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Why not call Netanyahu’s bluff on “economic peace?”

Prime Minister Netanyahu still hasn’t given up on the idea of forging an “economic peace” with the Palestinians, Bloomberg reports.

Last week, at a meeting in Washington, I heard Yossi Beilin tell some left-learning, pro-Israel American Jews that they –and the Israeli left– should take Netanyahu at his word. “If he wants economic peace, let’s say, `Fine! We agree! Here is what you need to do…”

True economic opportunity for the Palestinians, he pointed out, would be impossible without changing many oppressive facts on the ground that have political implications, without opening up the ports of Gaza, agreeing to let the Palestinians rebuild their airport and taking other steps. I didn’t think Beilin was serious, as he has a way of coming up with impish, provocative ideas that are meant to move the conversation forward but are impractical. It turns out, however, that he articulated the same idea last month in a piece in Israel Hayom, which was translated in Americans for Peace Now’s indispensable Middle East Peace Report:

Instead of sneering and telling Netanyahu to stop pulling the wool over our eyes, this is the moment that even those who believe in peace should demand that he keep what he promises. Economic peace is no simple thing. You can’t make economic peace in a situation in which agricultural goods that have to reach a port or a bridge have to go through dozens of roadblocks, making it pointless to market them….

..We have to realize that the phrase ‘economic peace’ means giving permits to Palestinian laborers to work in Israel, [it means] giving permits to export to the PA goods that Israel does not [now] permit exported to it due to fear that dangerous use will be made of them (such as chemical fertilizers liable to be used for producing bombs), [it means] giving permits to landowners in the West Bank to work their land, [it means] giving exit permits [for Palestinians] to attend courses overseas, [it means] bringing experts from overseas to the West Bank, and so on and so forth. If this takes place, the security establishment will come to Netanyahu the prime minister and demand that he not remove roadblocks, that he not give permits, and will warn him of the risk he is taking on himself. His first test will be if he can stand up and say to them: `I promised economic peace, and I am determined to realize it.’

Interesting idea. Alas, it probably doesn’t matter what the dispirited Israeli left says or does, at the moment. But it does matter what Obama, Mitchell and Hillary Clinton say and do. Maybe they should just call Bibi’s bluff and see if that changes the game…

58 thoughts on “Why not call Netanyahu’s bluff on “economic peace?”

  1. I like Yossi Beilin’s comments.

    Economic peace does not preclude political peace later, even shortly.

    I doubt that the more vigorous dissenters will agree though.

  2. You don’t get Nobel Peace Prizes for making “economic peace”. That’s why the Oslo Agreements failed, because no mechanism was left in place to see to it that the Palestinians built a state infrastructure. All they said was “dump Arafat on the Palestinians, go to Oslo to get the peace prize, to hell with everything else”. Netanyahu’s plan, according to Beilin, allows for this to happen. Odd though, that Beilin didn’t worry about this when he was in power in the 1990’s. Maybe he is admitting he was wrong to ignore this aspect of “peace making”.

  3. I agree with Beilin’s remarks except about allowing export of chemical fertilizers. Nitrogen-based fertilizers that can be easily converted into bombs should be prohibited. There are other types of fertilizer–some natural and quite ancient. If fertilizers are allowed they will be diverted either voluntarily or involuntarily.

  4. It’s too early to say, but it sounds like Netanyahu might put more effort into stabilizing & growing the West Bank economy–but not Gaza (??)

  5. Things are spinning out fast in Israel.

    The introduction of the Netanyahu/Lieberman administration is renouncing prior administrations’ negotiations and agreements.

    (It should be noted that the valid basis of dismissal of the Hamas Palestinian government was that it renounced prior PA agreements.)

    Settlements are expanding, and new settlements are being authorized. Relative to Syria, Lieberman announced that they were not considering land for peace, but only peace for peace, to which Assad responded “If Israel wishes to reject the effort for peace, then we can as well.”

    As the Syrian tack was the critical current one that was likely resolvable, that represents a large setback, more than a setback as it escalates the likelihood with additional conflict with Hezbollah, then also with Syria, then also with the PA (if Israel tries its patience to breaking), then also with Gaza, and prospectively also with Egypt and even Jordan.

    It could feasibly destroy the peace agreements that Israel already has, reviving the status of a five-front war (Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Jordan).

    It is a real disaster in the making, all for self-talk and a messianic utopian illusion.

  6. “It could feasibly destroy the peace agreements that Israel already has, reviving the status of a five-front war (Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Jordan).”

    Are they really this insane? And is the public really willing to sign on to that possibility?

  7. Ok…so there is a lot of confusion in interpretation here. And I’m reading a lot of conflicting things.

    I thought the problem with the new government wanting to return to the 2003 roadmap is that it precludes freezing settlements.

    But then I read this:

    “Lieberman, a Soviet immigrant denounced as a racist by many Arabs, told Haaretz however that Israel was only obliged to meet its commitments under a “road map” of 2003, which include removing unauthorised outposts and freezing settlement activity.

    The road map, also backed by the United States, calls on Palestinians to stop attacks on Israel before any talks on the final shape of a statehood deal take place.”

    The rest of the article goes on to state that Netanyahu is stalling on statehood and wants to first focus on Palestinian economic stability and security.

    Lieberman statements

    So I guess it boils down to interpretation of intent.

