US PRESIDENT Donald Trump.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The economic workshop to be held at the end of June in Bahrain will be the opening mark of US President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century,” which has already been heavily criticized for the exclusion of a Palestinian state. However, whether or not this deal will succeed where many others have failed, Trump will be setting a precedent that is long overdue for this stagnating conflict: Peace can and should be achieved without the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Just ask the people of Gaza. Gaza has not been able to sustain itself as an independent entity, and the people are suffering immensely. Gaza’s economy has been plummeting since the 2005 disengagement and basic human and social rights are being violated daily by Hamas. While it is easiest to blame Israeli security policies, the fact of the matter is that the extremist leadership in Gaza has chosen war with Israel over the prosperity of its people.
Anyone in his or her right mind understands that it is in Israel’s best interest to promote and maintain economic and social stability in Gaza. Israel has proven this by transferring thousands of truckloads of aid weekly into Gaza, as well as over a billion dollars of Qatari aid. All this, while being attacked by rockets and knowing very well that a significant amount of the aid will be channeled to restore and expand Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure.
True, Hamas does not control the West Bank, so why would an Israeli disengagement create a similar fate to that of Gaza’s? Well first, it wasn’t until 2007 that Hamas violently took complete control of Gaza, and there is a strong Hamas presence in the West Bank. Second, the current leadership of the PA openly supports terrorism against Israel by using tax money to pay the families of terrorists killed by the IDF or that are serving sentences in Israeli prisons. The mandatory school textbooks issued by the PA are extremely inciteful against Israelis and include strong antisemitic content, such as blood libels and caricatures. So either way, a Palestinian state will be hostile, and Israel will be forced to adopt similar security policies to those in place in Gaza.
ON THE OTHER HAND, the most prosperous Arab community in the Middle East is the Israeli-Arab community. An Arab woman in Israel has a far better chance to earn an academic degree and enter the workforce than anywhere else in the Middle East. A gay Israeli-Arab has a 100% chance of not being stoned by the authorities. Similar to minority issues in other democracies, Israel still must improve equality for its Arab community. The Israeli government has been going in that direction: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s previous government allocated over $4 billion to promoting equality for its Arab citizens. Who would the Palestinians of the West Bank rather be like – their brothers and sisters in Gaza, or those in Haifa, Jaffa and Acre?
However, annexation of the West Bank in its entirety is impossible, as Israel wishes to remain a Jewish and democratic state. A realistic agreement should include the end of the Israeli military rule through the expansion of Palestinian autonomy in main Palestinian cities and their suburbs, and the full annexation of the rest of the territory. The Palestinians of the annexed areas will be granted full Israeli citizenship and become Israeli-Arabs. The rest will be citizens of their respective cities and will be governed by a municipal leadership, which will not be subject to Israeli authority. Maximizing economic integration between the Palestinian cities and Israel should be the guiding principle, as it will tie the Palestinians to one of the strongest economies in the world and create opportunities for Palestinians and Israelis. The upcoming workshop promoting international investments in the PA could be the first step in that direction.
The specifics, in a nutshell, will ultimately include increasing the number of work permits issued for Palestinians to work in Israel and ensuring complete freedom of movement between Israel and the cities. Substantial Israeli salaries will flow into the Palestinian economy, and potential Israeli visitors and consumers will boost the Palestinian market. Additionally, Palestinians should be encouraged to enroll in Israeli universities, and educational cooperation endorsed. The international community should promote investments and projects between Israel and the Palestinians, and focus its rhetoric on integration and not separation. Such a model will shift Israeli policy from strong military dependence on maintaining peace in the territories, to using its strong economy to promote prosperity and integration.
Uncoincidentally, the deal is being attacked by the Palestinian leadership as well as the Israeli political Right, both of whom view the conflict as a zero-sum game – all or nothing. This, of course, is not the situation. Trump, his adviser and son-in law Jared Kushner and special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt’s pro-Israel agenda create a unique opportunity for the Israeli Right to prove to the international community that they are serious about finding a solution, while adopting an internationally-lead agreement that unprecedentedly denies the establishment of Palestinian state. Such a solution is clearly in Israel’s interest, but the main beneficiaries will be the Palestinian people, who will enjoy the highest standards of life, democracy and stability in the conflict-ridden Middle East.The author is studying law and political science at IDC Herzliya, and is a fellow at the Argov Fellows Program for Leadership and Diplomacy.
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