A fable for adults
By Meron Benvenisti
The Rand Corporation, the prestigious American think tank, published
two reports last week with recommendations and plans for improving the
chances for the success of a Palestinian state after its establishment.
The institute emphasized that the reports do not deal with the issues
up for negotiation in the establishment of the state, and the nature
of the arrangements that will be formulated, but only with the plans
to be actualized "on the morning after."
We're used to examining reports by the Rand Corporation, which
encompass many aspects from education to terror to domestic security,
and being impressed by the level of the research and the relevance of
the conclusions and recommendations. This time, to our surprise, the
think tank has delivered a fable for adults.
The physical backbone of the Palestinian state, according to Rand,
will be a corridor dubbed the "arc" that will extend from the West
Bank to northern Gaza, connecting all the cities of the West Bank and
Gaza by a railroad that will be 230 kilometers long and take 90
minutes to travel.
Parallel to the railroad will be a highway, aqueduct, electrical lines
and fiber optic cables. Arc stations will be put up outside the
"historical centers" of the West Bank towns, each serving as a focal
point for the development of new neighborhoods and commercial centers
that could absorb thousands of refugees who would return from the
A string of parks and nature reserves will also accompany the route of
the Arc, connected by pedestrian and bicycle paths; and the Arc will
end at the southern side of the Rafah and Gaza port, and at its
northern end, some time in the future, at Haifa port.
The investment in the Arc - highway and railroad - will be $6 billion
and between 100,000 and 160,000 workers will be employed for each of
the five years it is under construction. The Rand report adds
estimates to the investment in the Arc infrastructure - on the
necessary investments in health, education, security and economic
development - another $50 million from 2005-2019.
According to the report's authors, those are not imaginary sums, and
as proof they note that aid per capita in Bosnia and Kosovo ranges
from $714 to $43 respectively, so a $3.3 billion (or $760 per capita)
a year investment seems logical.
If so, why is this a fable for adults? Even a total pessimist can draw
optimism from the vision of the Arc, such as its descriptions of how a
"new building design would incorporate sustainable systems using solar
energy and recaptured water," and economic activity that "guarantees
the preservation and revitalization of historic centers - an essential
strategy for creating a much needed tourism industry."
But even the optimistic planners at Rand cannot ignore reality. They
note that everything depends on "the strategic choice" made by the
policymakers on the critical issues: geographic contiguity, the area's
size, its shape, the inclusion of specific areas, and control over
land and resources.
To that can be added the fact of the presence of Israeli settlement
blocs and physical infrastructures, which won't enable the
establishment of the Arc and its various appendages, control over the
border passages, the coastal waters and airspace, the independent
operation of the Gaza port and the Daaniya airport, free economic
activity, and an independent policy of immigration.
The Rand vision is laid out as if the West Bank is an island in the
southern seas, covering all the territory east of the Green Line, the
1967 borders, without regard to Israel. The envisioned Palestinian
state gets all the conventional trappings of sovereignty, is free to
impose its own rule of law, its government is free of corruption, and
a transparent democratic process guarantees the support of most of its
Those assumptions are what turn the Arc plan into a fable for adults.
It is clear to all that they are not realistic assumptions. Moreover,
the very assumption that the immediate establishment of the
Palestinian state is a realistic assumption because President Bush and
the road map call for it - "and a critical mass of Israelis and
Palestinians support it, according to the polls" - requires an
Most Palestinians indeed do support the establishment of a state, as
long as it enjoys all the trappings of sovereignty and is free of
settlers. But the majority of Israelis who ostensibly support a
Palestinian state are vehemently opposed to the assumptions at the
heart of the Rand vision, and support an entity that will have partial
control over about half the West Bank, with no control over the border
crossings, immigration policies, water resources, coastal waters, and
Considering the gap in power between Israelis and Palestinians - and
in the absence of any foreign pressure - it is clear that the Israeli
version will be the determining one, and with it the vision of the Arc
fades into the distant horizon.
The Palestinians will never agree to the humiliating Israeli
interpretations of their aspirations for national independence, and
all the plans laden with goodwill and positive attitudes turn into
bittersweet legends that come down to wondering what might have been,
WORLD VIEW NEWS SERVICE
To subscribe to this group, send an email to:
NEWS ARCHIVE IS OPEN TO PUBLIC VIEW