    Are they truly looking for reasons to stall and expand? (and is there tangible proof of this policy?)

    Or are they avoiding putting the cart before the horse and demanding security and economic viability before statehood?

  8. Yakov,
    Your article will self-fulfill. Its a silly rationalization.

    The primary reason that Israel is held in increasing negative light, is because it has continued to expand the settlements, in violation of its word.

    There are clearly unilateral, bi-lateral and multi-lateral actions that Israel CAN take without materially exposing itself to danger, that would isolate those that conditionally accept Israel from those that unconditionally reject Israel, to the point that the rejectionists would be marginalized (not quickly, there is so much anger with cause).

    YOU, among many many others, describe the unwillingness to reconcile with your neighbors, if it involves any risk (as all reconciliation does). After you have a fight with your cousin, and you show up to make up, you don’t have a clue if he will punch you or hug you. Consider the meeting of Jacob and Esau years after their fight. (Jacob was scared.)

  9. It would be horrid.

    That is a test of ice at 31 degrees though. When will you test it at 32 or 33 degrees?

  10. YBD
    Why Israel giving up territory is a disaster for both Arabs and Jews
    This is an nice example of what they call sophistry. The whole argument is that if you oppress the Palestinians on day to day basis, then it is easier to police them and there is no need for large scale operations that entail a lot of civilian casualties. This is without any regard to the justice of the oppression in the first place. In other words, they should be grateful for us merely raping them, because otherwise we’d have to kill them.
    This you consider a worthy argument? Give me a break. The first intifada started with Israel controlling the territories. The next intifada in the WB will also start regardless of Israel’s control. The territories are a pot cooking under pressure and the author of the article mistakes causality and correlation. So, the next big military operation will happen anyway.

  11. Interesting poll about attitudes of young Palestinians:

    I am somewhat skeptical of Palestinian polls, but if this is true, it could be quite significant. One reason is that we have been told for generations that “the next generation of Arabs are going to be more radical so we had better hurry up and make concessions to them now”.
    The fact that a large majority feels that “violence is not useful” is particularly interesting. I have had the feeling that the increasing paralysis of the Israeli defense doctrine and ongoing concessions with the open spread of Post-Zionism among the Israeli “elite” would lead the Arabs to think they are winning and that more violence would only help. This result shows that they realize that they are losing the war with Israel, as is indeed the case. Also note that far more identify themselves as Muslims instead of Arabs. This confusion of identities is one of the prime reasons for the disunity that has plagued them for generations. Note that only 28% identify as “Palestinians” which of course goes to prove what we have been saying for a long time-there is no such thing as a Palestinian nation. Glad to hear the Palestinians themselves confirm this fact.

  12. Interesting poll. So what, if anything, will Israel do with that information?

    Seems like an opportunity for more outreach.

  13. Suzanne-
    I agee with you. I think Netanyahu’s economic peace plan is designed exactly for that…to show that they can improve the lives of the Palestinians without getting bogged down in the insoluable “peace agreement” problems which condemned the Palestinians to economic and political chaos for years as a result of the Oslo fiasco.

  14. But they can’t undertake economic peace without relaxing the borders.

    So, if the roadblocks and exclusive roads aren’t necessary, then “economic peace” won’t be possible.

    And, the Israeli word is so tattered now that the proposed exchange of trade and relatively open borders for quiet, will likely not be accepted by West Bank Palestinians.

    I agree with Peter D’s assessment that you are deriving false conclusions from the poll. Unless you have a means to satisfactorily reconcile with those that primarily identify as Muslims, you are in the same boat.

    I fall into the same quandry on a similar poll. If asked, do you primarily identify as: A human being, a Jew, an American, a Witty? I’d be hard-pressed to determine which is most important.

    Me, I’m a humanist Jew living in America.

    If others felt similarly, you might conclude that there is no American identity in fact. Or similarly for Israeli. Are you a human being, an Israeli, a Jew, a Jerusalemite?

  15. Richard-
    If those who claim to lead the Palestinians are really interested in improving the lives of the their people, even before a peace agreement, then they realize what you say, that restrictions on movement must be relaxed, BUT that can only occur if they themselves put an end to terrorist activity, and not simply rely on the IDF to do it, as is the case today, where the PA turns a blind eye to terror activity.

    The question of identity of the Arabs is not just “theoretical”. Not every ethnic group in the world is entitled to national self determination. If Palestinians do not feel they are a nation, then forcing them together without having a real bond would lead to chaos, as has indeed happened, particulary the split between Judea/Samaria and Gaza. This has been Iraq’s curse, a country badly divided on confessional and ethnic lines. Up until the American invasion the country could only be held together by an iron-fisted dictatorship. If a Palestinian feels more “Muslim” than “Palestinian” or “Arab” he may feel more comfortable being under Iranian influence, whereas the other two groups would greatly resent non-Arab influence in his country. A “pan-Arab” would maybe prefer having Egyptian or Jordanian influence to having an unviable mini-Palestinian state.

  16. I think you need a follow-up poll, not to derive false conclusions from that one.

    The objective situation is that the non-Jewish residents of the region do not currently have civil rights, nor property rights, nor an economy.

    The economic component is an important one for their welfare, but as constructed it is set up to be impossible (prerequisite of perfect calm before any even effort at any normalization), and incomplete (to the point of firming their subordination not their affirmation).

    Is that what you propose?

