Monday, May 14, 2007

The IDF helping the Palestinian Arab economy. Try to find that reported somewhere.

The US recently floated the idea of "benchmarks" where both Israel and the Palestinian Arabs would agree to some confidence-building measures. Two of the things Israel is supposed to do under this plan are dismantling checkpoints in the West Bank and allowing free passage between Gaza and the West Bank - both of which will certainly increase terror, according to the IDF and common sense.

But, Israel's critics would argue, what can you expect from the IDF - after all, the World Bank just released a report saying that Israel's policies are stopping any chance for an economy to be built in the territories. Israel seems hell-bent on a policy of strangling the Palestinian Arabs economically, right?

Too bad the press doesn't report on everything that Israel - including the IDF - is doing to help the PalArab economy:
Israel and the Palestinian Authority are working on plans for the establishment of five industrial parks close to the Green Line that are each meant to provide hundreds of Palestinians with jobs, Deputy Defense Minister Efraim Sneh confirmed yesterday.

Sneh told Haaretz that work on an industrial area has already begun in the area of Jenin and in Sha'ar Ephraim, close to Tul Karm. At the same time Israel is making plans to establish an industrial area in the Erez industrial zone, close the the Gaza Strip, that will be operated by Turkish contractors.

In addition, there are contacts with private Palestinian investors for the establishment of an industrial zone close to the Karni crossing in the Gaza Strip, and also with the government of Japan for the creation of a similar park in the vicinity of Jericho.

Sneh also expressed criticism at the fact that the World Bank made no mention in its latest report, of the Israeli efforts to contribute to the Palestinian economy. In its report, the World Bank criticized Israel for effectively stymieing Palestinian economic development through policies that limit the freedom of movement of the Palestinian population in the West Bank.

The industrial park venture was presented by the defense establishment last January during a meeting of Israeli, Palestinian and American representatives at the residence of the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Richard Jones. The meeting dealt with the Agreement on Movement and Access of November, 2005.

The idea behind the venture is to establish work places in the territory of the Palestinian Authority in order to prevent excessive dependence by the Palestinian economy on jobs in Israel.

All the industrial parks will be established in Palestinian Authority territory, and Israel has committed to facilitating security and bureaucratic arrangements relevant to the projects.
The clearest indication that the "benchmark" plan is not only a non-starter but is in fact counterproductive can be seen by what has been happening recently at the Karni crossing:
While tensions rise in the Gaza Strip ahead of a possible IDF operation in response to daily Kassam rocket attacks, 16,600 jobs have been created there in the last three months, with unemployment down - over the past six months - by close to 7 percent.

According to Col. Nir Press, commander of the IDF Coordination and Liaison Administration, a drop in terror threats to the Karni Crossing has led to an increase in the transfer of raw materials into Gaza, creating new jobs.

Nevertheless, he stressed, unemployment in Gaza remained at just over 30%.

The increase in jobs in the last quarter followed a similar rise in the previous quarter, when 19,100 jobs were created, including 10,500 in agriculture.

This past quarter, only several hundred out of the 16,600 new workers found jobs in agriculture, with the majority finding work in transportation, communications and construction.

According to the Coordination and Liaison Administration, 43 million carnations were exported to Europe from the Gaza Strip this past season, up from 17 million in 2006. The Palestinian farmers told Press during the meeting that they made a profit of €4.5m.

Press told The Jerusalem Post the increases in jobs and flower exports were due to both improved coordination and a Palestinian effort to deter terrorists from attacking the Karni Crossing, the main artery for cargo in and out of the Gaza Strip.

In 2006, Karni was closed for nearly 100 days due to intelligence warnings of planned attacks. Last summer, a vast tunnel - intended to be filled with explosives - was discovered being dug under the crossing.

"Last year, when there were the security warnings Karni was closed... and a lot of flowers went down the drain," Press said. "Since September, however, Karni has been open daily except for some days when it was closed due to labor strikes on the Palestinian side."
Israel's desire for peace with the Arab world, including the Palestinian Arabs, is clear and consistent from before 1948. The only thing Israel desires more is her own security.

The story at Karni is crystal clear - when the terror threat subsides, Israel goes above and beyond to help the Palestinian Arabs. After seven years of the intifada, this is more than remarkable - and it is possibly reckless. This is the story that is invisible to the world media, one that every Israeli knows in his bones and one that the entire world suppresses, because it doesn't fit the standard story template of oppressive Israelis and Palestinian Arab victims.

Benchmarks are stupid and do the exact opposite of their intent. If you want peace, pressure the Palestinian Arabs to stop their daily terror attacks and Israel will, inevitably and inexorably, do everything else. Forcing Israel to reduce her defenses will increase terror. The only people who can stop it are the Palestinian Arabs themselves, and it won't be in "response" to any Israeli goodwill gesture - it will be when they grow up and act like responsible human beings.

Notwithstanding the good news at Karni and the industrial zones, this prospect is not likely in the foreseeable future.