Aug. 6, 2018
- To Reboot Gaza, Look to Jenin in the West Bank – Dave Harden
During the Second Intifada, Jenin was the most dangerous city in the West Bank, home to at least 28 suicide bombers who killed 124 Israelis. Then in the mid-2000s, in the northern West Bank along the Jenin-Jalameh corridor close to northern Israel, the U.S. and Israel promoted trade and economic opportunity to stabilize the region and marginalize Palestinian rejectionists and militias.
The Americans provided $10 million in assistance for the Jenin trading corridor that leveraged an estimated $500 million of sustained, private sector trade which fundamentally changed the economic, security, and social fabric of the northern West Bank. During the 2014 wave of lone-wolf attackers, almost none were from Jenin.
Massive continued humanitarian aid, as being discussed for Gaza, alleviates suffering but creates a welfare dependent, failed society. To reboot Gaza, look to Jenin in the West Bank where economic opportunity has changed almost everything. The writer, managing director of the Georgetown Strategy Group, was an American diplomat who led the U.S. assistance mission to the West Bank and Gaza for more than a decade. (Jerusalem Post)
Foreign policy experts have urged the immediate rehabilitation of Gaza as panacea to its endemic propensity for violence. Yet this argument is the inverse of the truth. It is not Gaza’s economic malaise that has precipitated Palestinian violence; rather, it is the endemic violence that has caused the Strip’s humanitarian crisis.
Countless nations and groups in today’s world endure far harsher socioeconomic or political conditions than the Palestinians, yet none have embraced violence and terrorism against their neighbors with such alacrity and on such a massive scale. Moreover, there is no causal relationship between economic hardship and mass violence.
Public opinion polls among Palestinians during the 1990s revealed far stronger support for the nascent peace process with Israel, and opposition to terrorism, among the poorer and less educated parts of society – representing the vast majority of the population.
It is not socioeconomic despair but the total rejection of Israel’s right to exist, inculcated by the PLO and Hamas over the past 25 years, which underlies the relentless anti-Israel violence emanating from these territories and its attendant economic stagnation and decline.
So long as Gaza continues to be governed by Hamas’ rule of the jungle, no Palestinian civil society, let alone a viable state, can develop.
Just as the creation of free and democratic societies in Germany and Japan after World War II necessitated a comprehensive sociopolitical and educational transformation, so, too, it is only when the local population sweeps its oppressive rulers from power, eradicates the endemic violence from political and social life, and teaches the virtues of coexistence with Israel that Gaza can look forward to a better future.
The writer is director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University and emeritus professor of Middle East and Mediterranean studies at King’s College London.