Efforts toward positive investment in Israeli-Palestinian peace continue to move forward. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Quartet Representative Tony Blair have made Palestinian economic development a priority, announcing a plan targeting $4 billion in investment over the next three years. The plan focuses on strengthening the Palestinian IT sector, tourism, manufacturing, and agriculture.
Forbes magazine recently published a major article, Peace Through Profits, highlighting emerging Palestinian-Israeli cooperation in the Technology sector. Palestinians are among the best-educated people in the Arab world, and offer a strong and well-qualified technology workforce. The American technology company Cisco Systems has had a major role in supporting and advancing this initiative, and hopefully more major technology companies will participate.
Israeli companies employ large numbers of Palestinians. Today over 100,000 Palestinians from the West Bank commute into Israel to work on a daily basis. 35,000 Palestinians work for Israeli companies with facilities in West Bank settlements. Commerce between Israel and Palestine is growing, with Palestinian companies exporting over $800 million in goods to Israel in 2012. Palestinian exports to Israel are growing at a double-digit growth rate, and should surpass $1 billion annually over the next few years.
In spite of this important progress, there is organized opposition to it. Leaders of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) Movement oppose Palestinian-Israeli cooperation with a stance called “anti-normalization”, claiming that Palestinian cooperation with Israelis will lead to the “status quo” becoming permanent. An example of this is BDS opposition to the new Palestinian city of Rawabi, currently under construction in the West Bank and expected to ultimately become the home of 40,000 Palestinians.
We believe that the BDS movement is wrong: “anti-normalization” hinders, not helps, the cause of an autonomous Palestinian state. The principal barrier to the two-state solution is lack of trust, and it is more person-to-person contact, not less, that will build and reinforce this essential trust. Palestinians and Israelis willing to reach out to each other peacefully deserve our full support, not condemnation and opposition.
This was the prophetic stance taken by the 220th Presbyterian General Assembly last year, with a strong statement calling for positive investment in peace and interfaith cooperation. We at PFMEP are committed to seeing that this effort continues and expands as we approach next year’s GA in Detroit.