They Say, We Say: "The best we can hope for is 'economic peace'"

They Say We Say We know that pro-Israel does not mean blindly supporting policies that are irrational, reckless, and counter-productive. Pro-Israel means supporting policies that are consistent with Israel's interests and promote its survival as a Jewish, democratic state.

You've heard the arguments of the religious and political right-wing, and so have we. They've had their say. Now, we'll have ours.

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Why the two-state solution?

They Say:

Maybe one day there will be a real peace agreement with the Palestinians. But in the foreseeable future, the best we can hope for is a modus vivendi - like "economic peace" where the focus is on improvement in the living conditions of the West Bank Palestinians. What's wrong with that?

We Say:

Economic development in the West Bank would obviously be welcome. It is both a Palestinian interest and an Israeli interest. But economic development under occupation has never been, and will never be, an alternative to Palestinian independence and self-determination. No amount of economic improvement will ever compensate for living under foreign occupation. Palestinians cannot be bought that way, any more than Jews can.

In fact, focusing exclusively on economic growth in the West Bank, without a parallel effort to create a viable political horizon, will likely increase tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and may impede Israel's maneuvering room in future negotiations.

Advocates of "economic peace" would do well to note that economic growth is not a guarantee of stability. The periods that preceded both the first and second intifada were relatively prosperous for the Palestinian economy. In both cases, violence erupted because of socio-political reasons, not economic stress. One of the chief causes of the first intifada, according to experts, was the dissonance Palestinians experienced between their improved quality of life on the one hand and the diminishing prospects for a political breakthrough on the other. In other words, the intifada, at least in part, was an expression of Palestinians fears that the lull in violence, alongside the improved economic conditions, might be interpreted as acquiescence to a politically unacceptable status quo.

All that is not to say that economic development in the West Bank is not a worthy cause. It has many benefits, including political ones, which are in the interest of Israel and the United States. But economic development ought not be seen either as a substitute for a political process or as creating conditions that can, on their own and in the sustained absence of a political process, prevent violence. Likewise, economic growth, on its own, will not deliver a political "breakthrough." Such a breakthrough can only result from a credible diplomatic process that involves negotiations toward the shared political goal of ending the occupation and ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.