The close relationship between terror, peace and economics – opinion

Just as the peace treaty was significant for Egypt in the economic sense, it was likewise significant for Israel.

PROTESTERS CLASH with Israeli security forces near Nablus in March 2018. (photo credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)
PROTESTERS CLASH with Israeli security forces near Nablus in March 2018.
(photo credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)
Recently, a tender was published to pave a Huwara bypass road as an alternative to the old, well-known road, which before the Oslo Accords had served the tens of thousands of Jewish residents in the Nablus satellite communities as the main route connecting the Jordan Valley with the center of Israel.
Over the years, the village of Huwara, whose population was primarily Palestinian, grew and developed, with dozens of shops and businesses opening up along the road that crosses the village.
Many Israelis began to come to the area for commerce, and for a time, local businesses and residents thrived. But the security situation soon prevented further prosperity. Stabbing attacks and violent incidents against Israelis, including stone- and Molotov cocktail-throwing, drove people away and compelled the Jewish residents of nearby areas to demand a bypass road that would provide a safe route to their homes.
The road’s construction, which is expected to begin in the coming months, will surely lead to a significant reduction in terror attacks, but will also cause economic damage to the residents of Huwara as has happened in Bidya and Nabi Ilyas, as well as in the Gaza Strip, which had significant commercial and social ties with Israel until the start of the First Intifada.
This is just one example of how terror and economics are intertwined, both on a small and larger scale. In January 1977, the Bread Riots erupted in Egypt. The government, led by Anwar Sadat, decided to cancel subsidies for staple foods, thus the prices rose. In response, millions of people took to the streets of Cairo and clashed with police. For several days, symbols of the regime in the center of Cairo were attacked and the masses called out to Sadat: “Ya batal el-obur, fen el-fotur?” (“Hero of the Suez crossing, where is our breakfast?”)
 Several months later, Sadat arrived in Israel and signed a peace treaty. Sadat understood that for both him and his country, peace is better than war, and that in the current state a peace treaty is better for Egypt than imposing harmful economic measures on his people to subsidize defense budgets and war chests.
There is a close relationship between economics and foreign policy. Just as the peace treaty was significant for Egypt in the economic sense, it was likewise significant for Israel, which, following the treaty, reduced its defense budget from 30% of the state budget to 8% by the early 1990s. The peace treaty with Egypt may have remained cold, but it was definitely less expensive than war.
In the end of June 2019, an economic workshop focused on the subject of “economic peace” was held in Bahrain. The workshop included discussions and analyses of various approaches to the ways in which economic ties with Israel would be possible, how peace can lead to profit, and conversely, how economic ties could produce a stable peace. The main challenge is creating a balanced relationship leading to economic dependence, which would restrain violence while also preserving economic power differences and preventing the application of political leverage as a result of economic dependence.
Over the years, various economic components have accompanied the relations and peace processes between Israel and the Arab world, with European and American parties attempting to encourage peace treaties by providing various economic “carrots” in return for territorial concessions and ideological compromise by both sides.
However, in the Abraham Accords, the “carrots” were already placed on the table. The regional security situation and geopolitical changes, together with economic changes such as the decrease of oil prices which constitute the primary income of Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have led both sides to realize that economic interests and mutual profits are preferable to ideological disputes or preserving cold and inactive relations.
The United Arab Emirates has closed the “Israel bypass route” and opened its gates to Israelis. The relative economic equality between the countries has alleviated the concern of creating a negative economic dependence and encouraged realizing opportunities that stem from a relative geographic proximity. This enables inexpensive trade by sea and air, Israeli access to oil sources, extensive and profitable Israeli tourism, advanced Israeli start-up companies and, of course, defense technology, which is more vital than ever due to an increasingly threatening Iran, which is drawing closer to nuclear arms.
“Empires take a long time to fall,” wrote Israeli singer Dan Toren. It would seem that the same is true for old paradigms. The peace with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and the normalization with Sudan that is currently taking shape has set a new peace paradigm for the relations between the Arab world and Israel, a paradigm that constitutes a worldwide message that peace and economics are not necessarily conditional on one another. Peace and prosperity can and will go hand and hand.
The writer, a lieutenant-colonel in reserves, is the secretary-general of Habithonistim – Protectors of Israel. He served as a battalion commander, special operations officer and commander of the Southern Command infantry training base.