  17. YBD

    “BUT that can only occur if they themselves put an end to terrorist activity, and not simply rely on the IDF to do it, as is the case today, where the PA turns a blind eye to terror activity.”

    I dare you to provide a reliable source to this remarkable assertion. Why remarkable? Because for the last couple of years there were very few terror attacks in Israel. In 2008 there was a single suicide bombing with one person killed and the terrorist coming from the Gaza strip. Other terror attacks mostly involved bulldozers coming from East Jerusalem. Now, to claim that these numbers are all the work of IDF/Shabak is not credible. Even with the tightest possible control, determined terrorists would find their way to strike. The wall has even less to do with it: thousands of Palestinians cross it into Israel every week. The only plausible explanation to the almost complete absence of terror attacks, especially the more logistically challenging suicide bombings, is the low motivation for such among the Palestinians. So, the Palestinians pretty much already “put an end to terrorist activity”.

  18. I think Y.Ben-David has put too much faith in that poll. I didn’t investigate further because, well, it’s a poll and done by the U.N. I return to what AbuKhalil said about it:

    “when they say that More Palestinians identified themselves as Muslim rather than Palestinian. What does that mean? How was the question phrased? I am sure if they were given an opportunity, or a question, in which they can identify with both, of if questions were phrased in a way that would not make the Palestinian identity in conflict with the Muslim identity, the results would have been different. I would not be surprised if tomorrow the UN comes out with a report in which Palestinians are found to be most happy when living under Dahlan armed gangs.”

    All of it is iffy at best. Why would they put a question in total conflict with the other? Would they do the same thing with Israeli Jews? How about you Y.Ben-David, do you consider yourself (a) a Jew or (b) an Israeli? It can’t be both as the poll only suggests two answers. See how that works out?

    Look, even if Netanyahu is 10 % serious about this, how is it going to do that and still attempt NOT to deal with Hamas. As we are all aware, Hamas is still part of the PA even though they keep getting kidnapped. Are they really going to purge them all? Would that be necessary to buff the PA yet again? If Netanyahu wants to decouple economics with the politics that is involved in this matter, he really is a dreamer.

  19. This has turned into a very good debate…with substance.

    I remain open to which way the Netanyahu government is going to take this.

    He is not known as a dreamer…more of a pragmatist, I think, for better or worse.

  20. The IDF is constantly carrying out on-going security operations in Judea/Samaria. Every night it is reported that suspects are arrested. This is what has cut the amount of terror attacks. No doubt some intelligence information comes from sources close to the PA, in order to weaken forces, such as HAMAS, that are hostile to the PA, but the PA is NOT opposed to terror attacks, their official media still praises them, and the official Palestinian police do not incarcerate terror suspects. They are told their job is interal security in the Palestinian Authority, not to be “contractors” for the IDF.

  21. You don’t believe that a Palestinian state that treaties with Israel is superior to the status quo?

  22. Richard, Y.Ben-David has iterated many times that he believes that they are not better with a state (even I know this).

    Am I the only one who is connecting “economic peace” with a version of Apartheid? Why am I the only one troubled by this? Bluntly speaking, Oslo was better for Palestinians, pre-’87 Intifada was MUCH better for Palestinians, post-67 was much better for Palestinians, post-48 was much better for the Palestinians (on some respects) and yet you want to dangle this offer for the Palestinians, who have held on to the hope that they are promised a state (possibly since the first World War under Wilson’s “self-determination”), they are even legally obligated to have a state for themselves, they have signed treaties that promised a future state, and now you want it to be quashed in an instant and declare “you don’t deserve a state, just good jobs”. With all due respect (and I really don’t mean that because Netanyahu was a failure in his first term, why would you vote him in again?), “economic peace” is a precursor or even a euphamism for Apartheid. It is offering crumbs to a people who have been promised independence. That will make them even more disillusioned. Would the pre-state Zionists have accepted autonomy with good jobs instead of a state after the Balfour Declaration, the Peel Commission and the UN Partition Plan of 1947?

  23. Joshua,

    Of course you are absoluely correct if the intention is just the replication of connditions that prevailed in, for example, the early 1980s, when there was relatively free movement of Palestinian labor back and forth from Israel and the territories…But I think you are missing Beilin’s point. He is advocating a tactic, not an end result. Take Bibi at his word but insist that enonomic peace will be impossible without steps that change some fundamental and onerous facts on the ground, facts with a political context that cannot be separated from the economic ocontext, so there is no way to change one without changing the other. But I didn’t mean to suggest that Bibi and Barak should be permitted to focus only on economic conditions.

    Anyway, it was just a thought worth pondering, at a time when few thoughts about the conflct offer much hope.

  24. The IDF is constantly carrying out on-going security operations in Judea/Samaria. Every night it is reported that suspects are arrested. This is what has cut the amount of terror attacks.

    I don’t trust these reports. I participated in such arrests in my reserve duty and most of the time you pick up scared teenagers in the middle of the night. Most will be let go later. I want to know how many were really “ticking bombs” and I haven’t seen a report on such arrests in quite a while. If there was a group in the territories determined to strike with suicide bombings, they’d be able to, despite all the preventive activity by the IDF. But clearly the Palestinians decided the bombings bring more harm than good (from they point of view). Hamas in Gaza also renounced the suicide bombings. But for Israel whatever the Palestinians will do is never enough.

