Sometimes facts speak for themselves, and we direct our readers to a most hopeful story on page 23.
The Israeli mayor and Palestinian deputy mayor of the Gilboa Regional Council, along with the Palestinian governor of Jenin, spoke at a press conference on Monday at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations about their plans for joint projects, industrial as well as social and educational.
“We believe that life in the Middle East can be different,” said Danny Atar, the Jewish mayor. “We are building an industrial park that will provide employment for 15,000 Palestinians and 2,000 Israelis.” They are building, you could say, facts on the ground, facts that (with a little bit of luck and American and Jewish support) will foster peace in their region – and perhaps beyond.
It is particularly noteworthy that a prime mover in this effort is the governor of Jenin – Jenin! – where a bloody Israeli-Palestinian battle was waged a mere seven years ago.
As Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Presidents Conference, said (as quoted in the Jerusalem Post), “What appears to be impossible is possible.”
We can only say kol hakavod – and how can we help?
It is important for the organized Jewish community to get behind efforts like this; peace and prosperity benefit all, not just those who live in the region.
Gilboa and the adjacent west bank are ripe for development and investment – for Arab as well as Jewish investment, we note, for investors of any stripe who are looking for new and creative and positive ventures.
Certainly there are risks, but there are risks in most investments (too bad the investors who gave Madoff carte blanche did not realize that). And the rewards, on many levels, could be immense.
As Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, wrote in the Aug. 13 Wall Street Journal, “Imagine an annual economic growth rate of 7%, declining unemployment, a thriving tourism industry, and a 24% hike in the average daily wage.
“Where in today’s gloomy global market could one find such gleaming forecasts? Singapore? Brazil? Guess again. The west bank.
“According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the west bank economy is flourishingâ€¦.
“Since 2008, more than 2,000 new companies have been registered with the Palestinian Authority in the west bank. Where heavy fighting once raged, there are now state-of-the-art shopping malls.
“Much of this revival,” he noted, “is due to Palestinian initiative and to the responsible fiscal policies of west bank leaders – such as Prime Minister Salaam Fayyadâ€¦.” He also noted that “few of these improvements could have happened without a vastly improved security environment.”
In contrast to the bitter despair in Gaza, Oren wrote that “[t]he seeds of what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called ‘economic peace’ are, in fact, already blossoming in the commercial skyline of Ramallahâ€¦.
“If the west bank can serve as a model of prosperity, it may also become a prototype of peace.”