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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

World Bank report slams Israel

The World Bank issued a report today on restrictions of movement of the 'Palestinians' in Judea and Samaria. The report is entitled "Movement and Access Restrictions in the West Bank: Uncertainty and Inefficiency in the Palestinian Economy." It's not pretty. Here's the bottom line from the Executive Summary:
While GOI [Government of Israel. CiJ]has shown a willingness to consider a relaxation of specific restrictions, including the provision of several hundred permits to unique categories of Palestinians such as businessmen, or the removal of certain physical impediments, incremental steps are not likely to lead to any sustainable improvement. This is because these incremental steps lack permanence and certainty and can be easily withdrawn or replaced by other restrictions. Moreover, sustainable economic recovery will remain elusive if large areas of the West Bank remain inaccessible for economic purposes and restricted movement remains the norm for the vast majority of Palestinians and expatriate Palestinian investors. Only through a fundamental reassessment of closure, and a restoration of the presumption of movement, as embodied in the many agreements between GOI and the PA, will the Palestinian private sector be able to recover and fuel sustainable growth.
This is the only mildly pro-Israel statement in the entire report; it appears twice:
While Israeli security concerns are undeniable and must be addressed, it is often difficult to reconcile the use of closure for security purposes from its use to expand and protect settlement activity and the relatively unhindered movement of settlers in and out of the West Bank.
I have a number of comments on the report:

First, the report essentially deals with the closure systems within Judea and Samaria. As such, it is instructive to look at Gaza where, although access to Israel is limited, travel within the Strip is essentially unrestricted. What have the 'Palestinians' done with Gaza in the nearly two years since it was turned over to them? The short answer: they have destroyed the economy that was there, and instead have exported terror and nothing else. They have used the free access to roadways to transport weapons and nothing else. They have turned Gaza into a worse hellhole than their part of Gaza was prior to 2005. Remember the greenhouses of Gush Katif?

Second, the report assumes that all of "Area C" (the land that under the Oslo Accords was to remain under Israeli security control until a 'final settlement') would eventually be turned over to the 'Palestinians.' But the Oslo Accords never assumed that all of Area C would be turned over to the 'Palestinians.' In fact, they specifically did not dictate any final outcome other than 'Palestinian self-rule.' It is unrealistic to expect that large tracts of land will be left frozen in time until their eventual disposition when that disposition is unknown. We live in a dynamic world.

Third, the report assumes - without providing any solutions - that Judea, Samaria and Gaza will all eventually be part of a single 'Palestinian' state reichlet. This ignores the fact that Gaza is separated from Judea and Samaria by a large swath of land. It's fine and well to assume that Israel will have to grant access from one to the other, but if Israel has 'security concerns' that the World Bank chooses to ignore in Judea and Samaria, those concerns are magnified when 'Palestinians' are allowed to travel between Judea and Gaza. As no less an authority than the New York Times pointed out last year (accompanying commentary is from my original post):
What I wanted to point out to you is the editorial's first sentence and three paragraphs towards the end. Between them, the Times accidentally points out the elephant in the living room of the 'viable Palestinian state:'
It's long been clear that getting a workable, feasible Palestinian state out of two geographically separate masses of land in the desert will be an uphill battle.


Anyone who has ever really looked at a map of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza can see how hard it will be to form a Palestinian state. Even a future Palestine that includes all of the West Bank and Gaza is still going to be in two pieces with Israel in the middle, separating Gaza from the West Bank.

To get an idea of this, imagine a map of Manhattan. The West Bank would be, very roughly, East Harlem and the Upper East Side. Gaza would be Battery Park City, far to the southwest. Now imagine trying to create a fully functioning city with its own economy out of those pieces while an entirely independent, antagonistic city remained in between. [Please note that my lack of response below to the word 'antagonistic' does not mean that I don't object to Israel's characterization as 'antagonistic.' Israelis won't be involved in terror attacks if R"L the 'Palestinians' pass through between the two separate parts of their 'state.' But that's not my point today. CiJ]

Yet that is what the Palestinians will have to do if they even manage to get back to the 1967 borders. (If the Sharon-Olmert plan, now tentatively blessed by Mr. Bush, goes into effect, they won't achieve that.) If Mr. Olmert moves forward with his plan to retain large settlement blocs in the West Bank, the Palestinians may well lose huge parts of their "Upper East Side" and be left trying to form a country out of what's left, and their "Battery Park City." [Not so huge. About 8%. But that's also not the point. CiJ]

