Turning Dahariya into Doha

Netanyahu expected to devote part of upcoming speech to economic role of Arab nations in moving diplomatic process forward.

Saudi King Abdullah 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Saudi King Abdullah 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to devote some of his speech on Sunday at the BESA Center at Bar-Ilan University to the economic role the Arab nations can play in moving the diplomatic process forward through economic investment in the West Bank. Netanyahu, in private meetings he has held over the last few weeks, has talked at length about the economic assistance the Arab world could play in the West Bank, not through supporting the PA bureaucracy, but rather in investing in large-scale projects. The cabinet on Sunday approved a change of a law that will enable Silvan Shalom, the Minister for Regional Development and the Development of the Negev and the Galilee, to directly approach investors about various projects. Since the Finance Ministry has exclusive legal authority to raise funds, a special resolution was necessary to enable Shalom to approach potential investors to pitch various projects. The resolution that was approved will give the ministry the ability to raise funds and encourage investment with the goal of moving regional economic cooperation forward. Even before this resolution was passed, however, private businessmen - operating at the behest of the government - have been probing contacts about possible investment opportunities, and not only among Israeli investors, but also among investors in nearby Arab countries. In recent weeks Netanyahu has in private meetings been praising what the Arabs have built in places like Doha and Dubai, saying that if only a fraction of the money invested there could be channeled into the West Bank, the situation would change in a "revolutionary way." Netanyahu has bewailed in these meeting that so much of the money pouring into he Palestinian Authority is being spent on paying salaries and supporting the bureaucracy, instead of into income- generating projects, whether they be for tourism, agriculture, industry or commerce. These types of investments, getting Arab businessmen to invest in income-generating projects in the West Bank, could make a significant difference in a relatively short time period, because the West Bank is relatively small, Netanyahu has argued. These ideas, government sources confirmed, have come up in Netanyahu's talks with various Arab leaders over the last few weeks, and were expected to find their way into Sunday's address.