Mistaken political ideas are commonplace these days, and we cannot get the better of them if we don’t call them out directly. The particular idea I wish to address is a plan advanced by World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder.
The billionaire Lauder is, first and foremost, a businessman. We should not be surprised, then, if his involvement in financial matters significantly colors his worldview.
In accordance with his business sensibilities, Lauder has proposed a “Marshall Plan” for the Palestinian Authority. He advanced this idea in a column in the Saudi Arab News on July 2. It was then picked up by other outlets.
The original Marshall Plan, enacted in 1948 during the Truman administration, entailed the investment of more than $13 billion in aid to Europe to revitalize the area after World War II and foster self-confidence in demoralized nations.
Lauder wrote that now is the right time for U.S. President Joe Biden—who will visit Israel and the Middle East next week—to initiate a similar plan for the P.A. via investments from the U.S., Europe, Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations. This, he claims, is an initiative that the Palestinians “cannot turn down.”
“What I am suggesting is a ‘Marshall Plan’ that would offer the next generation of Palestinians a future of wealth, success and self-reliance, rather than the dismal prospects of the past,” he said. “A fixed sum of money could be given to young entrepreneurs to create new businesses, which would be closely monitored. … In other words, provide Palestinians with all the things that made Israel and other countries financially viable, which would help create a new and successful Palestine.”
“The wealthier a future Palestinian nation becomes, the more likely it is that it could be the viable, successful country it should be,” Lauder asserted.
This is yet another iteration of the “pour money into Palestinian society and it will fix matters” paradigm. I do not believe that there is going to be a Marshall Plan for the P.A., but I am confident that other, similar plans are likely to be suggested in coming months due to the worldview of the Biden administration. And I expect that these plans will share basic underlying assumptions, which must be challenged.
Westerners who make suggestions for ameliorating Israeli-Palestinian tensions usually fail to grasp the basics of Muslim Arab culture. That is certainly the case with Lauder. Most of all, he fails to grasp that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not all about money. There is an ideology, founded in religious as well as political beliefs, that underlies Palestinian intransigence and hostility.
For example, the Palestinian National Charter states that the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate for Palestine are null and void, that Palestine in its entirety within the boundaries of the Mandate is the homeland of the Palestinian people and that armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine.
There is ample evidence that the P.A. still adheres to this ideology. It appears throughout P.A. media and educational materials, in the P.A.’s financial support for terrorists and even on its official emblem, which shows “Palestine” encompassing the entire Land of Israel.
Lauder appears to believe that giving entrepreneurs the wherewithal to create businesses in the P.A. will shift the climate to one more receptive to cooperation with Israel. But the Palestinian people themselves have no say in this matter, because the P.A. is not a democracy. Its ruling Fatah Party governs with an iron fist.
What is more, a recent poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research indicated that most residents of the Palestinian Authority do not believe in the two-state solution, and would prefer to be governed by the more militant Hamas.
Most telling was Lauder’s assertion that helping Palestinian entrepreneurs will give the P.A. “all the things that made Israel … financially viable.” Perhaps this, more than anything else, is the heart of the matter: Whatever aid we may have received from others, in the end the Jews of the fledgling State of Israel became “financially viable” through our own enormous determination and effort. It is regrettable that the same is not expected of the P.A.
In fact, the Palestinians have already received more donations per capita than any other group in the world. It’s time for them to show their own determination and effort. Further handouts, even if monitored, are counterproductive. Yet again and again the world seems prepared to grant perks and largesse to the P.A. without demanding accountability.
Lauder appears to believe that providing people with money will enable them to be self-reliant, but billions of dollars in aid have only created a situation of perpetual entitlement. The P.A. doesn’t make requests; it demands.
For the situation to truly change, two things must happen: First, the P.A. must come to understand that its ideology ill serves its people. They cannot defeat Israel. Period. And then, having come to terms with this truth, it must show a sincere desire to build something positive. At the moment, its only desire is negative: to destroy Israel.
All of this is critically important at this juncture precisely because Biden will soon arrive and make requests or demands from Israel in order to accommodate the P.A.
It is frightening that Yair Lapid, who is now prime minister, will be the one to greet Biden. Lapid is in favor of the two-state solution and there is great concern about what he might agree to. Rumors abound, as usual. The results remain to be seen.
Arlene Kushner is a freelance writer, investigative journalist and author. She has written books on the PLO and Ethiopian Jews, and major reports on UNRWA. She is a co-founder of the Legal Grounds Campaign, which provides courses to law students regarding Israel’s legal rights in the Land of Israel. Her blog, focusing on political and security concerns in Israel, can be found at www.arlenefromisrael.info.