A record year for smartphone sales in Israel.
(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
On November 19, 2015 Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed a deal to enable Palestinian telecommunications companies to provide 3G services in the West Bank. But over a year later, foot-dragging, red-tape, regulatory demands, technical obstacles and greedy business interests on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides have prevented the launching of 3G on the West Bank.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post’s Palestinian Affairs reporter Adam Rasgon, PA Deputy Telecommunications Minister Sulieman Zuhairi said that technical complications related to the sharing of frequencies and overlap are the main reason for delay.
Another issue that is holding things up is a new demand by the Israeli side, represented by the telecom firm Ericsson, that Israel maintain control of the new network.
Originally, the Israeli telecom firm was supposed to control only the areas of overlap, while the Palestinian firms – Jawal and Wataniya – would have exclusive control in Palestinian population centers.
Whatever the obstacles, Israel has an interest in overcoming them. The 3G debacle symbolizes the lack of hope that many Palestinians have in the future. While in other parts of the world countries are getting ready to launch 5G networks, the Palestinians lag behind.
To succeed in the 21st century, Palestinian companies need fast Internet. Economic growth will stagnate and Palestinians – particularly the younger generation – will lose hope in the future. This is not just a diplomatic or business failure, it is a tragic loss of opportunities and human potential. Economic instability leads to social instability, which plays into the hands of the extremists.
At least since Adam Smith, thinkers and philosophers have praised the benefits of a vibrant market as a promoter of self-control, industry and gentleness.
Participants in the market have something to lose and therefore are motivated through self-interest to exhibit prudence, vigilance, temperance, constancy and firmness.
But without the tools to participate in the world economy, Palestinians will lose hope.
In public appearances – most recently on Sixty Minutes – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about Israel’s hi-tech inventions and how the country has invented tools to develop solutions in the fields of agriculture, cyber security and water.
Israeli hi-tech firms have made inroads in Africa – including with Muslim majority countries like Guinea. Netanyahu’s recent trip to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan is another example of how Israel’s technological know-how is breaking down barriers in Muslim majority countries.
Israel is improving the quality of lives in places like India and sub-Saharan Africa. It should do the same on the West Bank. Israel is known as the Start-Up Nation. It is time to share its culture of innovation and creativity with the Palestinians as well.
With speedier communications, Palestinian entrepreneurs will be better positioned to integrate in the worldwide tech community.
Connectedness is central to success and success breeds hope, the key to economic empowerment and growth.
Facilitating Palestinian innovation and technological connectedness is ultimately an Israeli interest.
Helping Palestinians realize their potential by providing the tools for participation in the worldwide tech community will increase the chances that a two-state solution will one day be feasible.
As the world prepares for 5G telecom networks, we lament the failure to create a 3G network on the West Bank.
Israel and the Palestinians need to find a way to work together to establish advanced modes of communication for everyone who lives in this land.
Political differences should not interfere.