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Rubin Reports

Can the U.S. Government Buy Moderation in the Middle East? No!

May 28th, 2013 - 9:38 am

Can the Obama administration turn radicals into moderates with money?

Way back in 1979, shortly after the Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini said that people in the West didn’t understand revolutionary Islamism. “They think,” he explained, “the revolution is all about the price of watermelons. It isn’t.” In other words, this is an ideological cause, not a quality-of-life revolution where people can be bribed.

Three examples to prove a “no” answer:

1. The Palestinian case

On May 26 at the World Economic Forum in Jordan, Secretary of State John Kerry proclaimed a new plan. He wants to find $4 billion from investors. If he does this, he claims, the Palestinian economy will be doing great, people will be employed, and there will be peace.

Actually, this is a bribe to get the Palestinian Authority back to negotiations with Israel — which would also mean, of course, that the Obama administration can claim a foreign policy success. That’s $4 billion to buy a negotiations’ process that will meet a few times and break down in deadlock, as has happened over 20 years under far better potential conditions and additional billions of dollars of aid to the Palestinians. The initiative is also intended to get the Palestinian Authority to drop plans to seek statehood at the UN; to file cases against Israel at the World Court; and to try to join other international institutions as an independent state.

What should the money be spent on, according to Kerry? Why, on tourism!

No doubt tourists are just lining up to go to the West Bank. (They certainly aren’t going to go to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, where the rockets’ red glare has a different meaning.)

Notice incidentally that these are not productive investments. Perhaps Kerry could have proposed investment in green energy. After all, the West Bank has much better prospects for solar power than does the United States.

The supposed uses to which the money would be put further signal that this is a political bribe. If this money is found, says Kerry:

Experts believe that we can increase the Palestinian GDP by as much as 50% over three years. Their most optimistic estimates foresee enough new jobs to cut unemployment by nearly two-thirds — to 8%, down from 21% today — and to increase the median annual wage along with it, by as much as 40%.

Should the secretary of state be talking on such a level of fantasy? Does a single one of his listeners believe this?

Tony Blair, to whom the tourism project was turned over by Kerry, has been the negotiator for the quartet for 11 years. Guess how many visits he has made to Jerusalem? Answer: 87. And basically, he’s accomplished zero. Here is the short list of achievements that he even dares claim after 11 years, 87 trips, and vast amounts of money.

How about the “experts’” more pessimistic estimates, or even their realistic ones? Kerry has chosen the worst possible plan — investment in an industry that is incredibly sensitive to political unrest. Are Palestinians going to become hotel managers, waiters, lifeguards at swimming pools, and so on? What will Hamas think about the influx of massive numbers of Western tourists? The sale of alcohol? Western women coming in wearing whatever they want? What would happen to this investment if there was a single terrorist attack in the West Bank, much less one against tourists? Might events in nearby Egypt and Syria affect Western tourism?

While Israel is successful at tourism, it is a developed country with far more to see. Remember east Jerusalem — the main tourist attraction — is controlled by Israel, not the Palestinian Authority. Once you get beyond Bethlehem, which tourists can visit easily while spending a night in an Israeli hotel — what’s there to do in the West Bank?

Is this a good idea for a $4 billion investment?

Kerry continued:

The economics will never work properly or fully without the political process. … President Abbas, the economic approach is not a substitute for the political approach. The political approach is essential and it is our top priority. In fact, none of this vision … will happen without the context of the two-state solution.

Question: If billions of dollars have not bought PA support for a two-state solution in 20 years, why should anything change now?

Predictably, the PA reaction was that Israel would have to give still more concessions before it would do Israel and the United States the favor of returning to negotiations so that it could obtain a state — even though it is so weak that these two have to prop it up, and it only controls half the territory it is bargaining for. No matter how much time and money Kerry takes to restart the “peace process,” nothing is going to happen.

It is remarkable that the West still doesn’t understand this. Or perhaps it does, and is putting in all this effort for show?

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All Comments   (20)
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Both the Russians and the arabs--and too the Iranians-- run on oil. Collapse the price of oil and these groups lose the ability to sustain their operations. They stop being players on the world stage.

The USA has been swamped with oil lately but that glut has not been reflected in the price of oil. imho the price of WTI oil will go under $90@barrel and Brent oil will go under $100 in the coming weeks. WTI will end 2013 in the low 80's. By 2015 oil will be in the $70@barrel range.

I don't know what happens after that because Bakken oil is said to cost 70@ barrel to pump out of the ground. As the price goes lower fewer new wells will be drilled and because the decline rates are so high-- that means the pace of US drilling that ramps up production--will decline

Something similar has happened to natural gas in the USA. Collapsing prices led to the fall off of drilling which halted the rise in the amount of natural gas coming out of the ground. Production peaked. But demand has continued to soar. So the price of gas has started to move upward. At some point rising prices will cause more drilling.

