Economic Initiatives Will Not Solve Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

Article Summary
In the 20 years since the signing of the Oslo Accords, while Palestinian-Israeli peace efforts provided economic support to the Palestinians, they failed to address the reality of the situation on the ground.

Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, a new point of view appeared and has begun to express itself with increasing audacity of late. In substance, it contends that winning national rights is something that requires struggle and sacrifice, and these things are beyond [Palestinians’] reach.

In the telling of those who hold this view, a national solution is far off and cannot be achieved [at present] due to the flagrant imbalance of forces between the two sides, and in light of Palestinian weakness and internal division. Moreover, the status of the [other] Arab states brings friends no comfort and enemies much gladness. Therefore, goes this narrative, we can only focus on providing ourselves with our loaf of bread, strengthening our steadfastness by building institutions, demonstrating our merit, and showing goodwill by unilaterally fulfilling Palestinians’ political, economic and security commitments.

This leads them to the view that the economy is of paramount importance and that it constitutes the key to bringing about peace, after the failure of politics to do so.

There is no fundamental problem with the aforementioned view. That is, if it distinguishes itself from the “economic peace” hypothesis propounded by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, if it was part and parcel of a strategy for preserving what we [Palestinians] have instead of offering new concessions, or embarking on ill-conceived adventures at an unpropitious time.

The real flaw with the aforementioned view is that it paves the way for calls to accept what is on offer in the belief that nothing better can be achieved. Even if it requires “communicating” with Israelis at all levels — including right-wing circles, settler circles, and extremist circles — in an attempt to persuade them to establish a Palestinian state. Even if it comes at the expense of the refugees’ cause, involves [the Palestinian state’s] demilitarization, requires land swaps, security arrangements with Israel, and guarantees Israel’s security and right to exist in both the near- and long-term.

In this context, normalization with the enemy in all its forms, and particularly in the realm of economics, becomes the main (if not the only) means of dealing with it. [The proponents of this view] want normalization to take the place of armed struggle in all its forms. At this juncture, it makes no difference whether the Israeli with whom one is dealing supports Palestinian rights or not, is opposed to the occupation or supportive of it, since communicating with the Israelis is necessary to convince them [of the need to satisfy] Palestinian rights — even if it leads to the dissolution of these very same rights, conceding them [in negotiations], or delaying them until an Israeli partner ready to meet them appears.

This point of view began to be applied in fits and starts once the Oslo Agreement was signed; over the last 10 years, however, its application has been systematic and comprehensive. That is, after the Palestinian leadership agreed to the Road Map, which gave priority to Israeli security. It thus changed the nature of the conflict by describing it as though it were a conflict over territory between two equal parties, or about the form and nature of peace, and the arrangements that had to be agreed upon [to achieve it], or to bring about a two-state solution, or as though it were a conflict between extremists and moderates on both sides, or between terrorism and those opposed to terrorism (where it was incumbent upon the “new Palestinian” to prove his hostility to terrorism and the resistance to the bone).

Why is it impossible to reconcile between obtaining a loaf of bread and a dignified life for oneself on the one hand, and struggling to restore one’s rights on the other? Because prioritizing the loaf of bread over the rights led to the latter’s dissolution, as well as to the impossibility of securing a dignified life. Meanwhile, the Palestinian struggle can achieve both at once.

In this context, it is natural that we would find the supporters of “runaway, unbridled normalization” supporting the resumption of negotiations without conditions, on the grounds that this might embarrass Israel and show it to be an obstacle to peace before the entire world, and particularly the US. As though, 20 years after Oslo, the world does not already know this to be the case. In truth, such a strategy opens up the road to the “economic peace” that will bring them [the Israelis] great influence and wealth.

They have also refused to go to the UN, because that would lead to a confrontation with the American administration. As for those of them who supported it, they did so in order to use it as a tactic to pressure [the Israelis] into returning to bilateral negotiations under exclusively American auspices and not in order to provide an alternative to these negotiations.

This same approach has been adopted, and is still being adopted, with regards to reconciliation [with Hamas], popular resistance [to Israel], and boycotting the settlements. All these slogans are just tactics to leverage a return to negotiations, despite the fact that everyone has come to understand that [those negotiations] can never lead to a national solution. But they are necessary to prevent matters from moving in the direction of an escalating conflict that would advance the goal of isolating and boycotting Israel, of imposing sanctions on it, and of Palestinians employing a variety of political and military alternatives to render the occupation more costly to Israel. Instead, the occupation is currently a profitable endeavor. Or, if you like, a “five-star occupation”.

We must not be surprised at the bitter results of this approach. Oslo has not only dealt a crushing blow to the unity of the Palestinian cause, land and people, to their detachment from one another; not only has it led to each one of these elements being divided, and then divided again; not only has it led to the abandonment of some forms of the struggle before its goals are even achieved.

It has also led to the emergence of a socio-economic structure led by certain individuals and segments within the PA and outside of it. They have grown wealthier and more influential since Oslo, while the majority of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza have grown poorer.

Supporters of the aforementioned point of view try to justify it on the grounds that it is capable of providing employment opportunities to Palestinians. [They insist] that something is better than nothing, particularly given the increasingly deteriorating economic situation. But in truth, this policy is not leading to an economic solution.

Instead, they are paving the way for US Secretary of State John Kerry (who has promised a bundle of vast economic projects after having failed to deliver any substantive political progress) to sway Palestinians into accepting this bribe. It will not even be a generous bribe, as those promoting it claim; the lion’s share will be captured by narrow classes and a few individuals. And if this policy is adopted, it will become an alternative to the struggle to end the occupation and win [Palestinian] national rights.

Yes, Palestinians need to live, work, rejoice, sing, learn, receive medical treatment, and progress forward, just as they are in need of the struggle to end the occupation of their land, especially after the failure of the so-called “peace process.” They cannot put it up for barter [and be forced to choose] between their rights and the necessities of a life with dignity. Whoever does this contributes, whether consciously or unconsciously, to justifying submission to the occupation and coexistence with it, under the pretense of “communicating’ with the Israelis in [an attempt] to win them over to the Palestinian side.

More than 20 years of normalization in all its forms have not increased the size of the peace camp within Israel, nor have they moderated it. On the contrary, they have led to greater Israeli extremism and the occupation’s deepening entrenchment, racism and belligerence. Whoever wants to influence the enemy and sharpen his contradictions must be capable of influence; in order to be capable of influence, he must be active, united, and possess a vision capable of influencing; he must be read to struggle on behalf of that vision, and make sacrifices in the process.

We cannot remain under occupation, in a state of conflict likely to deteriorate, and yet put in place economic and political plans as though we were in a state of peace or headed toward one. Economics cannot serve as a key to politics and to cooperation with Israel as long as Palestinians are not on the same level [as Israel]: possessing an independent state and an economy not subject to occupation.

Found in: palestinian, economic policy, economic

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