  25. Dan,

    I wasn’t contesting Beilin’s point, more or less contesting Netanyahu’s platform of “economic peace”. But since it was brought up, what could be “enough” here that would qualify as “peace”? No Israeli lives being taken? No Palestinian rights egregiously abused (and I emphasise “egregiously”)? As we have it now, it seems so audacious to make life so miserable that it makes Palestinians want to emigrate to have a better life, and now that it is so desperate and the occupation so embedded, that the only way to “live” with each other is to make things easier when it is so a pitiful existence in the first place? I am all for making lives better but all of this is another way to bypass the Palestinians yet again.

    What the main focus really should be is that how can any of this be swallowed? Looking at Y.Ben-David’s reaction and to a lesser extent Suzanne’s, they are in agreement that this is the best way forward when all it would really do is lead us back to square one, the same square we have found ourselves in since back when the Allon Plan was first suggested (because this “economic peace” is another variation of the Jordanian option).

    People are just overlooking the best example of what “economic peace” with the Palestinians really looks like in reality: they’re called Israeli Arabs. They’re not calling for a separate state, correctly, but one that would represent them also, which is even worse to Zionists than the two-state solution. This would be a grave error and it would be the dream scenario for every single-stater out there.

  26. Joshua–I’m not advocating economic peace. Especially if it puts a ceiling on growing the wealth of the Palestinian community.

    In fact, I’d rather see the Palestinians become economically independent from Israel. That’s part of ending this sick relationship/dynamic.

    I’m just suggesting that it’s possible that Netanyahu might head for a 2-state solution. I don’t, as of yet, see the writing on the wall in terms of the goal being economic peace.

    I do see indications of what Yaakov referred to: Israel has decided to take matters into its own hands instead of allowing outside parties to dictate conditions (i.e., unilateral concessions).

    In any case, I still think it’s too early to say. That’s where I’m at right now.

  27. There is no possibility of a Palestinian state becoming “economically independent”. We discussed this recently, but I asked people to show me one prosperous Arab state that didn’t have oil (Lebanon was an example until it destroyed itself with its civil war). Jordan and Egypt are dependent on aid from the West. The Arab states, including the Palestinians do have some light industry (my favorite brand of sandals are made by Arabs in Hevron), but what industry they have is generally uncompetitive and protected. Their state infrastructures are almost totally corrupt and inefficient with governmental protection for families with connections with the ruling clique. Independent economic development is discouraged because (1) it is better to keep the population poor and dependent on the regime for handouts, and (2) indpedendent entrepeneurs are a threat to the control of the ruling clique because they usually want changes that threaten the clique’s power base. The Palestinians are no different.

  28. Jordan and Egypt receive a bunch of aid but are by no means “dependant” on aid. Please consider that Jordan is now a site of call centers serving European corporations.

    I’ve been to Cairo, and there is an enormous amount of economic activity there. Please note that Egyptian cotton is widely used, and the best quality is among the best in the world.

    I remember a quote from Malcolm X at his surprise when he boarded a flight on Kenyan airways and asked, “where is the captain?”. “I am the captain”. “But you are black.” “Yes, this is Kenyan airlines.”

    I had the same initial reaction when flying to Cairo on Egypt Air.

    Economies are constructed by balances of intra-regional trade with inter-regional trade (import-export). All Arab states have combinations of both.

    There are cultural decisions that must be made to move from a family/clan oriented society to a trade oriented one. In most of the west, we suffer from too much emphasis on economy and not enough on community.

    To state that “no Arab state can possibly” in any language, is both innaccurate and racist.

    I had Palestinian study partners in business school for example.

  29. The fact that you met Palestinians in business school does not in any way contradict what I said. The Arabs have a long history of being master merchants. I am sorry if you think it is racist to point out facts like this.
    As of a few years ago (after 2000), the entire industrial output of the entire Arab world was equal to that of Finland, a country not much more populous than Israel. After Oslo, Peres got the support of much of the business establishment in Israel to support his fiasco by encouraging them to move jobs out of Israel to Jordan and the Palestinian territories where it would be presumably cheaper to operate. In Jordan, a group of textile firms relocated in IIRC Irbid. I know that several years ago, the majority of the workforce were imported Chinese workers, because Jordanian workers don’t like that type of industrialized labor(is that racist to say?) because it is of very low status in Arab society. That is also why all the real labor in the Gulf oil states and not by local Arabs who only will engage in commerce or do office work. I frankly don’t if that is still the situation in Jordan, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was.

  30. ok…so we’re back to square one again, which is obviously the heart of the problem. Are the Palestinians capable of running a state?

    And are the Egyptians and Jordanians running states that hold up on their own (without aid) in the global market?

    I still think this is something that needs to be assessed honestly by ineutral economic experts who have no ME bias of any kind, whether pro-Arab or pro-Israeli.

    Personally, I think Arabs have the makings to be great business people. This is not meant to make sweeping generalizations or to stereotype. It’s simply my observation that culturally, they have a strong social fabric, know how to negotiate, are shrewd at reading people/situations, can be tough minded etc. So in that vein, I have no doubt about the economic capabilities of Arab individuals.

    On the other hand, Yaakov may have a point. There might be something in the whole clan/class structure that impedes forming a modern economic & political infrastructure.

    Which means that they would have to collectively be willing to evolve and change the structure of their culture.

