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The West Bank Ripe for Development-in-a-Box™

June 19, 2007


I’m currently in Dubai, having flown here from my third trip to Iraq working on implementing Development-in-a-Box™ in Kurdistan. First of all, let me tell you that it’s hot! The government has used text messaging to citizens asking them to turn down their air conditioners so that the power grid doesn’t crash. The other big news story here in Dubai is what is happening in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza. As you are undoubtedly aware, Hamas militants seized Gaza and set themselves in charge. The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas felt compelled to disband the Hamas-led government and legislature and establish an emergency cabinet. Practically speaking Palestine is now a two-state system much like North and South Korea. No one wanted to see this development since it complicates rather than moves forward the Middle East peace process. Writing for the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post New Service and published in the Gulf News, Martin Indyck asserts that this split was probably inevitable [“A two-state solution – Palestinian style,” 19 June 2007].

“Abbas and Fatah have in effect conceded Gaza to Hamas while they hold on to the West Bank. Hamastan and Fatahstine: a ‘two-state solution” – just not the one that the US President George W. Bush had in mind. Of course, all Palestinian leaders will continue to declare the indivisibility of the Palestinian homeland. But in private, Abbas and other Fatah leaders may take solace from the dilemma Hamas will now have to confront.”

The question is: why were world leaders so quick to jump to Abbas’ support? He has not been a particularly strong leader. The reason is because this new development sets up a classic opportunity to show the best to achieve peace and prosperity in the region. Indyck describes the “two states” this way:

“The failed state of Gaza that Hamas controls is wedged between Egypt and Israel. Its water, electricity and basic goods are imported from the Jewish state, whose destruction Hamas has declared as its fundamental objective. … Whatever transpires, Gaza has become Hamas’ problem. It’s a safe bet that the real attitude of Abbas and Fatah is: Let Hamas try to rule Gaza, and good luck. This turn of events would free Abbas to focus on the much more manageable West Bank, where he can depend on the Israel Defense Forces to suppress challenges from Hamas, and on Jordan and the United States to help rebuild his security forces. As chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and president of the Palestinian National Authority, Abbas is empowered to negotiate with Israel over the disposition of the West Bank. Once he controls the territory, he could make a peace deal with Israel that establishes a Palestinian state with provisional borders in the West Bank and the Arab suburbs of East Jerusalem.”

The Bush administration’s thinking is that if they can help Abbas make the West Bank peaceful and prosperous it will go a long way towards lasting peace in the region. The administration wasted no time. Another Gulf News article [“US resumes aid to Palestinians,” 19 June 2007], reported:

“The United States lifted its crippling aid embargo on the Palestinian government on Monday to bolster moderate President Mahmoud Abbas while isolating Hamas who control the Gaza Strip. The resumption of direct American aid came on the eve of talks between President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has said he will cooperate with Abbas’ emergency Cabinet. Amid an outpouring of international support, Abbas told Bush in a telephone call on Monday that the time had arrived to resume peace talks with Israel. President Bush promised his support. Hours later, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced that the United States would ‘resume full assistance to the Palestinian government and normal government-to-government contacts.’ At a news conference, Rice said the United States would contribute $40 million to help ease the suffering of Palestinians.”

Of course, they mean West Bank Palestinians. The Israelis are also considering releasing hundreds of millions of dollars in embargoed tax revenues to Abbas’ government. Hamas came to power because it had been more effective than the Fatah government in providing security and social services. New Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said that restoring security is his top priority. The infusion of funds should help the new government begin establishing a working social services system. But that won’t be enough. In order to be the shining example that the Bush administration desires, “Fatahstine,” as Indyck calls it, must prove itself much more adept at taking care of the people by providing them with jobs, education, and peace than “Hamastan.” That is where Development-in-a-Box™ comes into play.

Palestine needs the same kind of programs I’m working on in Kurdistan to jump start its economy, find buyers for its goods, encourage entrepreneurs, create jobs, and establish a secure environment where people can live, work and relax in peace. This kind of a program needs broad support, which is apparently emerging [“U.S. Unfreezes Millions in Aid to Palestinians,” by Helene Cooper, New York Times, 19 June 2007].

“At least for now, the United States and Europe appear in agreement that perhaps the only way to salvage some advantage from the Hamas victory in Gaza is to bolster Mr. Abbas in the West Bank, in order to provide Palestinians there and in Gaza with a preview of what life could be like with a pro-Western government in charge.”

Success cannot be achieved in isolation, even with millions flowing in. Banking systems must be equipped to deal with that much money. Infrastructure investments must be made to ensure steady sources of power are available, logistics chains are in place, and broad connectivity with the rest of the world is achieved.

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