could be
encouraged and coached to launch Palestinian start-ups much in the way it
happens in Israel. Israeli start-ups could provide advice, coaching and
direction for them and the international community and business world could
provide finance, venture capital and other means of assisting the Palestinians
to become the close cousins of the start-up nation.
The best way to
assist the Palestinians’ economic growth is to purchase Palestinian products.
Palestine is very fortunate to have a relatively affluent market right next
door. Some 80 percent of the goods in the Palestinian market come from Israel,
yet there are very few Palestinian products that make it into the Israeli
There are a lot of non-tariff barriers which prevent the
goods from getting into Israel. There is also a lack of awareness and knowledge
about the Israeli economy in the Palestinian marketplace. A lot of work could be
done to identify Palestinian products that could enter the Israeli market.
Business support could be provided to develop a program to assist Palestinian
businesses in overcoming all of the barriers that exist.
which needs to be overcome is the psychological one. The Israeli consumer does
not have a high regard for most Palestinian products, except perhaps tehina,
olive oil and humous. There is almost a knee-jerk reaction in Israel against
Palestinian products: Palestinian? I won’t buy that – the product of the enemy.
We need to find a way to overcome that response. Buying Palestinian should
become a positive, pro-active step toward building peace with our neighbors.
When one enters a store in Ramallah, Bethlehem or Nablus, the shelves are filled
with Israeli products. In the absence of a parallel situation in Israel,
resentment grows in Palestine against buying Israeli products. This does not
have to be the case.
While we wait to see whether US Secretary of State
John Kerry is successful in getting the parties back to negotiations, the rest
of us, the ordinary Israeli citizens, can get engaged in peacemaking efforts by
seeking ways to purchase Palestinian products. The Israeli government would be
acting in Israel’s interest by enabling those products to reach us. Buying
Palestinian is good for Israel.
The author is the co-chairman of IPCRI,
the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, a columnist for The
Jerusalem Post and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for
the release of Gilad Schalit.