December 4, 2009

The New West Bank

Tom Gross describes the new West Bank in the Wall Street Journal.

It was in much better shape than I expected when I visited in 2006, but it did not look like this:

[W]e had driven from Jerusalem to Nablus without going through any Israeli checkpoints. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu has removed them all since the Israeli security services (with the encouragement and support of President George W. Bush) were allowed, over recent years, to crush the intifada, restore security to the West Bank and set up the conditions for the economic boom that is now occurring. (There was one border post on the return leg of the journey, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, but the young female guard just waved me and the two Palestinians I was traveling with, through.)

The shops and restaurants were also full when I visited Hebron recently, and I was surprised to see villas comparable in size to those on the Cote d'Azur or Bel Air had sprung up on the hills around the city. Life is even better in Ramallah, where it is difficult to get a table in a good restaurant. New apartment buildings, banks, brokerage firms, luxury car dealerships and health clubs are to be seen. In Qalqilya, another West Bank city that was previously a hotbed of terrorists and bomb-makers, the first ever strawberry crop is being harvested in time to cash in on the lucrative Christmas markets in Europe. Local Palestinian farmers have been trained by Israeli agriculture experts and Israel supplied them with irrigation equipment and pesticides.

A new Palestinian city, Ruwabi, is to be built soon north of Ramallah. Last month, the Jewish National Fund, an Israeli charity, helped plant 3,000 tree seedlings for a forested area the Palestinian planners say they would like to develop on the edge of the new city. Israeli experts are also helping the Palestinians plan public parks and other civic amenities.

Outsiders are beginning to take note of the turnaround too. The official PLO Wafa news agency reported last week that the 3rd quarter of 2009 witnessed near-record tourism in the Palestinian Authority, with 135,939 overnight hotel stays in 89 hotels that are now open. Almost half the guests come from the U.S or Europe.
Posted by Michael J. Totten at December 4, 2009 10:54 AM

I've said this all along.
The recipe for building a country is to build the economy.
Netanyahu was right but it ain't rocket science.
If the Palestinians keep this up, they'll have plenty to live for and little die for.
Even now Palestinians are returning from the Gulf, real estate is booming and life is a lot better than in that shit hole Hamas has created.
Whether the Palestininians will ever give the Israelis credit for the help is something for which we will have to wait and see.
But its quite possible this will become an East and West Pakistan situation.

Posted by: JB Author Profile Page at December 4, 2009 12:56 PM

I read that piece in the WSJ when it came out yesterday or so and thought...At last...something positive.

Isn't our (i.e.,the public's..) problem the willful and blanket omission of anything positive from that area by the liberal media and vocal "news" agencies? There's another website that's good for penetrating and exposing BS from the East..."Honest Reporting". They're really after the BBC, for example.

"We the people" have to be very selective in what we read, and are forced to try to read between the lines. Those of us of a certain age may recall a book years ago entitled" "A Nation Of Sheep", by William Lederer and Eugene Burdick...maybe now out of print; his thesis was that we're too prone to accept what we read without question. Government sources have agendas, as much as any other. Think of the U.N and that odious "Human Rights Commission".

This was back in the day when we hadn't heard so much about "spin".

Innocence at home, as it were.

Posted by: Morningside Author Profile Page at December 4, 2009 6:07 PM

...hasty addition...."The Human Rights Commission" as we now know it may not've been so prominent in those days, and the U.N had not then assumed it's lopsided membership of those looking for handouts from America, that's another subject and I promise not to go there.

Posted by: Morningside Author Profile Page at December 4, 2009 6:13 PM

The Palestinians are the luckiest mofos in the world to have Jews as enemies. If they had spent decades trying that terrorism/suicide bombing routine with anyone else in the Middle East they would have been ground into dust like Carthage by now. And they still get treated like crap by their Arab "brothers".

Posted by: Gary Rosen Author Profile Page at December 4, 2009 11:59 PM

"... it is difficult to get a table in a good restaurant. New apartment buildings, banks, brokerage firms, luxury car dealerships and health clubs are to be seen."

Yep, just like the Holocaust. Close your eyes and you could be in the Warsaw ghetto, 1943.

Posted by: Gary Rosen Author Profile Page at December 5, 2009 12:03 AM

"The Palestinians are the luckiest mofos in the world to have Jews as enemies."

Almost, but not quite. In his notes Soviet journalist Vasily Grossman reported that in "liberated" Germany an apartment where two Nazi German women was occupied by a Jewish soldier for a time. The women became terrified only when they learned the Jew was moving out and Russian soldiers would be moving in to replace him.

I have only heard one story of a Jewish soldier who took revenge out on Nazis after WWII; defying British orders, he sneaked over the Italian border to murder ex-Nazi officials. But he gave it up quickly. He decided, he wrote, that this sort of thing wasn't what Jews were meant to do.

