It is positive, indeed, that the focus at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa, held in Jordan, was on mobilizing to generate $4 billion worth of investments for the occupied Palestinian territories to help fight unemployment by creating much-needed jobs.
Such an approach has the strong support of a large group of Palestinian and Israeli business people, who call themselves Breaking the Impasse, who are committed to peace via economic development and are acting as a lobby to promote it. US Secretary of State John Kerry was quoted as saying that such investment could greatly reduce Palestinian unemployment, from almost 21% to 8%. It would also consolidate the building of the future Palestinian state.
The approach represents one of the trilateral dimensions espoused by Kerry to relaunch the peace process, the other two being the political and security dimensions. Yet as expressed by the Palestinian leadership, there remains legitimate fear among the Palestinians, due to past experience and current Israeli policies, that this economic dimension, as much as it is important, could at the end of the day replace the vital political one.
The amelioration of life under occupation will not, however, change Palestinians' feeling of national humiliation. This feeling is reinforced by daily life events and structural exploitation, as is always the case for people under occupation. It is equally important to underline that economic development will always be constrained and hindered by the occupation itself, its interests and its policies.
The economic as well as security dimensions, as important as they are, should be integrated into the larger political one. Indeed, the political dimension represents the real problem, the basic cause of the conflict. The three dimensions should not be addressed in a parallel fashion, leaving the Palestinians and Israelis to work out the political dimension by themselves at a time when the Israelis continue to show no serious interest in genuine negotiations based on UN Security Council Resolution 242 to bring an end to the occupation.
Kerry's mission must focus on having Israel present a map of its borders respecting the June 4, 1967, line as the basis for the demarcation between the two states existing side by side. The security dimension will come to provide and consolidate reciprocal assurances, guaranteed if necessary by the third parties, but based on each respecting the sovereignty of the other state.
The benefits of the economic dimension could be used to optimize the benefits for the new Palestinian state and to open a new page in the history of the Middle East. Unless this integrated approach with the primacy of the political dimension is established, economic facilitators will not allow the necessary takeoff. If this happens, then the Kerry mission will be another missed opportunity in the history of missed opportunities in Arab-Israeli conflict diplomacy, a deja vu exercise adding to the disappointed expectations and increased frustration of the Palestinian people instead of taking the courageous and visionary road of constructing a new order in the Middle East at a time of great and unpredictable changes in the region.
Ambassador Nassif Hitti is a senior Arab League official and the former head of the Arab League Mission in Paris. He is a former representative to UNESCO and a member of the Al-Monitor board of directors. The views he presents here are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.