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Saving the Palestinian Economy from Terrorist Sabotage

29 July 2002

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Sometimes there is good news.  The Israeli ministry of agriculture, Palestinian citrus farmers, the Jordanians and the Israeli Army collaborated to ship to Saudi Arabia $15 million of oranges from the Gaza Strip.  In a secret operation completed this past week the fruit was marketed without the knowledge of Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, the Tanzim or anyone else in Arafat’s Palestinian Authority offices, all of whom were expected to sabotage the joint efforts.  The operation took place nightly through a special exit in the Erez Crossing Zone on the northern side of the Strip. 

The above mentioned Palestinian groups have an interest in the destruction of their own economy.  The Hamas, Jihad and Tanzim gain suicide/homicide bombers from extreme poverty and destitution, knowing if people have nothing to live for in this world they will willingly find their way to the next (especially if accompanied by 72 virgins, martyrdom and heroism).  As for the PA, economic collapse can be used as another excuse to demand the internationalization of the conflict, something Arafat has been trying to achieve for years, without success. 

There is much discussion of the Palestinian ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ in the West Bank (Judaea and Samaria) and the Gaza Strip as unemployment is estimated at 50% and the Palestinian GNP is thought to have dropped well below $1 billion.  Worse yet, most of the wealth is in the hands of a few upper class families.   Due to the drop in terror intensity and the desire to avoid the ‘catastrophe’ Israel has decided to pass on $42 million in monies collected in taxes from the Palestinians, many who worked in Israel prior to the Arafat initiated violence of 22 months ago.  These funds were withheld due to terror activities.

Prime Minister Sharon has given permission for 5,000 more Palestinians to work in Israel every day (in addition to the present 2,000).  Fishing off the Gaza Strip is to be expanded and 4,000 laborers will work in the joint Israeli/Palestinian industrial zone at the Erez Crossing in Gaza.

One can ascertain the beginnings of a return to the spirit of the Oslo Accords even if the agreements appear dead.  Economic cooperation is one of the cornerstones of Foreign Minister Peres’ view of a ‘new Middle East’ and what was destroyed previously is now being resurrected, even if very slowly.

It is hoped Palestinian economic development will undermine terrorism, PA corruption and Chairman Arafat.  That has yet to be seen.  In the meantime Israel is engaging in a ‘carrot and stick’ policy with an attempt at jump starting Palestinian economic endeavors while occupying seven out of the eight large urban centers in an effort to crush terrorism.

So far it is only a very small carrot and an enormous stick.  But it is a beginning.