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Kevin Bermeister Headshot

Cold War or Employment and Peace?

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BENJAMIN NETANYAHU
PA

On a recent trip to Israel, where I visit frequently, I was struck anew by the incredibly vibrant domestic economy that is flourishing there. This thriving market is all the more notable as its growth stands as a contrast to the stagnant economic life of other developed nations as well as to that of Israel's immediate neighbors Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon. Israel's fiscally conservative economic management drives this growth forward aided by the significant contributions of her immigrant population, the steady stream of royalty returns from decades of highly successful developments in intellectual property, and the growth in the country's domestic and international tourism.

Given all of this successful Israeli productivity, it seems clear that the Palestinian Authority will become increasingly challenged as they continue to demand that their representative constituents secede. Despite the decades of unbounded animosity, attitudes are shifting as Israel's Arab residents, including those living under the Authority, recognize that the economic and political leadership provided by Israel is superior to anything other Middle Eastern leaders have ever offered. The events of the Arab Spring seem to confirm this view most resoundingly.
Just look around at the unrelenting chaos and power struggles in the Arab world today. Confusion persists in Egypt since Mubarak's fall, while Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continues to threaten the lives of Syria's protesters and Jordan's King Abdulla II is becoming acutely aware of the weak reign to which he clings.

On the Lebanese front, the power balance is shifting to the Sunni contingency notwithstanding the years of a Syrian and Iranian backed Hezbollah attempt to move the majority towards the Shiites. Despite the efforts by Arab despots to control the dissemination of information, modern communication has broken their monopoly and empowered the Arab voice which is now intent on change. Once Assad falls, Israel will be surrounded by a Sunni majority and, at that point, we must anticipate that the political alliances in the Middle East will take on a different, if not eerily reminiscent look to a bygone era of charged political rivalry between super powers. It seems quite possible that the Middle East will come to imitate the Cold War era with oppositional regimes aligning themselves with the USA or Russian blocks in a discomfiting remake of the mid to late 20th century; but in this version Israel and Jordan would represent the divide between East and West.

The players and alliances that have composed the landscape of Middle Eastern politics for decades are becoming increasingly unpredictable. Iran's extended and widely demonstrated missile capability, as well as its Russian sponsored nuclear development program, are less effective in the absence of a reliable Syrian partner with whom they could dominate the region. As for Turkey, a member of NATO and now bidding for inclusion in the EU, she must toe-the-line before her Western associates: a most delicate balancing act indeed. In fact, despite Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan's dramatic and vote-garnering provocation of Israel, on his recent trip to Egypt the Sunni based Muslim Brotherhood made it very clear that Erdogan should go home and stay out of their business.

Over in Saudi Arabia, the kings are attempting to perpetuate their holy rights to Mecca whilst their neighbors in Qatar continue to foment their Al Jazeera-based revolution which promotes Hamas' position. During all of this raging, volatile activity in Arab politics, the Obama/Clinton team has been selling USA missile defense shields to any country in the region that will buy them and commit to their terms of sale: terms which now include an easing of anti-Israel restrictions on its computer controlled weapons.

What seems clear is that the opposition lines have been drawn. Right now the Palestinian Authority, milking the plight of those who have been suspended without the rights of citizenship for more than 60 years, is playing her cards at the United Nations to a sympathetic Arab league. In 1946 and 1948, Jordan and Israel, respectively, were given their independence thus creating new states form the British mandate that had formerly been called Palestine. When recognized by the UN in '48, Israel was prepared to sit alongside her Arab neighbors but that proposition was instantly and unanimously rejected by those neighbors. As soon as Israel declared independence, she was immediately attacked and Jordan advanced to occupy the area now known as the West Bank. In the Six Day War of 1967, Israel reclaimed this land and many of those who once hoped for Arab sovereignty in the region were suddenly trapped within Israel's border which came to include not only the West Bank but the Gaza Strip as well.

Today, those aged refugees, along with their extended families in Lebanon, Jordan and Israel, face tough decisions about their future representation. Some have been accepted into society and recognized as citizens of the countries in which they live but most have not. Their living conditions are poor and they have little ability to build an economic base. The Palestinian Authority offers faulty and misleading hope for all of these people. Its capabilities are unproven in terms of economic and administrative management and it lacks the political will and leadership to establish an effective government. Since its formation, the Palestinian leadership has been unable to muster the support it needs in order to answer its own questions about such contentious issues like the right of return, Jerusalem as its capital and the unification of its Gaza and West Bank domain.

Instead of attempting to arrive at real answers to these complex questions, the Palestinian Authority promotes its narrow ideological agendas through the promotion and sponsorship of social programs: the effectiveness of which is limited at best rather than long-term in their aims. This method of leadership merely promotes false hope and empowers the rich who underwrite these programs, but it does very little to address the long, unanswered questions and needs of those who suffer most. Rather than investigate real options for peace and prosperity, the dominant players in the socio-political realm today employ inflammatory rhetoric to serve their own business strategies, to pursue lucrative arms deals based on the fears of rising nuclear threats and international instability. In truth, there is only one avenue for a sustainable peace, that being finding a means to employ the vast populace in Israel, Jordan and Lebanon who currently endure the indignities and difficulties of unemployment. Ironically, those who occupy themselves with distracting social programs instead of creating self-sustaining economic opportunities continue to stymie the region. But the time for such negative leadership and agendas is nearing an end as new technologies educate and empower people. Political fantasy is the politician's prerogative, but the man on the street knows better -- build economies that deliver jobs and they will underwrite conditions that enable peace.