    I’m not an expert in how cultures historically have made drastic decisions like that. I can only surmise that some have and others haven’t. And the ones that didn’t– perished.

    I believe historical anthropologist, Jared Diamond, talks a lot about that…but more from an environmental standpoint–adapting to environment…

  31. What Bibi means by “economic peace” is turning the West Bank archipelago into a “free zone”–a Bangladesh, without labour or environmental regulation, a place where foreign investors can get labour for $3 an hour and thus complete with China.

  32. I can’t tell what Yakov is saying. In one breath he says that Arabs are not capable of developing and managing an economy, then in the next breath states that Arab merchants dominated world trade for centuries.

    Hard to know what thesis he is supporting.

    The consistent thesis is “they are incapable of anything except blowing people up”, which I think is ludicrous and racist.

    I don’t buy it.

  33. Richard,
    It now looks likely that Lieberman’s tenure as foreign minister will be a short one due to corruption charges that will likely result in his removal from office if not actual prison. Former Sec’y of State Jim Baker was on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS 360 today and said that he thought that Netanyahu was much more moderate than he was normally given credit for. He thought it quite likely that Netanyahu might oversee a peace treaty with Syria; peace with the Palestinians is something else.

    Mr. Ben-David,
    Jordan receives much less aid from the U.S. than Israel does per capita. It is less dependent on American aid than Israel is and certainly much less dependent than Egypt is. Jordan has a low tech economy based on agriculture, tourism, and low tech manufacturing that is well managed. Jordan had to learn to make do with quite little during the British period and the American period before the peace with Israel. American aid, like Br aid before, is mostly defense aid and aid with security services. Israel receives this, on a much larger scale, plus economic aid as well. And unlike Israel, Jordan has given up its economic aid to the West Bank–Israel is still quite addicted to wasting money there.

  34. Suzanne understood me correctly. There is no contradiction between the fact that the Arabs are good businessmen and the fact they are lousy industrialists. Doha is a good example….it is (or was) a powerhouse economy based on commerce, but its people are not willing to do industrial or manual labor. That is why something like 90% of the population are foreigners. The other oil states are similar. Being a laborer is viewed as being a low-level occupation in the Arab world. For those who are not born into money, the most prestigious professions are medicine or teaching, if one is not a businessman.
    It is true that Jordan does not get the level of aid that Israel does, that is because they don’t face the security threats Israel does (and as I understand it, Israel doesn’t need the aid, it is given for political reasons, in order to show support for Israel on the one hand, and on the other, to give the Americans the ability to pull the chain if they feel they want to).

    There was an excellent article in the New York Times some months ago about Algeria, an oil rich country. They pointed out that the majority of high school students drop out before graduating. They talked to some young people about why this was. They said that there was no point in finishing school because no matter what you studied or how well you did, you could not get a prestigious job such as being an engineer unless you had family connections (recall that this is an “egalitarian socialist state”) and that in any event, most of the classed in high school and before were Quranic studies. The universities in the Gulf States also invested heavily in religious studies departments.

    There you have it in a nutshell.
    There you have it in a nutshell.

  35. I should have added that Michael Slackman in the New York Times has written a series of excellent articles about the situation in Egypt. He also said that recent years have seen an economic boom in Egypt. The question is about what has fueled it. It came from the high price of oil which allowed many Egyptians to go to the Gulf states for work leading to a big increase in remittances going back home to Egypt (no doubt the world financial crisis and large drop in oil prices will significantly put a crimp in this). However, much of the population does not benefit from this “boom”. Slackman interviewed college graduates who could not get jobs appropriate to their education (the old “connections” problem, or what we in Israel call “proteksia”) so they have to work as taxi drivers or stay at home and try to carry out small scale business activities. They will not work as laborers because that is considered to be beneath their dignity. Since, in order to get married in the Arab world, one must provide a large dowry for the bride’s family, college educated people are forced to delay marriage for years which leads to a lot of frustration, which often finds an outlet in religious extremism.

    Nasser, who claimed to be a “socialist” and “egalitarian” carried out a coup that simply replaced the old aristocratic elite with another elite that is just as corrupt and inefficient. In order to appear to be a “populist” he promised a government job to all college graduates which seemed to allow people from lower class backgrounds to “get ahead” (I got the feeling that jobs are no longer automatically given to these graduates). In reality, the plum positions are reserved to those from families with connections, and those graduates who did get jobs sit in a tiny office stamping approvals onto some sort of official request at a salary that is not enough to live on, while adding another bureaucratic hurdle for the one making the request. Thus, true economic reform could lead to demands to political reform
    (although we see China has managed to avoid this for the time being) making the regimes in power very reluctant to change the system. Those in power view their chief obligation as being retaining their power, not “helping their people”.

  36. Similar is true in Israel, as far as connections and money required to rise within the society. There is free enterprise, but connections still differentiate.

    Your description of Egypt and other Arab countries is similar to other third world educated (say India), where there are many that are educated but few jobs, so there must be some means to pick (and exclude).

    The highest described form of Jewish charity, is “to help someone become independant”.

    If Netanyahu is proposing that, wonderful. If he his proposing helping the Arab employees dependant on Israel, then that is not so honestly good.