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at December 6, 2009 12:03 PM

Well, its a bit more complicated.
You may want to read Howard Blum's "The Brigade"
(This is a bit off topic)

Posted by: JB Author Profile Page at December 6, 2009 6:15 PM

I have to wonder about this article, and believe it is another instance of propaganda, and plagiarism. Read it over carefully, then read these articles from other sources and decide for yourself:

Nablus at the crossroads on road to peace,25197,26345592-2703,00.html

From Bombing Center To Strawberry Capital Of The West Bank

Other than several direct ripoffs from these articles, at least the former (written by one John Lyons)admits its author was on a tour for foreign journalists led by the Israeli NGO Media Central, whose mission it seems is to spoon-feed propaganda to its wards. (

Media Central is paid for by private donations and the United Jewish Appeal. Its principals, as listed in the 'About Us' section of its website, is Aryeh Green, an American-born Jew who has been an advisor to Natan Sharansky, and Avital Goihman, who, according to her bio, was "group leader and tour guide for volunteers from around the world who came to serve in the IDF."

Mr. Gross has apparently either lifted some phrases from the aforementioned articles, simply transcribed some quotes provided by Media Central, or had the coincidental good fortune of coming up with the same quotations and observations as the others on his own.

"Nablus stock exchange head Ahmad Aweidah went further in explaining to me why there is no rush to declare statehood, saying ordinary Palestinians need the IDF to help protect them from Hamas, as their own security forces aren't ready to do so by themselves yet" writes Gross. Maybe so, maybe not. From The Australian article, we get this:

"Aweidah is contemptuous of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's claim he is trying to bring peace by boosting the Palestinian economy.

"It's bull," he says. "It's just for media consumption.

"Netanyahu doesn't want to pay the price for peace. He's not interested in removing settlements, he's not interested in a two-state solution but he has to say something. What he actually believes in is that Palestinians should pick up and go to Jordan."

Aweidah says contrary to a professed desire to assist the Palestinian economy, Israel has introduced obstacles.

"If Israel wants to see economic development on the West Bank, why do they keep all those restrictions on the Palestinian economy and the Palestinian Authority to do business?

"If Israel is so interested in helping the Palestinian territories, why was the biggest direct investment into the Palestinian economy -- $US700 million for another phone system -- delayed for three years by Israelis?"

So, Messrs. Gross and Totten, what really is the truth?

Posted by: The Other Alan Author Profile Page at December 7, 2009 10:35 AM

The Other Alan, it seems to me you bring up two points of contention.

First, you speculate that Gross never actually visited Nablus, and merely 'ripped off' the other articles. Second, you seem to think Gross misquoted Ahmad Aweidha, in saying that the Israeli forces are needed for security, because of other direct quotes in the Lyons article.

To address the first issue, you come up with the answer yourself. If the trip was organized by an Israeli NGO for foreign journalists, it is likely that all of these journalists were on the same trip, spoke to the same people, and saw the same things; both accounting for the similarities, and actually reinforcing the credibility of Gross' article.

As for the second point, the Australian article says the same thing without any attribution. Lyons writes, "A frail ceasefire exists between three Palestinian factions -- Hamas, Fatah and the Islamic Jihad -- while the Israeli Defence Forces stand at the main checkpoint into Nablus."

It is more than likely this was an issue brought up in their talks, and Gross attributes this message to something Ahmad told them about the IDF being needed to keep the balance between the various palestinian groups, while Lyons does not.

As for the other points that Ahmad raised according to Lyons' article. I think we are not getting the full story.

In the two specific examples mentioned of a phone system and a football field, they SOUND innocuous enough, but both of them potentially encroach on spheres of IDF control (the EM/Wireless Spectrum and Area C, respectively). It is highly possible that there were "security" reasons for the IDF interfering, which Lyons did not investigate.

Netanyahu's government has removed hundreds of roadblocks and dozens of checkpoints, and has implemented new policies to help boost the Palestinian economy. The fruits of these policies can clearly be seen in downtown Nablus, as noted in both articles.

Despite this, there still remains a security situation to be addressed, as pointed out in both articles ("frail ceasefire...", the point attributed to Ahmad).

Obviously, the two examples of bureaucratic obstacles cited would not have occurred if it were not for the current conflict... and that is the bottom line.

Israel is working towards peace, bit by bit, starting from the ground up. Things are improving for West Bank Palestinians, but there is still a long way to go. I don't think anybody is denying that. That being said, it is equally important to point out the improvements and broadcast them loudly, so that Israel sees their efforts are recognized and continues with more and more cooperative work.

Posted by: jooliz Author Profile Page at December 8, 2009 2:50 PM

"Media Central is paid for by private donations and the United Jewish Appeal. Its principals, as listed in the 'About Us' section of its website, is Aryeh Green, an American-born Jew ..."

Can't trust those yids now, can ya?

"Nablus stock exchange head Ahmad Aweidah went further in explaining to me ..."

Now here's an impartial source!

Posted by: Gary Rosen Author Profile Page at December 9, 2009 12:46 AM
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