An Economic Peace

Bernard Avishai calls for it:

Israel should be inviting, not prohibiting, Palestinian entrepreneurs to come to the West Bank and invest. It should be greatly expanding the number of permits for businesspeople to come to Jerusalem. It should be allowing banks to operate here, thus stopping the city's brain drain to Amman and Dubai.

It should be assigning security forces to work with PA forces to expedite Palestinian supply chains. It should be authorizing the development of a secure, north-south transportation corridor linking Palestinian cities, perhaps picking up on the Rand Corporation's brilliant idea of an "arc" of bus and rail lines. It should be releasing more bandwidth for Palestinian telecom, and restricting Israeli competition in Area C.

Netanyahu could do all of this today without endangering Israelis or even removing settlers yet. With so many Palestinians under 20, the economic disparities so great, and the territory so small, what can be more dangerous than continued stagnation?

But as Avishai notes, Netanyahu's occupation continues to stifle Palestinian civil society and economic vibrancy, and he owes his power to those who wish to stifle it even more, to those who believe that Judea and Samaria should be in Israel forever, and that raw force and the immiseration of the Palestinians are the ways to achieve it. If Netanyahu cannot resist these forces even to freeze settlement construction for a year, what are the odds of his being able to grant these far larger concessions? It's like expecting Cheney to back civil trials for some terror suspects.

And with each year, the number of settlers grows and the fusion of religion and politics on the dominant Israeli right gathers momentum. And the pro-Israel lobby in Washington will work like crazy to prevent the US being able to pressure the Israeli government to move in any constructive way.