by Austin Bay
For the moment, let's slink around the Israeli-Palestinian war
process and peace process, and get to what ultimately makes or breaks
long-term political solutions: the money process
The money process -- productive, collaborative economic activity
among Israel, Jordan and, yes, Palestine -- was always strategically key to
forging a durable peace.
Material betterment of the Palestinians was an understood (if
understated) aim of Camp David. The "betterment" process, daily economic
collaboration between Israelis and Palestinians, would necessitate direct,
positive personal contacts. These contacts would begin to seed a sense of
common future. A sense of common future was the door to escaping a bitter,
I'm not ignoring another process also at play, the need for
justice. At the moment, however, there is little prospect for making headway
on that issue. The hardened notions of justice born by a Palestinian suicide
bomber or an Israeli settler are not amenable to debate. These notions are
burdens of that bitter and divided past.
A very famous resident of this embattled region, Jesus of
Nazareth, told us, "Man does not live by bread alone." No, we aren't mere
creatures of the market. Meeting material needs doesn't assure happiness.
Christ also preached a gospel of forgiveness, a good way to improve the
common future and attain justice -- albeit His best future was a kingdom not
of this world.
But we humans have to live in this world. On a planet
increasingly linked by instant communications, people are asked to reconcile
the irreconcilable, to cushion the collision of competing myths and ideas.
The idea of "reborn Israel" with biblically ordained land rights meeting an
Islamist's sense of Allah-ordained "Muslim supremacy" is one such collision.
War is an ancient means of attempting to reconcile the
irreconcilable. America's very much at war. A friend of mine passed on the
recent comments of a U.S. Marine back from Afghanistan. The Marine said
former Taliban fighters were "no problem," but the boys in Al Qaeda --
forget it. "There's no reasoning with 'em."
"Marginalizing extremists" is key to reaching compromise in
every political scrap. Rejectionists like Al Qaeda members refuse to make
deals. True, certitude of convictions can signify moral strength, but that's
so rare. Show me the moral strength in cutting a flight attendant's throat.
The Al Qaedaites' fuel is desire for domination, ego instead of God.
Would that bread spoke to them.
But bread does speak to the vast majority of human beings.
Making more bread, sharing it, trading it, even selling it speaks with even
Several years ago in Amman, an adviser to King Hussein and I
discussed the money process over a long, not for attribution cup of tea.
"Economic improvement is the key to escaping our bad situation," he said.
And by bad situation he didn't mean simply Jordan and Palestine, but what he
saw as the pan-Arab economic failure. "Fine, we keep political structures as
they are, but open the borders to trade, to business. Economic
liberalization. If we make life better economically for people, that lays
the basis for change. In time, the confrontation with Israel will fade."
I argued that Arab autocrats fear such change. In Syria, the
Assad clan uses both military might and economic corruption to maintain
power. "Damascus won't do it," I said. "Too risky."
"I hear differently from inside Syria," he replied. "I tell you,
economic improvement is the only real hope. (Among Palestinians), economic
health will restore dignity."
I know the war process will continue to grind. More blood's been
spilled. Hard core believers delight in their hardness. Iraq, Syria and Iran
encourage Israeli and Palestinian bloodshed for their own purposes. Those
destructive purposes must be confronted.
But even in this dark time, the money process must not be
If Saudi Arabia's Prince Abdullah and Israel's Ariel Sharon are
serious about peace, maybe they should step back from the map and go to the
teller's cage. One kickstart to a real peace process would be the
establishment of a new Saudi-Israeli regional development bank. They might
also discuss ways to protect businesspeople in the region from political
extortion. They might discuss loaning $25,000 to entrepreneurs instead of
giving it to the families of suicide bombers.
It may be a distant future, but a real, resilient peace will
follow the money.