Netanyahu vows rapid Palestinian economic growth

Plan includes continuing Palestinian peace talks, regional cooperation with Jordan and mass investment in the PA.

Netanyahu pouts like a chimp 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Netanyahu pouts like a chimp 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Likud prime ministerial candidate Binyamin Netanyahu promised a dramatic turnaround in the Palestinian economy if he wins the February 10 election, in a speech to the United Jewish Communities General Assembly in Jerusalem on Thursday. Netanyahu, who was credited with turning around the Israeli economy when he was finance minister from 2003 to 2005, said he would ensure that the same happened to the Palestinians as part of his economic peace plan. The plan calls for continuing diplomatic negotiations with the Palestinian leadership, regional cooperation with Jordan and mass investment in the Palestinian Authority to give the Palestinians an incentive to seek peace. He said he had several projects in mind for Arab cities in the West Bank and along the seam line. Netanyahu said that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians had not succeeded because they were devoted to solving final-status issues like Jerusalem and refugees and not on improving the lives of the Palestinians. He proposed shifting the focus to the economy to make it easier to reach an agreement later on. "What has been tried until now with negotiations that try to reach a deal on 'Jerusalem or bust' has led to failure, and it will again and again," Netanyahu told the crowd. "Economic development doesn't solve problems, but it mitigates them and makes a stronger partner on the other side, because it gives them something to live for." Such an approach worked in Northern Ireland and was gradually working in Cyprus, Netanyahu said. It was important to learn from positive examples around the world and that's what he did when researching his plans for improving the Israeli economy, its internal security and education system, he said. The economic plan Netanyahu outlined for Israel included lowering taxes, real estate reform and rapid development of trains and roads to connect the North and South to the center of the country. On internal security, he suggested stiffening penalties, adding more police, special units and local policing efforts. To improve the education system, Netanyahu called for paying teachers more, insisting on only the top 10 percent of college graduates becoming teachers, helping weak pupils immediately, giving principals more power to manage their schools, focusing more on the core curriculum and insisting on transmitting Jewish and Zionist values. Labor chairman Ehud Barak lashed out at Netanyahu in an interview with Army Radio. He warned that the Likud leader's policies would cause Israel to clash with the international community. "The Likud, even with its team of stars, would bring us to a dead end of diplomatic and security issues, a conflict with the world and the entire region, and the destruction of Israeli society," Barak said. Responding to a question about Labor's low numbers in the polls, Barak said that in a time of economic crisis and security challenges, it would be wrong to rely on polls, which he said were tantamount to "cancelling the election and voting by SMS."