New York Times-False Hope for West Bank Economy

Both the New York Times and the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz published articles recently touting an economic revival in the West Bank, Nablus in particular.

In 'Signs of Hope Emerge in the West Bank', Ethan Bronner writes that the opening of movie theaters and deployment US-trained police are creating conditions of calm and optimism. However despite the projected 7% increase in the West Bank economy for 2009,  there are ominous rumblings in the Palestinian Street.

A colleague in Bethlehem told me last week that the situation may become similar to the period before the first intifada. He predicted that the next uprising will come from the people, from the bottom up. While the core of Ramallah and Nablus may have the appearance of an economic boom, ordinary people find their lives without prosperity or hope for freedom. In the Jerusalem area many Palestinian communities have become walled-in Ghettos. The settlements and segregated roads continue to rapidly expand in the 56% of the West Bank that Israel controls completely.

Virtually all the new prosperity in the West Bank flows into the pockets of the Palestinian business and political elite. This situation, coupled with the close relationship now existing between Palestinian and Israeli security forces will not bring real peace, only more anger and resentment. For those of you who like to compare the Israel/Palestine situation with Apartheid, the parallels are now coming in to more focus since the former 'kings' of the South African Bantustans also collaborated with their white overlords in repressing their people and lining their pockets with cash.

However the Northern West Bank, and the Ramallah district have become havens for Palestinians. They have a critical mass of population to enable people to live their lives within the confines of the cantons without directly encountering elements of the Occupation. This will certainly buy Israel more time, for as long as the PA can keep the lid on the rest of the population. Netanyahu's 'Economic Peace' may indeed have some short term success, but at some point the lid will be blown off and political turmoil and violence may erupt again. Maybe next week, next month or next year . . . . . . ?

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