American foreign policy Americans for Peace Now Benjamin Netanyahu Gaza Strip Israel Israeli occupation Middle East peace process Palestinians

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…

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