With that, Israel sentenced the Palestinians in the territories to life in the Heart of Darkness.
HOW BAD IS IT?*
According to World Bank estimates for 2006, per-capita Gross Domestic Product among Israelis was $18,580, similar to Portugal and Greece. Among residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the figure was $1,230, similar to Sri Lanka and Honduras.
Under Israeli rule, the West Bank and Gaza were the fourth fastest-growing economy in the world, ahead of Singapore and Hong Kong. Life expectancy rose from 48 in 1967 to 72 in 2000 (compared to 68 for the Middle East and North Africa). By 1986, 93% of the population in the West Bank and Gaza had electricity around the clock, compared to 21% in 1967; 85% had running water, compared to 16% in 1967; 84% had electric or gas ranges, compared to 4% in 1967; likewise for refrigerators, televisions and cars. Infant-mortality rates were reduced from 60 per 1,000 live births in 1968 to 15 per 1,000 in 2000. (In Saddam’s Iraq, the rate was 64, in Egypt 40, in Jordan 23.). Polio, whooping cough, tetanus and measles were eradicated. The number of enrolled schoolchildren grew by 102% between 1967-87, while the population had grown by only 28%. From no higher education in 1967, in the early 1990s, there were seven universities, boasting 16,500 students. Illiteracy dropped to 14% of those over age 15, compared with 69% in Morocco, 61% in Egypt, 45% in Tunisia, and 44% in Syria.
All of these economic and social achievements were undone during the 1990s, after the territories were handed over to the Palestinian Authority, the governing arm of the PLO.
Since May of 1994, the international community has committed $10 billion to the West Bank and Gaza. But protection and racketeering gangs headed by PA officials squeezed the Palestinian business class, while the national budget was plundered by Arafat’s cronies. The PLO owned monopoly rights for the production and sale of all basic goods, from wheat, gasoline, and cement, to wood, gravel, cigarettes, and cars.
Within six months of Arafat’s arrival in Gaza, the standard of living there fell by 25%. Unemployment increased from 10% to 41% in 2002, and the rate of poverty rose from 20% to over 50%.
*Source: Who ruined Gaza? by Efraim Karsh, Professor and Head of Mediterranean Studies at King’s College, University of London, National Post, September, 16, 2005.
THE ONE-STATE SOLUTION
I told you earlier that in 1921 the British, in effect, applied a two-state solution in Palestine, by dividing it into what is modern-day Jordan east of the Jordan River, and Israel or Palestine to the west. I stressed that to force the Jews to give up even more than two-thirds of the homeland promised to them by the nations of the world would be unthinkable.
But even if we ignore that moral point, it is simply impossible to separate the two largest communities in Israel or Palestine, the Arabs and the Jews. It’s a small country, and everybody there is living in everybody else’s back yard.
There are close to 1.5 million Arabs who are Israeli citizens, with the right to live wherever they wish, work, marry, study, as equals. There are close to half a million Jewish settlers in the disputed territories. Both those groups are not going anywhere. No one will try to remove the Israeli Arabs, and no one will succeed in removing the settlers.
We should stop trying to separate Arabs and Jews, which has made Arabs so obviously miserable, and has hurt so many Jews as well. If anything, what’s good for the country as a whole is more integration, not less.
The Palestinians have the right to live in a Western democracy, as does every human being. They have the right to security, and they have the right of ownership over their homes and lands. And some of them, whose parents or grandparents fled their homes and lands during the 1948 war, may be entitled to some kind of compensation for those lost possessions. New people have been living on those lands for the past 65 years, so it doesn’t make sense to uproot them now, but reparations could be made. The state should appoint special reparation boards, to examine claims by Arab refugees. I believe everybody would benefit from doing justice this way – both the people who receive and the people who give.