    Israeli companies have been widely criticized for NOT allowing paths for even educated Arabs to rise within it. They’re better than the political institutions of power, as the need for talent supercedes ethnicity. But, I’ve not heard of any of the firms in the settlements for example, hiring educated Palestinians, at least not permanently.

    They site that the reason is that the people don’t show up to work consistently, and what company could afford to give responsibility to someone that can’t get to their office. But, the reason they can’t get to their office consistently, is roadblocks.

    It conflicts with your description.

  37. Yes, Israel had a situation very much like that due to the suffocating, stagnant, corrupt socialist system the Labor Zionists inflicted on it before and after the creation of the state. There is a bad legacy of this due to the fact that something like 17 families control 70% of the assets of the country. However, the “proteksia” system has been breaking down for years. Already, when I came 23 years ago, I was able to get a good job in a government corporation without any proteksia, as an oleh hadash (new immigrant). It was the breakdown of this socialist system that allowed the economy to take off, because now talented people are allowed to get ahead.
    The Arab world has not yet begun to reform itself and I don’t see any evidence that they are even close to doing so in any of the Arab states.

    Regarding the roadblocks, you now have to explain to me why the Palestnians failed to build a state infrastructure conducive to business BEFORE the roadblocks went up as a result of the terror war that began in 2000.

  38. Yaakov–in regard to Israel not needing US aid…why doesn’t it stop that arrangement? It’s been conspiratorialist fodder for fringe groups. And it’s arguably fed into anti-semitism in certain sectors.

    Also I agree, it seems to me that conditional aid has constrained Israel from taking effective action against the terrorist problem–allowing things to grow to Gaza-like proportions.

  39. Israel is not less corrupt in capitalist Israel than it was in socialist, or religious Israel.

    It still takes bribes to get building permits in many locales for example (I was told by cousins).

    And, there are structural obstacles to Palestinians succeeding even in meritocratic corporations. Even in Israel, there are wide gaps in things like public transportation serving Arab vs Israeli vs Sephardic neighborhoods.

    The Arab world has certainly begun to reform itself. As I mentioned, Jordan is now the site of corporate call centers. Turkey is a relatively thriving multi-dimensional economy. Most Arab states have some large successes that are independant of oil revenues.

    I agree that that steady, enormous, effortless revenue is corrupting, and will end.

    As is any cultural rejection of scientific skepticism.

  40. Richard–I think this is more about Arab culture than Muslim culture.

    I have had more personal ties with Turks than Arabs and I find they are different on quite a few counts. For one thing, I believe they Westernized right after World War 1. They have not been progressive in how they handle political opposition or prisoners…but culturally, they are modern–to the extent of even having birth control centers complete with abortion procedures–as well as strong feminist rights, and a strong emphasis on education.

    I don’t know how things are now under the Islamist government–but that’s what I know about Turkey.

    My Turkish (ex)husband considers the culture to be closer to Japanese than Arab–I’d say they are closer to Iranian–but as an avid anti-Islamist, he probably is loathe to make that connection…lol!

    In any case, that tribalist component, which seems to hold the Arab world back, is absent in other Muslim countries. Iran before the revolution–and even Afghanistan–were making lots of headway.

    Is it the religion or the tribalism? Another thing to ponder?

  41. Mr. Ben-David,
    You consider labor Zionism to be corrupt, but the religious establishment in Israel to not be corrupt? First, the religious establishment uses the power of the state to maintain a monopoly on approved Judaism. This is equivalent to the position of Islam in Arab states and Iran. Second, the religious parties are constantly extorting money from the state so that they can keep mediocre students studying Torah and Talmud fulltime. Third, the religious parties rabbis extort contributions to pass out kashrut certificates to restaurants. But because they quote the Bible rather than Marx I suppose this is all kosher.

    Incidentally, I’m not a socialist. I’m closest to Amnon Rubinstein’s Shinui branch of Meretz.

  42. Thomas-
    I did not mention the religious establishment so I don’t know how you were able to deduce my position on whether they are corrupt or not. You should know that it is religious people who are the most critical of the religious political establishment and this is reflected in the election results over the past few years.

    Corruption in Israel is in decline because there is more awareness and less tolerance for it. Sure, there are all the high-level investigations of important figures for things that would have been overlooked in the past. Although these investigations were begun as a form of political harassment (i.e. “get something on him!”), they have increased public awareness of corruption.

    Did you see my comment about the Marxist/Socialist and anti-religious inclinations of the ruling clique and officer corps in the pre-state period and War of Independence?

    Suzanne-you are correct-it is Arab culture and not Muslim culture that is ithe problem with the Arab world. As I understand it, the Ottoman Turks decided they had to break down their tribal system a long time ago. The Arabs have not done so.

  43. All of this is really irrelevant and just petty power-debating over who can deride the Arabs more and more about their inability to provide a functioning society that could have incentives for their youth to progress in the world. Newsflash: that’s true of every developing country and all of them dealing with post-colonialism still. You expect these nation-states that were artificially created by the powernations for the powernations’ benefit solely and yet you want to complain at how things aren’t working there because it is “Arab culture” that is the failing there. Preposterous. You want centuries of industrial revolution compacted into fifty years; you bypass slavery, segregation and all the inherent poverty that was present in the nascent state and then you want to nitpick at the follies of Arab fiefdoms who don’t do a thing for their poor. Last I looked, barely any country in this world does a thing for their poor (with the exceptions of those revolutions arising out of South America). Even the U.S. has so many failings and yet you blame “Arab culture” for its inability to wrench out oil riches into something better. Well I have news for you, they’re kingdoms, they’re not democracies. Since when are they represented by their constituents? This is truly sad, very sad.