That's it folks. The elephant in the room is that even if the 'Palestinians' get all of the 'West Bank' and Gaza, they still won't have a contiguous 'state'. Judea and Samaria (the 'West Bank') are landlocked. How are they going to develop an economy (assuming that they have any interest in doing so)? Either they ship through Jordan or they ship through Israel and Gaza. How are they going to travel from one to the other? Well, during the heyday of Oslo there was talk of tunnels and 'safe passage' routes and trains - but no matter how you solve that problem (if it can be solved) every time a 'Palestinian' travels from Gaza to the 'West Bank' they are going to pass through Israel, and given the only 'Palestinian' export to the world - the terror attack - there is going to be a risk of terror attacks against Israelis because that's what the 'Palestinians' do.
Fourth, every 'Palestinian state' scenario depends upon access to Israel's labor markets. Why? Why can't Israel's labor markets be just for Israelis? Or for foreigners who are not going to try to murder us at every opportunity? Why does the world assume that we have to let this hostile population into our midst to blow themselves up? This is from another post I did last summer:
The international consensus solution, two States -- one Israeli and the other Palestinian within the confines of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank -- is based on fatally flawed assumptions. Even if two such States could be delineated by fiat, doing so would not produce a lasting peace. Neither State would be viable. And with ever advancing technology, and ever more powerful arsenals, it should be clear that failure to achieve true peace may eventually lead to a much wider and more lethal war.

Therefore, the assumptions underlying these international proposals must be revisited. The problem must be considered anew. A better approach to a sustainable peace must be found and pursued.

World leaders must first be educated to the improbability of establishing a successful Palestinian State in the limited space allocated to it. A RAND Corporation study suggests that to have even a chance of success, such a Palestinian State would require $33 billion of aid over 10 years, $50 billion of aid through 2019, and access to Israel's labor market. This approach is fantasy. Pursuing it will endanger the lives of some, and ruin the lives of many.

World leaders must also be re-educated to the fact that Israel's primary predicament -- its security risk -- is based on the long-standing Arab/Muslim-Israeli conflict, not an Israel-Palestinian one. In other words, the establishment of a tiny Palestinian State by itself won't end Israel's security risk. Iranian and Hezbollah actions are helping to make this point clear. Less appreciated is that the Muslim Brotherhood would come to power in Egypt and Syria if there were fair elections held in those countries today.

Finally, world leaders must then be persuaded to give weight to the fact that security is not Israel's only predicament. Israel may have the nuclear weapons capability to blow up many who hate it, but to exist as a healthy nation -- to be a viable State -- Israel's security and well being, including social, political, and economic needs must be unassailable.

Viability is hard to precisely define. It is a concept that is best examined holistically because each State has its own unique circumstances.

In its pre-1967 borders, Israel's long-term viability is suspect because 1) it is not self-reliant, needing to be annually subsidized by American foreign aid and the monetary support of Diaspora Jews, 2) it does not have adequate water or energy resources, needing to import both, 3) the quality of life of its citizens is brutal below the surface, notwithstanding the availability of material goods made possible by a subsidized economy. Israelis live in a pressure cooker imposed by its enemies; one that takes an unhealthy emotional toll, 4) it does not have adequate territory to allow for natural population growth, 5) it does not have permeable borders to support economic activity. It faces unfriendly neighbors, and must bypass its neighbors to openly trade, and, 6) it faces borders that cannot be easily secured because it does not have adequate territory to properly defend those borders.
By assuming that the eventual 'solution' to the Middle East's problems is a 'Palestinian' state alongside Israel with the former green line being the border, the World Bank ignores all of these issues while adopting a 'solution' to which the parties never agreed (and which was substantially declined by Yasser Arafat when offered to him by Ehud Barak). It completely ignores the consequences for the security of Israeli civilians of implementing its recommendations. It ignores the fact that this conflict is about the existence of the State of Israel and not about its borders. I can only wonder just what it is that the bank is hoping to accomplish by issuing one-sided reports like the one issued today.


At 4:57 PM, Blogger Neurodoc said...

It should not be assumed that you have to travel through Israel to get from W Bank to Gaza. If terror continues they can travel through Saudi Arabia and Egypt and up.


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