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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Money won't solve the Arab-Israeli conflict

For years now, the Israeli left has been telling us that if only we provided the 'Palestinians' with 'economic opportunity,' which of course they can only get through a state reichlet, they would be ready to live in 'peace' with us and stop trying to murder us. One of the key proponents of this view is Shimon Peres, who is unfortunately about to become President of the State of Israel in a couple of weeks.

I've always been skeptical of this view. One of the things that made me most skeptical about it was a lecture I attended under the auspices of the Columbia Alumni Club in Israel several years ago. The lecturer was Natan Sharansky, who was Minister of Industry and Trade from 1996-1999 under Binyamin Netanyahu. Sharansky said that every time Israel attempted to discuss economic relations with the 'Palestinians,' they would tune out. All that interested them was how much land they were going to get under any eventual arrangement.

This morning, an American blogger named Amy Alkon makes the argument that the last thing any 'Palestinian' should want is a 'Palestinian state' (Hat Tip: Pajamas Media).
Hey, primitives! Lay down your control-top panti-bombs, do something productive, and join the Israeli economy...it's really all it'll take for you to have a better life. I mean, if you actually want a better life, instead of continuing to live in welfare squalor in a corrupt terrorist-birthing ghetto.
Amy cites a 2002 Commentary article by Efraim Karsh that compares the living standards of the 'Palestinians' before 1967 and during the 1967-1994 period (Arafat moved from Tunisia to Gaza in 1994). It confirms something I had always heard but had never seen in writing: that many of the Arabs living in the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967 did not have running water, but nearly all of them had television antennas.
During the 1970's, the West Bank and Gaza constituted the fourth fastest-growing economy in the world -- ahead of such "wonders" as Singapore, Hong Kong, and Korea, and substantially ahead of Israel itself. Although GNP per capita grew somewhat more slowly, the rate was still high by international standards, with per-capita GNP expanding tenfold between 1968 and 1991 from $165 to $1,715 (compared with Jordan's $1,050, Egypt's $600, Turkey's $1,630, and Tunisia's $1,440). By 1999, Palestinian per-capita income was nearly double Syria's, more than four times Yemen's, and 10 percent higher than Jordan's (one of the better off Arab states). Only the oil-rich Gulf states and Lebanon were more affluent.

Under Israeli rule, the Palestinians also made vast progress in social welfare. Perhaps most significantly, mortality rates in the West Bank and Gaza fell by more than two-thirds between 1970 and 1990, while life expectancy rose from 48 years in 1967 to 72 in 2000 (compared with an average of 68 years for all the countries of the Middle East and North Africa). Israeli medical programs reduced the infant-mortality rate of 60 per 1,000 live births in 1968 to 15 per 1,000 in 2000 (in Iraq the rate is 64, in Egypt 40, in Jordan 23, in Syria 22). And under a systematic program of inoculation, childhood diseases like polio, whooping cough, tetanus, and measles were eradicated.

No less remarkable were advances in the Palestinians' standard of living. By 1986, 92.8 percent of the population in the West Bank and Gaza had electricity around the clock, as compared to 20.5 percent in 1967; 85 percent had running water in dwellings, as compared to 16 percent in 1967; 83.5 percent had electric or gas ranges for cooking, as compared to 4 percent in 1967; and so on for refrigerators, televisions, and cars.
The situation deteriorated from 1994-1996, improved somewhat under the Netanyahu government of 1996-1999 (when there was almost no terrorism) and fell apart completely with the election of Ehud Barak and the beginning of the 'second intifada.' For all of the facts and figures, go to Amy's blog and read the whole thing.

The bottom line is that by any rational, logical standard the 'Palestinians' should not want a 'Palestinian' state, but that Israel would be unwise to allow itself to be threatened demographically by making all of the 'Palestinians' Israeli civilians. The most humane solution was likely the 'limited autonomy' offered by Menachem Begin as part of the Camp David accords in 1979. But the 'Palestinians' will never accept that. Those who plan to stick around to see the 'Palestinian' state reichlet are likely to be 'rewarded' with an authoritarian - if not Islamic - regime that is doomed to economic disaster and continued dependence on the generosity of others from Day One. Unless Israel is smart enough to prevent the irredentist 'Palestinian' reichlet from ever being formed. Don't hold your breath on that one either.

1 Comments:

At 8:35 PM, Blogger Soccer Dad said...

In 1998 the Netanyahu government released economic reports here and here.

Despite the invective regularly directed toward Netanyahu, it's pretty clear that he did more for the Palestianians (and the peace process) than Arafat ever did. Maybe Palestinians were doing well in Israel, but in their own territories, Michael Kelly wrote, things were much worse.

 

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