    There is plenty distinctions and differences between Muslim culture, Arab culture AND Palestinian culture. You speak as if that Arab culture blankets the entirety of the 22 states. That is also racist simplification; you want the world to distinguish itself as individuals, freedom from the other, and you disdain the way Israel’s critics pin hyperboles on the “Jewish community” and then when they exclaim of “exclusivists” and “exceptionalists” and “eternal victimhood” as part of Jewish culture and call that anti-Semitic, well I have news for you, this is the anti-Semitic equivalent when you apply it to Arabs. Y.Ben-David continues his warpath and yet totally contradicts himself (again):

    “it is Arab culture and not Muslim culture that is ithe problem with the Arab world.”

    This is the person who wanted to believe so much that Palestinians identified themselves more as Muslim than Palestinians. Which is their failing to you? As Arab? Muslim or Palestinians? (Or all three?)

    I don’t like the way this conversation steered at all. To think that any people would be atrocious in governing their own nation and land is a diversionary tactic to imply that only whites or the West has the best mode of governance that truly works. It fails to measure the differences between every Arab there is, even Palestinian.

    Here’s the thing: a Palestine would NOT be a dictatorship (although it could end up being that if things don’t get any better), it would NOT be a kingdom, the most it would be possibly is a kleptocracy or a plutocracy where the rich and wealthy families are the ones who get the most say but rest assured, it will have parliament and it will have elections. So close to Israel, it possibly might even mimic the Knesset in some form or another as it will follow on the platform of Oslo’s structure. Right now it is ruled by two blocs, Fateh and Hamas, with other splinter groups that range in the dozens. The opposition will always be a strong majority, as it would seem. Sound familiar? This doesn’t sound like a state that would resemble Libya or Yemen. But it won’t be excused from the usual corruption that happens with EVERY government in this world, Israel is not excluded from that.

    Also, the Palestinians would have the benefit of learning from their mistakes as well as the mistakes of their brethren. What we’re dealing with in here is speculatory and NOT ONE OF YOU has any experience in dealing with Palestinian politics. As we have it, the example of Palestinian governance is one that has been under occupation with every increasing settlements and even less sovereignty than ever, severed from Gaza and as well as boycotted by the economic world. The PA has never controlled their borders and it doesn’t have total access to East Jerusalem, the city where most of their capital lies. You laugh at the Palestinian’s inability to govern their Bantustan; I laugh at the illogicality of that sentence.

    Put it this way: can a PA police officer ever arrest an Israeli who committed an offence in the West Bank under PA jurisdiction? I don’t recall any examples of it. (Please provide some.)

  44. Joshua-
    I see you are dragging out the old “we are victims of colonialism” excuse that the Arab regimes use to explain away their retarded economic and social progress. Well, Hong Kong was under colonialist rule until 12 years ago (long after it ended in the Arab world) and they are quite prosperous. So are Singapore and Malaysia, and Malaysia is a Muslim country. India is charging ahead after being under British colonial rule for 300 years. One could say Jews were under colonial rule (or worse) in a dispersed sense and Israel is doing very well. Eastern Europe was under a repressive, stifling Communist system for decades and many of its countries are flourishing. China was also under strong foreign domination for a century, yet they are progressing more than almost anybody else.
    Japan and Germany were under a very restrictive military occupation after World War II, yet this didn’t stop them from building prosperous societies.

    The Arabs have no one to blame but themselves. And don’t forget THEY were the biggest colonialists in the world for centuries.

  45. Yes, the Palestinian police can and do arrest Israelis (almost always Israeli Arabs) who are in the Area A-Palestinian Authority controlled territories.

  46. Your point about the need to relatively drop tribalist perspective of the Palestinians seemed relevant to me.

    EVERY community functions in some mix of clan/tribal emphasis and accountability mixed with national and/or human.

    You do.

    The important design effort is to encourage a sufficient human emphasis so that dealings with others is possible in a confident way. One cannot do business with some individual that they fundamentally distrust.

    The name of the economic game (as the name of the political game) is to create the means of trust in persons, in relations.

  47. Richard-
    I am sure you have heard the story many Arabs spread that 4000 Jews didn’t come to work at the World Trade Center on 9/11 because “the Jewish cabal” warned them not to come because of the danger. That story tells more about the people who tell it than it does about the Jews. You know very well that any Jew, like any other normal person would warn everyone, regardless of race or religion of any impending danger. However, many Arabs, with their overridding tribalist mentality find such a story credible because they themselves work in such a framework, even if they themselves would warn other people, because they assume everyone in the world is like them.

  48. I have zero political correctness guilt about discussing tribalism and how it holds cultures back in the modern world.

    I am half Irish, from my father’s side. And I can tell you right now that the Irish were very vulnerable to English colonialism because of archaic tribal laws and practices. That’s not a comfortable thing to learn, but the truth sets you free.

    That didn’t excuse English colonialism and their barbaric racist practices. It just explains how a dominant culture can come in and exploit a weak situation.

    In any case, the Irish floundered–even post-occupation–until they changed internally.

