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Sunday, June 21, 2009

How things could be in the Palestinian Arab territories

From Ha'aretz:
The skies lit up over Jenin last month, set off to mark the occasion of the opening of Hirbawi Home Center, a new luxury establishment on the city's outskirts.

The five-story building near the Jalame checkpoint cost $5 million to build, says its owner, and it is filled with deluxe, foreign-made products seen mostly in the pages of newspaper supplements.

This shopping opportunity is intended to interest the upper crust of Jenin, and while some might think the proposition suggests financial suicide, the profit forecasts for the project have been so favorable the owner plans to open four more shops in the West Bank and one in Jordan.

The next city to enjoy a Hirbawi Home Center is Ramallah, where one is already in partial operation; then Hebron, Tul Karem and Nablus.

"It may sound mad to outsiders," says the chain's CEO, Ziad Turabi, "but to us it makes perfect sense. We believe we can make a very handsome profit. Many people in the occupied territories have money but they have nowhere to spend it if they're after quality. We offer them the best quality there is."

This may not sound like the familiar description of the occupied territories - the impoverished Palestinian village or the overcrowded refugee camp, a population sustaining itself on international aid. But it turns out that quite a few Palestinians consider a plasma screen, a surround sound stereo and comfortable chairs to be fairly essential items.

Here, on the fifth floor of the Jenin operation, overlooking the fields separating Israel from Jenin, are the in-demand electric gadgets: enormous TV screens, vacuum cleaners, espresso machines, and the list goes on and on.

"We've been working for a few months now and every day had been like opening day. We are very pleased, and the profits have been very satisfying so far. Don't worry, we're not going to lose, and we truly believe that. "
Part of the reason for the success of a venture like this is that the PA - together with American Lieutenant-General Keith Dayton and Israel - have worked together to stop terror from what used to be a haven for terrorists:
"Abu Tarek," the Jenin area commander, seemed pleased. He and his predecessor, "Abu Hadid," have turned "terrorism capital" into the quietest, safest city in the West Bank. Jenin, the flagship project of the American administration and the U.S. security coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Lieutenant-General Keith Dayton, has become the success story of the new PA. "What brings Hirbawi and others is the security situation", Abu Tarek says. "We solved quite a few issues and, Inshallah (God willing,) we will see many more investments. Even the refugee camp is quiet now. There are no militants and we react very quickly to any incident. The residents believed in the security apparatus. They trust us and assist us.

"And you can see it on the street. Shops are open until late, women can go around fearlessly.

"It's been over two years since the last attack from Jenin against Israel. We went to great length to prevent terror attacks, and your people know that."

A third factor which makes the change in the West Bank possible is the Israel Defense Forces. Abu Tarek says the Israeli army was still carrying out operations in the West Bank but became "a lot less violent." And one of the Palestinians present, who witnessed his brothers' arrest recently, chuckles: "They're very gentle nowadays. They come quietly, knock on the door and say politely: Army, please open up."
This goes to show what is possible - when Palestinian Arabs take responsibility for terrorism, Israel has no need to bother them and no need to stop them from succeeding. In fact, Israel has every incentive to turn it into a win-win, a mindset that most Arabs unfortunately have not yet embraced.

It also shows that when Palestinian Arabs act like responsible adults, the benefits to their people are immediate and concrete. It is not Israeli actions that are stopping them from prospering; it is their own. Gaza's problems could go away in a few months if its leaders would act like Jenin's. This is in everyone's interests, except for those so-called "leaders" who have no real interest in the well-being of their own people and every interest in using them as pawns against Israel.

Not surprisingly, Hamas is not happy with General Dayton's actions:
[Khaled Meshal said] "If Fatah doesn’t like the situation in the Gaza Strip, Hamas also doesn’t like the situation in the West Bank. If Fatah believes security services in Gaza are affiliated to Hamas, Hamas believes the security services in the West Bank have no affiliation. They are not affiliated even to Fatah, as [US] General [Keith] Dayton keeps forming them again and again, selecting people who have no history to be in the middle of security services. There is tremendous destruction going on, which impedes conciliation philosophy," he added.

With regard to the situation in the West Bank, Mashal said that it is the US security coordinator Keith Dayton who makes decisions and that he is building the Palestinian Authority’s security services and training them on how to be oppressive.
This story illustrates more than any other how Hamas is hurting its people.

And isn't it remarkable that this success was not impeded at all by the existence of "settlements"?