Back to the Future with Bibi and the Clintons

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But in July 2010, Netanyahu gave a speech in New York City hosted by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. I attended that speech and noticed something the prime minister said in response to a question from the audience. “Everybody knows that there are Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem that under any peace plan will remain where they are,” Netanyahu said. Uri Heilman of JTA noticed it too. “The implication of Netanyahu’s remark—that other neighborhoods of Jerusalem may not remain ‘where they are,’ becoming part of an eventual Palestinian state—was the first hint that the Israeli leader may be flexible on the subject of Jerusalem,” Heilman wrote.

So Netanyahu is three for three; he is to Rabin’s left on all major issues. Netanyahu, more importantly, is much more dedicated to making progress on the peace front than he is given credit for. In May, Daniel Doron, president of the Israel Center for Social and Economic Progress, authored an article for The New Republic reminding policymakers that the last time the West Bank had a booming economy was also the last time there was anything close to peace. His contention was that the concept of “economic peace” is not only viable, but has a track record of actual success—unlike other tactics that have been tried.

Then Doron noted that Netanyahu had proposed a similar plan this time around, having learned from experience what works and what doesn’t. “But his plan fell on deaf ears among the political-solution addicts at Foggy Bottom, whose misguided faith in the PA mirrored their support for other dictatorial regimes across the region,” Doron lamented.

Perhaps history will catch up with Bibi’s opponents the way it always has. The Clinton administration ignored Netanyahu’s proposal for a land swap, and now it’s all the rage. The Obama administration dismissed “economic peace,” but Netanyahu has pressed forward with elements of it anyway, and the economy of the West Bank and Gaza saw GDP growth of 9 percent in 2010.

Here is the International Monetary Fund’s assessment of that growth: “In Gaza, the strong recovery was driven by the steady easing by the Government of Israel (GoI) since mid-2010 of restrictions on imports of consumer goods and inputs for public investment projects, following the tightening of controls in 2006. In the West Bank, growth continued to benefit from higher private sector confidence underpinned by good management and reforms by the Palestinian Authority (PA) supported by donor aid. It also benefited from measures to ease restrictions in early 2010, including the removal of internal obstacles and enhancing the capacity of crossing points with Israel.”

That’s a pretty explicit description of the degree to which Israel is responsible for improving the economic situation in the Palestinian territories. It’s not just removing checkpoints, either. According to a cable released in the WikiLeaks document dump, the State Department was told in November 2008 that if Netanyahu became prime minister, “Netanyahu’s vision would have Israel working with Jordan and foreign donors to inject large-scale investment in the West Bank to improve the daily lives of Palestinians.”

Binyamin Netanyahu has been the leading cheerleader for foreign investment into the West Bank. And, as the IMF statistics show, the combination of foreign donations and investment and the removal of checkpoints make up the majority of the reason for the Palestinian territories’ economic growth.

Hopefully, we won’t have to wait another fourteen years for the U.S. to support progress in the Palestinian territories.

Seth Mandel is a writer specializing in Middle Eastern politics and a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Horowitz Freedom Center.

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  • fleedo

    l'm not Jewish and l dont live in lsrael. Self preservation doesnt colour my thinking when it comes to drawing the borsdrs of a Palestinian state. l can suggest all sorts of solutions and l dont have to live with the consequences. There a lot of lsraelis and they will have to live with the consequences of the establishment of the Palestinian state. The further the Palestinian state is from lsrael the safer lsraelis will be. Does anyone actually trust the Palestinians to live in peaceful coexistence with lsrael once they achieve their state?

  • Asher

    The Clintons have been working for the PLO just like Jimmy Carter and Obama!!!!

  • M. Archer

    Thank you Seth Mandel for putting a positve face on the Israeli Prime minister and on his role in rational cooperation to bring about a positive end for the Palrstinian people. Again I say the "people" who are pawns in the tragedy that is given life by the Arab world et al, so that they may promote their hate Israel campaign at the expense of the "people". Baruch HaShem Bibi is teaching the world a lesson in their game, showing definitively that the Arab/Israeli conflict ruse is exposed for what it is-raw anti Israel vitriol and nothing else.

  • Raymond in DC

    What we're seeing today on the West Bank only confirms what we've seen on the ground since 1967: that when quiet is maintained under an Israeli security umbrella, the Palestinian Arabs benefit at least as much as Israelis. One need only review the socio-economic data from 1967-1987 when the first intifada broke out.

    But things differ today in two respects: First, during those two decades there was little foreign aid beyond UNRWA in the territories. Those benefits came from direct Israeli investment in infrastructure, education and health care, plus the workings of the free market – open borders, private investment, and access to the Israeli labor and commercial market. Today the Palestinians are far more dependent on foreign aid than they've ever been. Gaza doesn't have the access to the Israeli market, but they get gobs of foreign aid (most routed through the UN and PA). Second, the PA's forces take some of the security load off the IDF, though were Dayton's forces left completely on their own there's no doubt Hamas would take control of the West Bank as they took control of Gaza.

  • aspacia

    Thanks to Mandel for a great analysis of Bibi.