Saturday, August 09, 2003

Israeli-Palestinian Affairs

According to Muhammad Dahlan, it will take 3 years and $250 million to rebuild the Palestinian police outposts destroyed by Israel during the Intifada. Allowing for the extent to which this is a negotiating position ("Scotty, I need the warp engines back on-line" - "It'll take around 6 hours, Captain!" - "I need them in four!"), that's still quite a bit of time. Until the PA does something to assure the Israeli street it is serious about peace, Sharon won't feel the need to take political risks on issues like the security fence and settlements unless Washington pressures him into it, and the important sign from the PA people are watching for is action against terrorist groups by rebuilt PA security. Meanwhile, in the absence of serious concessions or moves by either side, we have a nice period in which fewer people are dying, which is definitely a good thing.

Meanwhile, a few days ago Jonathan Edelstein blogged about the opening of a Western-style shopping mall in Ramallah. I found this interesting mostly because of all it said about the unspoken importance of economic links between Israel and not only the Palestinians, but the Arab world more generally. Driving across Israel and the West Bank combined is the same as driving from Madison to Milwaukee, except for the military checkpoints and fences and warnings about violence and stuff. Many Palestinians work in Israel, doing the low-wage labor most Israelis refuse to do. I strongly suspect Israel has one of the largest consumer economies in the region, so if the Arab states ever want a market for exports, there's one that's pretty convenient. I've been meaning to write a major post just about these economics for ages and ages, but it's not going to happen anytime soon. I did want to call it to people's attention, and suggest it as a possible realm for others to explore.


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