22 May 2005 - Dead Sea, Jordan
|Security and Reform in Israel and the Palestinian Territories|
A workshop of business and political leaders at the World Economic Forum in Jordan 2005 offered remarkably consistent perspectives on the steps needed to help make the Palestinian Territories prosperous, and Israel secure. The critical three areas addressed by the workshop were security, closure and checkpoints, and Palestinian reform.
Mohammed Dahlan, Minister of Civil Affairs of the Palestinian Authority, acknowledged the Authority’s responsibility to improve the security of Israelis, but added that Israel had a parallel obligation to help foster the security of the Palestinian people by ensuring safe and efficient passage between Gaza and the West Bank. Dahlan called on Israel to change “from an occupation mentality to a mentality of future relations.” While appreciating US support of the peace process, he complained that the United States was focusing only on what “Israel can give us,” and not “what they should give us.”
Challenging one of Dahlan’s assertions about Israeli intent, Ehud Olmert, Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Industry, Trade and Labour of Israel, stated that “the policy of Israel is not to make a trade-off between Gaza and the West Bank,” and that its intent was not to deepen its hold over the latter, nor to “encircle Gaza like a prison.” “Israel does not have to be dominant,” he said; “we are going to be good, willing partners.” Like Dahlan, he said that his country is committed to the Roadmap and improving the quality of life for Palestinians by promoting economic development within the territories. But “any meaningful change depends on the end of terror.”
Echoing the call of Dahlan and Olmert to implement the Roadmap, Jan Petersen, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, added that the Palestinian Territories receive more aid per capita than any country on earth. The question, as Nigel Roberts, Country Director, Gaza and the West Bank, World Bank, Jerusalem, pointed out, is how to boost the economy so that aid becomes less necessary. Petersen suggested that Israel’s security barrier is an obstacle, as is the enlargement of the settlements. Israel’s safety needs to be ensured, but border controls must not take place deep inside the Palestinian Territories. On the issue of Palestinian reforms, Petersen supported the call for social safety nets for the Palestinian people, and improved financial accountability at all levels.
Roberts added that while aid levels were at “historic levels”, the Palestinian economy has contracted significantly over the past five years. “Money is not going to fix this problem,” he said. “It comes down to the fundamentals of good policy.” He agreed with Dahlan’s call to open the airport in Gaza and encouraged Israel to disassemble the closures as much as possible while maintaining their own security. He called on the Palestinian Authority to enhance fiscal stability and clean up their accounting practices. “We, as policy-makers and public sector officials,” he said, “can only plough the field that the Palestinian Authority must plant.” As summed up by moderator Sean M. Cleary, Managing Director, Strategic Concepts, South Africa, “if you fix the policy, you fix the economy; if you don’t, it gets worse.”
During the discussion, participants added concrete suggestions for advancements in the three focus areas. US commitment to the process is key, as is the necessity to learn from the mistakes of Oslo. On security, one participant said there was “too much emphasis on hardware but very little on software,” meaning that the mindset of terror must be addressed. Suhair Al-Ali, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation of Jordan pointed out the importance of focusing not just on temporary, absolute security but on long-term, sustainable peace. On the issue of reform, fiscal problems could be improved by de-emphasizing public sector salary raises and increasing spending on public goods such as pensions. “Clearly,” said Al-Ali, “reform is a must.”