+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

The lie of Netanyahu's economic 'gestures'

Netanyahu’s goodwill ‘gestures’ to the Palestinians are nothing more than a way to appease President Trump on his visit. So why is the media playing along?

President Donald Trump stands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he arrives at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, May 22, 2017, for his first official visit to Israel as president. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

President Donald Trump stands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he arrives at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, May 22, 2017, for his first official visit to Israel as president. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

In the run-up to President Trump’s visit to the region, the Israeli government adopted a number of modest goodwill gestures vis-a-vis Palestinians in the West Bank, which the Israeli media immediately dubbed “trust-building” measures. Local newspapers reported that none of the steps taken had anything to do with security, but rather revolved around civilian issues. This included making sure the Allenby Bridge — which connects the West Bank to Jordan — stayed open for longer; easing construction in Area C; and expanding the Tarkumiya industrial zone. As expected, ministers from the right-wing Jewish Home party opposed the measures.

Why do we need a visit from an American president for these measures? After all, Netanyahu believes in “economic peace,”  and the Right keeps promising us that Palestinians under occupation are far better off than anywhere else in the Arab world, and surely better than under a Palestinian state, if and when it is established. The Left has always argued that politics and the economy are intertwined, yet the Right pledged to undo this knot. And anyway, if Israel intends to remain in some or most of the West Bank, what is more logical than developing those territories?

It is no coincidence that not a single political reporter has raised these naive questions before the prime minister. We all know that these gestures are not intended for the Palestinians, but rather for Trump. The Right has no interest in economic development in the occupied territories. “Economic peace” is a farce, and all of us — the media and the political system — take part in it.

The last thing Israel wants is a strong, sustainable Palestinian middle class, since that same middle class will immediately demand political rights. The occupation works best in the face of a poor, disintegrated society, which depends on work permits and a constant flow of money from the Palestinian Authority. And in order to get a work permit from Israel, a Palestinian needs to be uninvolved in all political activities, and is sometimes even asked to spy on his neighbors or family members. Collaborators are an essential part of the system; a viable economy, like freedom of movement, stands in contradiction to the occupation.

Those same “gestures,” similar to work permits, are cards that Israel holds and uses for PR purposes vis-a-vis the world; for propaganda vis-a-vis its citizens; and especially vis-a-vis Palestinians when it wants to force them into political obedience. Once we stop talking about “gestures” and start talking about rights, we will know something has changed.

This post was originally published in Hebrew on Local Call.

50 Years Too Many in-text banner

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • LEAVE A COMMENT

    * Required

    COMMENTS

    1. Lewis from Afula

      Why is the media playing along?
      Because after 20 years plus of appeasements, Oslo, Land-for-Peace and Disengagements everyone understands this conflict is not a squabble over borders but rather Israel’s right to exist.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Lewis: For some reason many Israeli elites don’t think that a Palestinian state means Israel has no right to exist. In fact, they see the very absence of such a state a threat to Israel’s existence.

        http://bluewhitefuture.org/

        Reply to Comment
        • i_like_ike52

          No independent Palestinian state could ever be economically independent and viable. The territory is far too small, has few natural resources. True, there is a relatively educated population by the standards of neighboring Arab countries, but the endemic corruption and inefficiency of the ruling PA does not allow for maximum exploitation of its human resources.

          The fact that a Palestinian state would be permanently dependent on international handouts would hardly be unique to them. Even larger countries like Jordan and even Egypt can’t survive without handouts. So the claim that Israel supposedly doesn’t want a strong Palestinians middle class is missing the point….the creation of such a thing is not in Israel’s hands, it is in the hands of the Palestinians. Actually, the Palestinian standard of living is higher than in many other non-oil-rich Arab countries. There is a strong manufacturing center in Hevron, which, as I understands, is thriving precisely because of the Israeli presence in the city and the fact that the PA is weaker their and thus has less ability to squeeze money out of the local entrepeneurs.

          It is ultimately up to the Palestinians themselves to build a prosperous economic infrastructure, if that is indeed what they want. However, I have my doubts because ALL of the Arab countries WANT their population to be dependent on the ruling regime. They do NOT want a “strong Middle class” because such a group would demand political power which the none of the ruling cliques in any Arab country is willing to share with them. Only those favored by the regime will be rewarded, and opponents will be punished. The Arab world uses the “stick and carrot’ to great effect.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Ike, you’re like the guy jamming a pillow over some poor guy’s face smothering him and complaining, “see, this guy obviously can’t breathe on his own!” And your comments about the Hevron manufacturing center only serve to illuminate how a Palestinian state could thrive economically if it had a neighbor, Israel, that worked to mutually cooperate economically with it and strengthen moderates politically rather than strangle all of this at every opportunity. There is so much pent up entrepreneurial energy and capacity for hard work and industriousness among the Palestinians. Just take the chains off and work in good faith and the economic future could be bright. For both countries. If Israel put the same energy into coordinating economically and politically with the Palestinians that it does coordinating security-wise in maintaining the occupation (while giving them absolutely no credit) the results could be amazing.

            Reply to Comment
          • Paranam Kid

            @I_like_ike52
            This is the standard Hasbara bluewash garbage to desperately try to justify israel’s ongoing crimes against humanity. israel denies the Palestinians their RIGHT to self-determination. It is NOT the responsibility of israel to decide what is good for the Palestinians.

            As for israel’s right to exist, that is NOT the isssue. The issue is israel’s right to exist as a jewish state, i.e a state run by jews for the sole benefit of jews, i.e. a racist state. israel is already a racist state, and in its current form it does NOT have a right to exist. It has a right to exist as democratic state with EQUAL rights for ALL its citizens, incl. the Palestinian citizens of israel.

            But right now, israel is the only true travesty of democracy in the Middle East.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “They do NOT want a “strong Middle class” because such a group would demand political power which the none of the ruling cliques in any Arab country is willing to share with them. Only those favored by the regime will be rewarded, and opponents will be punished.”

            Take a step back and look at yourself, Ike. You are repeating Noam Sheizaf’s argument. Just substitute “Israel” for “any Arab country.”

            Reply to Comment
    2. Paranam Kid

      “….and is sometimes even asked to spy on his neighbors or family members.”
      NO, israel blackmails them into doing that.

      Reply to Comment