    I don’t want to start debating the whole Irish thing–equally as complex etc—but my point is that, from a anthropological standpoint, tribalist structures don’t work in the modern world.

    At the end of the day, the Israelis can let go of their hold and the Palestinians are going to have to face their tribalist demons.

    It’s only racist to talk about that when it’s an excuse to exploit. It’s not wrong to explore it when it becomes an honest examination of what is holding a community back.

    I’m with Yaakov–blaming colonialism exclusively is myopic. And serves nobody.

  49. Yakov,
    You were speaking about “many” Arabs, not “all” Arabs. I hope you note the difference between a prejudice and an observation.

    I agree that most Jews (not all) would warn their Arab neighbors about some problem that affected them all. We should remain kind, even to those that we don’t know or even distrust in ways.

    I went to an orthodox seder last night in which the tone was more nationalistic than the universalistic approach mixed with thankfulness that I was accustomed. I am good friends with the leader of the seder, and he is not an unkind man in the slightest.

    We neglect our skills and our better commitments by accepting negative prejudicial judgements of the other. We neglect our self-inquiry/ntegrity, and we neglect our practical ingenuity.

  50. Ya’akov,
    We’ve read your comments about labor Zionism in Israeli repeatedly. We have yet to read any criticism of the religious establishment in Israel. Personally, I think that Israel may be economically on the level of Western Europe, but politically is closer to Eastern Europe than to Western Europe despite having had decades more of democratic practice.

    Why is being a kingdom necessarily the worst fate a country can have? Jordan is one of the most developed non-oil Arab countries and one of the Arab countries with the most individual freedom. It also doesn’t waste money on grandiose projects. Most Arab regimes are either monarchies of one sort or another or military dictatorships. I think the former group generally treats its citizens better than the latter group.

  51. Ya’akov,
    As far as corruption goes, Israel reminds me of the U.S. in the 1840s through the 1870s. During this time many political offices were bought and sold and political patronage was the name of the game. Corruption is just another trait that Israel has in common with mid-19th century America, along with native-fighter politicians, debates on the future of occupied territories, and nativism.

  52. Thomas,

    I have apparently not made myself clear. My withering criticism of Labor Zionism does not mean that the other groups are “better”. If Begin and the Herut party had run Israel from the time of independence the country would have looked pretty much the same with corruption and and “proteksia” as it did under MAPAI rule. However, it must be remembered that the MAPAI amassed IMMENSE power through the Histradrut and other state insitutions that controlled through the MAPAI, and add it to the knows corruption and inefficiency inherent in Marxist/socialist systems around the world, then we see a clear basis for a lot of the ills Israel is suffering.
    Regarding the religious establishment, you should know that the last time I voted for a “religious” party in Israel was in 1992. As I said, religious people are among the biggest critics of the “religious Establishment” in Israel, but this is not really an important factor in the issues that are discussed at this site, which is the reason I don’t discuss it much.

  53. Ya’akov,
    If religious people were so critical of religious parties, Shas would not continue to elect large numbers of MKs every election in spite of convictions and indictments for corruption.

    Israel was not ever a “Marxist system” as the term is normally used by political scientists and journalists. Marxist (more properly Leninist) systems are one-party totalitarian states where Marxism-Leninism is the official state ideology that is indoctrinated into the subjects through the school system, ruling party,media, and armed forces. Israel’s ideology was/is Zionism, with many different varieties. Under Mapai there were competing streams of education with the state system such as the religious and national religious/Mizrahi. Israel under Mapai was closer to a Latin American or French regime than to a Soviet one.

  54. Y.Ben-David,

    I wouldn’t exactly call those nations you mentioned too enlightening. If by being “economic hubs” in the like of Dubai and India is what you term to be a successful society that gives Thomas Friedman a wet dream, then I am more than happy to oppose such a thing for the Palestinians (but it’s not for me to oppose something that they might want but that is an entirely different subject). Firstly, I wouldn’t blanket the whole failings of the Arab nations into colonialism, just like I wouldn’t do so with every African nation with the yolk of colonialism but every nation deals with their problems differently, as I don’t see anyone else giving the boot to every post-Soviet country which is languishing poverty and near implosion. Would that suffice into thinking that every post-Soviet satellite suffers from a tribalism that prevents them from good governance? (Sorry, I don’t know how to put that in a more racist terminology that would fit the Arab comparison. Or how about the Native American culture and it’s inability to produce a decent reservation for their children to believe in their culture and want to grow up believing?) I just think everyone in here is too easily dismissive of it even when the Palestinians are still suffering from such a practice. It was more of an explanation to the failings of Arabs rather than to conflate every Arab nation as one that is unable to govern (and that really does not do justice to every outside influence wanting to grab a piece of the pie here).

    Thomas just proved a point that Arabs can thrive as he gave the example of Jordan, who many in here will know that the Palestinians make up a healthy portion of that country population-wise. Thomas, I don’t want to get into more criticisms of kingdoms but it’s highly unlikely that that would be the case if the Palestinians were ever to get a state. It wasn’t an endorsement of either military dictatorship or kingdowm for a state of Palestine but showing the improbability that the Palestinian state would resemble every other Arab state out there that most see are failing in their own cesspool of civil strife and corruption and that it would be more like Israel than Egypt with forms of parliament and checks. I also think all of this aid being pumped into the PA only stunts the Palestinians’ potential for growth and independence-trailblazing.

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