Economic prosperity a precursor to peace?

Economic prosperity a precursor to peace?

In the short time he’s been prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has been “advised” by the United States and Europe about pursuing a two-state solution.

Earlier this week, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the government is not bound by the Annapolis process but would adhere to the “road map,” which leads to two states. Bibi is remaining tight-lipped about the specific phrase “two-state solution” but he has said many times that he favors self-rule for the Palestinians and wants to focus on economic development in the territories first, rather than negotiation.

He has said that he wants to implement economic reforms and incentives in the west bank. This could, in the long run, make the area more prosperous, send more people to work with steady pay, and generally make people happier. By improving people’s lives they then become more susceptible to the idea of compromise.

Israel has been negotiating with the Palestinians for more than 15 years. The results have been limited Palestinian self-rule, a stronger Hamas that now controls Gaza, a fragmented Israeli society, and bloodshed on both sides. In short, negotiations make us feel like we’re doing something, but so far they have not accomplished anything of substance. Both sides know what the result will ultimately look like – should the road map be followed – but neither is willing to take the steps to get there.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas cannot compromise on the Palestinians’ all-or-nothing demands for fear of another Hamas coup. Israel does not want another mess like the Gaza disengagement or to compromise on its security.

Granted, we know little of Netanyahu’s actual plans beyond his stated desire to boost the Palestinian economy. If, however, the west bank can become an economic powerhouse or at least stable, then the people there would be far less likely to support a violent path that would send them back to poverty. This has been Israel’s basic thinking in relation to Gaza, but it has instead used the threat of punishment rather than the promise of reward.

Give the Palestinians a taste of the carrot of economic prosperity before dangling it in front of them and they may be far more likely to bite.