Israeli opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu last week in an interview with London's Financial Times outlined an alternative peace plan that would shelf the idea of creating an independent Palestinian state in favor of helping the Arabs of Judea and Samaria improve their quality of life.
Netanyahu said the international community has gotten it wrong with the assumption that a peace agreement based on Israel's surrender of land will bring prosperity.
"It is not so much that peace brings prosperity - it is that prosperity brings peace," the man who all polls show will win Israel's next general election told the newspaper.
So far, the 15-year land-for-peace process has not brought any degree of prosperity to the Palestinians. In fact, it has sharply decreased living standards in Palestinian Arab towns, as increased autonomy has led to an explosion of terrorist violence that has resulted in stifling Israeli restrictions.
Instead of completing the process of granting the Palestinians total sovereignty, which he believes will only result in the formation of a terrorist state like that in Gaza, Netanyahu wants to give the Palestinians partial autonomy coupled with aggressive and dynamic business projects tailored to their strengths and assets.
For instance, Netanyahu noted that the town of Jericho could experience an economic boom by better capitalizing on its Christian tourist attractions, such as the site where Jesus is believed to have been tempted by Satan and the portion of the Jordan River where John the Baptist ministered.
Helping the Palestinians reap the financial rewards of such business projects, and thereby significantly improving living standards in the so-called "West Bank," will be far more beneficial than creating what will effectively be a welfare state where armed terrorist bullies rule the streets.
Despite Netanyahu's focus on improving the lives of individual Palestinians, the Financial Times chose to characterize his plan as extremist for not falling in line with the accepted narrative that peace will only be possible when Israel meets demands that Yasser Arafat once admitted are a prelude to the Jewish state's demise.
Netanyahu hopes to regain the prime minister's chair in time to actually put his plan into practice. Meanwhile, the international community is working to make sure that even the most tentative offers by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are enshrined as the basis for any future peace talks.
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