Continuing his swing through the Middle East this week, Secretary of State John Kerry moved on from his discussion Tuesday, with Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, to meet with Arab Palestinian acting leader Mahmoud Abbas.
But Kerry started this trip with his tools down. It was not until moving on to his meeting with Abbas and other Arab Palestinian officials that Kerry pulled out both the carrot and the stick. The carrot? An additional $75 million for Palestinian Authority infrastructure projects. The stick? That was applied to the Israelis who had the temerity to continue allowing Jews to build houses in the Holy Land.
Kerry announced the huge financial gift at a press conference in Bethlehem, on Wednesday, Nov. 6. It is for the Palestinian Authority’s “High Impact Micro-Infrastructure Initiative (HIMII).” That brings the total U.S. commitment for this initiative to $100 million.
The U.S. press release issued prior to the meeting between Kerry and Netanyahu sounded positive, optimistic notes, with Kerry warmly referring to the leader of Israel by his public nickname, “Bibi.” At least publicly, in front of the Israeli prime minister, Kerry refrained from pointing fingers and placing blame, instead claiming that he believes peace is within reach.
“With good faith, with a serious effort on both sides to make real compromises and hard decisions, this can be achieved,” is how Kerry is quoted in the press release.
But in territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority, the U.S. secretary of state was pointing a finger, and it was pointed only towards the Israeli side.
“Let me emphasize at this point the position of the United States of America on the settlements is that we consider them now and have always considered the settlements to be illegitimate,” Kerry said to reporters in Bethlehem, as captured in the State Department’s press release.
That is also when the announcement of the additional $75 million of U.S. funds being funneled into the Palestinian Authority’s pockets was made.
At this press conference, Kerry talked about what the funds committed to by the U.S., and its partners – Germany has already committed to $10 million – will mean for the Arabs in the area.
“They will mean more health commitments, better transportation networks, new community centers and schools.”
No word on how State hopes to prevent this $75 million from disappearing in the pockets of the kleptocracy that runs “Palestine,” as have so very many other dollars, euros, marks and francs.
WILL VAST ECONOMIC INVESTMENT AND OPPORTUNITY CREATION MOVE ARABS TOWARDS PEACE?
Indeed, empowering and enriching the Arab Palestinian kleptocracy impoverishes the very people Kerry claims to want to help.
It is not lost on some long-time observers that the Arab Palestinians received the greatest advances in health, education, literacy, and just about every quality of life indicator a little more than 46 years ago. That happens to be what they and virtually the rest of the world points to as the lowest point in Arab Palestinian history: the so-called Occupation.
As pointed out in a classic, must-not-be-missed compilation of information and other statistics regarding the quality of life for Arabs living in the area now widely referred to as the “West Bank” and in Gaza, the lives of Arab Palestinians improved dramatically starting in June, 1967. Their lives continued improving at an astounding rate until the Arabs themselves put a halt to it, with the first Arab Palestinian uprising, popularly referred to as the “First Intifada,” in the late 1980’s.
Efraim Karsh wrote that seminal article, “What Occupation?” for Commentary, (reproduced, with permission, here) in the summer of 2002.
POST-’67: ARAB PALESTINIAN LIFE EXPECTANCY SOARED, INFANT MORTALITY PLUMMETED, DISEASES WERE ERADICATED AND LITERACY AND SCHOOLS INCREASED FOR ARAB PALESTINIANS
He found that for Arabs living in the “West Bank” and Gaza, for example,
– their economy was the “fourth fastest growing economy in the world — ahead of such “wonders” as Singapore, Hong Kong, and Korea, and substantially ahead of Israel itself”;
– their mortality rates fell by more than two-thirds between 1970 and 1990, while life expectancy rose from 48 years in 1967 to 72 in 2000 .
– Israeli medical programs reduced their infant-mortality rate of 60 per 1,000 live births in 1968 to 15 per 1,000 in 2000, and Israel’s systematic inoculation program eradicated their childhood diseases like polio, whooping cough, tetanus, and measles.
– around-the-clock electricity for these Arab populations went from 20.5 percent in 1968 to 92.8 percent by 1986; running water in homes rose from 16 percent in 1967 to 85 percent in 1986; and while only 4 percent of Arab Palestinians had electric or gas ranges for cooking in 1967, that number rose to 83.5 percent in 1986.
Finally, and perhaps the single indicator which should be most directly linked to a successful society is education. When Israel became “responsible” for the Arab populations in the relevant areas in 1967 there were no universities. However, by the early 1990’s there were seven institutions of higher learning, with nearly 16,500 students. Illiteracy rates dropped to 14 percent of adults over age 15, compared with 69 percent in Morocco, 61 percent in Egypt, 45 percent in Tunisia, and 44 percent in Syria.
And as Karsh further points out, there was very little “home-grown” Arab terrorism during the first twenty “post-Occupation” year period. That is, until the pre-Oslo and then Oslo periods, marked by the West -including Israel’s – propping up of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
WHAT LED TO ARAB PALESTINIAN POVERTY WAS TERRORISM, NOT LACK OF AID OR EDUCATION
As Karsh explained in an email exchange with The Jewish Press on Wednesday, Oct. 6, the enormous financial, health, social welfare and other advances enjoyed by the Arab Palestinians were flushed down the drain once Arafat and his coalition of kleptocrats destroyed and or stole the vast majority of what had been the Arab Palestinians’ life support.
As he wrote in the epilogue to his 2004 book, “Arafat’s War,”
Within six months of Arafat’s arrival in Gaza in July 1994, the standard of living in the Strip fell by twenty-five percent. By September 1997, nearly two years after the PA had extended its control over virtually the entire Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza, per capita income in the territories had dropped thirty-five percent from its pre-September 1993 level. Even so, at the time Arafat started his war of terror against Israel, Palestinian income per head was nearly double Syria’s, more than four times Yemen’s, and ten percent higher than Jordan’s.
But the positive post-’67 results would not last forever. Karsh revealed that less than four years later, “this income had dropped to a fraction of its earlier levels, with numerous Palestinians reduced to poverty and despondency.”
An American economist, George Gilder, also wrote with great specificity on the topic. Gilder’s 2011 article “The Economics of Settlement” in the American Spectator, broadens the argument and the time frame to include the early twentieth century and brings it to the present.
Gilder reminds readers of the dessication of the former “land of milk and honey,” and how the stony plains and malarial swamps were cleared, drained and rebuilt in the late 1800’s by small bands of Jews returning to the area. Gilder not only documents the dramatic improvements made to the area before the official re-birth of the Jewish state. He also discusses the utter futility of pouring millions and billions of dollars worth of foreign aid into a government unable to govern itself, let alone the rest of its people.
So, the increase in Arab Palestinian wealth and outside economic support was not sufficient to either prevent or decrease the dramatic growth in terrorism and destruction for the Arab Palestinians. And conversely, the growth in terrorism and destruction has not abated with a renewed investment of billions of dollars from the outside world.
Perhaps the state department, or at least the U.S. congress, might want to hear from Karsh or from Gilder before handing out any more cash to the Arab Palestinians.
Because the problem is not financial support. To paraphrase Bill Clinton’s campaign advice: “It’s the terrorism, stupid.”
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the U.S. correspondent for The Jewish Press. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: Lori@JewishPressOnline.com
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