Friday, June 29, 2007

Marshall Plan for Palestine
By Bashir Goth

In a previous piece I wondered what deal Tony Blair made with George Bush to be so subservient to him despite his seemingly superior intelligence. With his new position, I think the answer has come more quickly than I expected. Other than lucrative retirement benefits and keeping him in the limelight alongside his master, I don’t see what Blair can achieve as minutes-taker when he wasn’t able to make any impact on Middle East issues as an elected leader of a sovereign state with a UN Security Council veto power.

But as trusted secretaries are known to wield enough influence over their bosses, one may hope that Blair will at least give some hard advice to Bush. One important idea could be to push for a Marshall Plan for the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas (a.k.a. Abu Mazen). Given the grinding poverty and harsh economic realities in which the Palestinian people live, the Quartet’s initiatives will not find receptive ears unless the Palestinian people see a real change in their livelihood. Massive economic assistance can start projects, generate employment, win the trust of people and turn them into stakeholders in peace initiatives.

The fact of the matter is that the ongoing struggle between Hamas and Fatah groups is basically a conflict over resources. It is through improving the people’s lives with funds reaching them from Iran and Islamic charities that Hamas, Hezbollah and many other radical groups in the Islamic world have gained the hearts and minds of the downtrodden masses. It is therefore only by using massive, transparent and well-planned economic assistance that the Western-supported government of Abu Mazen can erode Hamas’s grassroots support in Gaza and elsewhere.

Blair should also do his utmost to convince Israel to exercise the maximum degree of self-restraint against any provocation by Hamas and other radical groups. As Hamas is now politically isolated and its influence confined to the Gaza Strip without any hope of foreign funds reaching it from its conventional allies, the last thing that Israel’s and Abu Mazen’s governments need is to see more Palestinian people killed in Gaza by Israeli bombs. This will galvanize the Palestinian people behind Hamas and will make Abu Mazen’s government appear to act as Israeli stooges.

In order to give the Quartet more teeth and credibility, it may also be wise to enlarge its membership by bring in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and one or two of the most influential Jewish lobbies in the U.S. This would not only secure much needed financial backing for any future peace initiative, but would also strengthen the group’s influence over Israeli and Palestinian authorities. Read more in

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