The Russians have enormous shale oil/gas reservers in Siberia. But I've heard that the costs of extracting that run about 90@ barrel. They're already planning on exploiting that oil but by the time they get to it--likely the siberian shale oil/gas will be uneconomic to extract.

The USA also has some some very large shale oil/gas reserves in the permian basin of west texas not far from W bush's home. These reserves will be much cheaper to extract. They'll start coming to market in larger volumes next year I think.

The Israelis have lots of oil but its in the form on oil shale or kerigen. That's won't be economic to extract until the price of electricity collapses--which is the primary cost of extraction--especially byo insitu mining. Currently the leading technology in waiting to collapse the cost of electricity is portable thorium nuclear power plants. It'll be 5-10 years before the prototypes start producing electricity.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"What would happen to this investment if there was a single terrorist attack in the West Bank, much less one against tourists?"

Easy. Theywouldblame it on Israel. Heck, accordign to Wikipedia's list of countries, we are still the "occupying power" in Gaza, even though we pulled out unilaterally.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I read lots of commentary by folks like Dr. Rubin. Intelligent and thoughtful. If you read them closely they are all speaking truth but are afraid, probably with good cause, to come right out with it leaving that voice to us.

Why this is so is an indication of the depths of the problem. No amount of apologia hides the fact the ISLAM IS the PROBLEM!. Not radical Islam, not fundamentalist Islam, not Islamist Islam...simply Islam.

The answer is simple (the execution of the answer being the hard part) confront Islam head on. Assault its base, its myth and contrast it to other more useful religions. Psychological attack. Ping, ping, ping, drip, drip, drip and never ever surrender.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The reason nothing has ever happened to defuse this area is because the Arabs do not want anything to happen unless it has to do with pushing all of the Jews into the Med and watching them drown.
This is not brain surgery, listen to what Islam says and then shut up. There will never be peace in this area because Mohammad in his delirium decided to blame all of his troubles on the Jews and Christians in Arabi instead of on his own actions in the neighborhood. Mohammad said Kill all Christians and Jews or make them all slaves to Islam.....
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Tourism is actually a wise choice in the abstract because if 1) people generally want to feed themselves and their children, and 2) tourism is the single industry most affected by war, then if you make tourism the main source of income for a society, where a large segment of the society is employed in tourism-related jobs and the entire society depends on it, it makes sense to expect that a very large part of that society will be averse to war and desire peace.

However, when you get to the particulars of this particular case, there are several problems with this scenario:

1) Even if, as a result of war, the toursits will be gone they can still depend on foreign aid as a source of income. This diminishes the disincentive of war as an existential threat (whereas for Israel war always remains an existential threat).

2) Those in this society, including the political and religious authorities, the educational system and the media, who educate their children to die as shahids in the course of jihad for the sake of Allah, are not likely to become proponents of peace just to preserve their and their children's temporal physical existence in the paltry corporeal world (as they see it, compared to the eternal bliss in paradise guaranteed to the souls of those who sacrificed their corporeal bodies for the sake of Allah), let alone for a few more bucks a month, a new TV or better housing. Like Khomeini said, this is not about the price of watermelons. So even if part of the society will have a strong incentive to desire peace, there will still be a strong opposition to peace from many others.

3) As you explain, tourism is highly likely to fail anyway, even in the absence of direct conflict with Israel, due to the particularly extreme volatility of the entire neighborhood as it is swept by revolutionary Islam. Few people find a smoking volcano an attarctive tourist destination, much less one that's already erupting. Even Israeli tourism will likely suffer the consequnces of the regional tsunami, let alone places where large segmants of population are less appreciative of alcohol drinking, bikini wearing, kissing in public Western kuffar. If tourism doesn't have much of a long-term potential to begin with as a stable source of income how can it be an incentive or a solution for anything?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Remember the greenhouses in Gaza? 14 million and nothing but destruction.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Let's give money we don't have to people who don't really want it. What could go wrong? Seriously, i'm not surprised that Kerry and Obama are so blinded by ideology that reality is beyond their comprehension.however, I've met people who work in the state department. I know for a fact that there are some very smart ,very competent people who work there. Why is no one listening to them?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Colonial Powers are still addicted to drawing maps from afar. Thats worked pretty well. Perhaps the The Kerry Plan, which promotes creating yet another Islamic Terror State, is better labeled, Lame Duck Seeks Dead Duck. The knowledgeable reader gets the references. Here in Jerusalem we have no intention being either the latter or that third famous duck, Sitting Duck. The Obama Regime, it can no longer be called an Administration , pushes
" Palestine " every time it needs to get Americans distracted from its malevolence at home. The standard tactic of an Islamic dictatorships. Americans should remember another great duck analogy- If it walks like duck and quacks like a duck... its a duck.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Heaven forbid. The agitated sector in the US is on the verge of succumbing to civil disobedience, what then is to expect with these facts as aforementioned blaze through among daily interactions?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Why would you ask a rhetorical question then answer it?
But he is right. They don't want our money. They want us dead.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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