May 16, 2017
A Proposal for a Trump Initiative for the Economic Development of the West Bank and Gaza – Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira and Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Billions of dollars contributed by the donor countries to the Palestinian Authority have evaporated because of lack of transparency, corruption, and inefficiency. Despite all the money that has poured into the West Bank and Gaza, the situation there has only worsened.
- The Trump administration should play a leading role in creating an atmosphere of cooperation to allow the Palestinians and Israelis to reach a future agreement. To defuse the hostile environment, it is of the utmost importance that the U.S. propose an improved economic recovery plan, one that is not another cash handout, but rather a program aimed at improving Palestinian infrastructures.
- Roads and Railways: Renovate the transportation infrastructure to allow for improved connection between the different parts of the PA and a link reaching Amman, Jordan.
- Electricity: Build power stations in the PA or at the border with Israel, powered by gas from wells in the Mediterranean Sea.
- Port and Airport: Due to security reasons, the U.S., in concert with Israel, would assure the security of those installations.
- Housing: Palestinian cities are a city planner’s nightmare. In Gaza, the existing refugee camps should be dismantled and replaced with a modern complex of high-rise towers together with the required infrastructure. It is inconceivable that a Palestinian refugee living in his own state will still be considered a refugee.
- Water Supply: One-third of Palestinian cities’ water is lost through leakage or mismanagement. Unauthorized water wells proliferate, leading to the salinization or crashing of aquifers. In addition to repairing infrastructure, new desalination plants can be constructed, financed by a joint U.S.-Gulf State fund.
- Sewage Treatment: Sewage has polluted most of the wells in the West Bank and Gaza and has also penetrated the Israeli aquifer. While the technology to change this situation currently exists, the failure to exploit the capacity emanates from Palestinian political considerations.
- Healthcare: Create a complete healthcare system from scratch.
- Tourism: Encourage the establishment of hotel networks around religious and other tourist sites in the West Bank, and along the seashore in Gaza.
- It is essential that Israel is a full partner in the planning of this initiative.
- The best long-term political and economic solution to the future status of the West Bank and Gaza is the establishment of a confederation linking the West Bank and Jordan. This will provide economic and geostrategic depth to Jordan and the Palestinians and a viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, a senior research associate at the Jerusalem Center, served as bureau chief to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the military secretary to the Prime Minister.
Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, a special analyst at the Jerusalem Center, was formerly foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and deputy head for assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence.