Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Peace Dividend

The West Bank economy is flourishing.

According to the International Monetary Fund(IMF), there has been an 18% increase in activity at the West Bank stock exchange with a projected overall economic growth rate of 7% this year. There has been a 94% growth of tourism to Bethlehem, generating 6,000 new jobs and an 82% rise in trade with Israel. Since 2008, more than 2,000 new companies have been registered with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Car imports are up more than 40% in the last year. A new luxurious Hyatt hotel with a swimming pool has also opened in Nablus.

The “peace dividend’ is manifesting itself in with new consumer confidence throughout the West Bank. There is a new spa and a state of the art shopping mall. A multiplex theater “Cinema City,” has recently opened in Nablus. It shows four films per day, including the latest Egyptian movies and Hollywood films such "The Dark Knight" and Pilar’s “Wall-E”. Nader Elawy, manager of Cinema City, says “We now have law and order. You can really feel the change.”

Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad’s responsible fiscal policies have led to the new Palestinian economic success- a welcome change after years of corruption under Arafat. Increased security has helped, as well. More than 2,100 members of the Palestinian security forces, armed and trained by U.S. Gen. Keith Dayton, are patrolling the West Bank.

Middle east envoy Tony Blair recently toured Nablus and stated "There's still massive amount to do, but providing we keep building on the security and the economics, and then we add to that a credible political negotiation, what Nablus shows is that change is possible." According to Blair, Israel was not getting enough credit for recent measures to improve conditions for the Palestinian population in the West Bank, such as the removal of roadblocks and checkpoints. The Israeli Army has removed two-thirds of the 41 manned checkpoints that were originally set up around the West Bank after waves of suicide bombings caused thousands of causalities in Israel. The removal of these checkpoints has facilitated the flow of goods and services to and from the West Bank. There is also increased Israeli-Palestinian cooperation in construction and agriculture, resulting in a 200% increase in agricultural exports and a nearly 1,000% increase in the number of trucks importing produce into the West Bank from Israel.

Strong economic, cultural and social ties between people are the foundation of peace. Support cooperation between the Palestinian and Israeli people.

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