Harebrained political notions are commonplace these days, and we cannot get the better of them if we don’t call them out directly. The particular notion I wish to address here is a plan advanced by World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder.
Ron Lauder, a billionaire, is not harebrained: I am not suggesting that he is. But he demonstrates tremendous naiveté with regard to the Palestinian Authority, in spite of the sophistication he exhibits in endeavors in other areas. Unfortunately, it’s a naiveté that we have seen many times.
Whatever his political and philanthropic involvements, Lauder is, first, a businessman, with a degree from the Wharton School of Business. Today he manages major investments in real estate and media, and has to his credit the founding of the Lauder Business School in Vienna. We should not be surprised then, if his involvement in fiduciary matters significantly colors his world view.
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 sources.
The original Marshall Plan, enacted in 1948 during the Truman administration, entailed the investment of more than $13 billion dollars in aid to Europe to revitalize the area after WWII and instill self-confidence in demoralized nations.
Writes Lauder, now is the right time for Biden – who is expected in our region next week – to initiate a similar plan for the PA, with investments by the US, Europe, Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations. This, he claims, is an initiative “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…
“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…”
This is Ron Lauder’s own personal take on “pour money into the Palestinian Arab community and it will fix matters.” Its approach is so lacking in a solid understanding of the situation that it cries out for a critique. I do not believe that there is going to be a Marshall Plan for the PA, but I am confident that other plans, equally harebrained, are likely to emerge in coming months because of the orientation of the Biden administration. And I expect that these plans will share basic underlying assumptions – assumptions that must be challenged:
There is no simple solution. This is what must be emphasized as various plans emerge. What is more, an ill-advised plan can make matters worse rather than better.
Westerners who come forward with suggestions for ameliorating Palestinian Arab-Israeli tensions most often fail to grasp the basics of Muslim Arab culture. That is certainly the case with Lauder. It is NOT all about money. There is an ideology, founded in religious as well as political beliefs, that underlies the Palestinian Arab intransigence and hostility.
It 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.
Has he not seen the evidence that the Palestinian Authority still adheres to this ideology? It can be discerned in PA TV shows, lessons in its textbooks, support for its “martyrs,” and even in its official emblem, which shows “Palestine” in all of the land.
Somehow Lauder imagines that giving entrepreneurs the wherewithal to create businesses in the PA will shift the climate to one more receptive to cooperation with Israel. But the PA does not function as a democracy; Fatah, which is the antithesis of moderate, governs with an iron fist.
What is more, a very recent poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research indicated that most residents of the Palestinian Authority do not believe in two-states, and would prefer to be governed by the more militant Hamas.
When I read that Lauder believes that helping these entrepreneurs will enable Palestinian Arabs to have “all the things that made Israel…financially viable,” I confess that I responded with considerable distress. Perhaps this, more than anything else, is at the heart of the matter: No one helped the Jews in the fledgling State of Israel become financially viable. We did it ourselves with enormous determination and effort. And it is regrettable that the same is not expected of the Arabs in the PA. In point of fact, they have already received more money in donations per capita than any other group in the world. It is time for them to demonstrate initiative and sincere determination. Further handouts, even if monitored, are counterproductive. Yet, again and again the world seems prepared to grant perks and largesse to the PA, without demanding accountability. A tip off here is that Lauder believes providing people with money will enable them to be self-reliant.
What has been created is a situation in which the PA believes it has been accorded perpetual entitlement. It doesn’t make requests, it demands.
For the situation to truly change, there are two things that must happen: The governing Palestinian Authority must come to understand that its ideology serves them ill: Israel cannot be defeated by them. Period.
And then – having come to terms with this truth — they must reflect a sincere desire to build something positive. Right now the focus is on the negative: on taking down Israel, not on making of themselves all that they might be.
All of this is critically important at this juncture precisely because Biden is coming and he will be making requests (demands) of Israel to accommodate the Palestinian Authority.
What makes it frightening is that Yair Lapid, who is now interim prime minister, will be there to greet Biden. Lapid is in favor of “two-states” and there is great worry about what he might agree to. Rumors abound, as usual. It remains to be seen how Foreign Minister Naftali Bennett intends to involve himself during Biden’s visit.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner.