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