This writing, (c) 2002 www.buypeace.com, may be copied and
distributed in any media provided this notice is kept intact.
Some people think that peace between Israel and Palestine
is impossible. One way to solve an impossible problem is to first
remove a major constraint to its solution. If the now-simplified
problem can be solved, the constraint can be re-added subsequently.
For instance, if we remove the financial constraint which always
puts peacemaking at a lower priority than military action we
could ask: How might the Mideast conflict be solved given funding
on the scale of the pending war with Iraq?
The wars on Afghanistan and now Iraq are seen as an investment,
with a "Return on Investment" (ROI) of establishing
new, quisling governments willing to discount the price of oil
and natural gas. Could a business case be made that the ROI of
a massive investment in peace will be much greater than the ROI
of a war? The cost of the pending war is very high, estimated
recently at $200B by a presidential advisor in the WSJ, not including
the human capital. Rather than spending these vast sums on munitions
and destruction, could large scale spending on peace not only
avoid the devastation, but actually create wealth through economic
growth tied to consumer and investor confidence? Significant
peace dividends could come in the form of a reduced dependence
on foreign aid as well as enhanced human capital.
If such a business case can be made, then a team composed
of business development experts, mediators, construction companies,
consultants, architects, scientists, etc. could develop a plan
which resulted in a Palestinian state, autonomous but demilitarized,
on the model of Costa Rica. Israel could focus on becoming the
leading high-tech democracy of the emerging Middle East common
market, and abandon the soul-searing enterprise of being an occupying
A group of people with some seed capital could elaborate on
the architecture of such a plan to the point where the involved
parties sign "Letters of intent" detailing their commitments
to "buy in" under agreed-upon conditions. With these
tools in hand, the work of planning the details of all the operations
could begin. As the teams quantify the risks and rewards of peacemaking
and nation building, the substantial capital can be raised from
governments and private sources worldwide.
Starting with a budget of $100B US as a ballpark, here is
a rough estimate of the main components of this project, each
of which addresses one of the major hurdles for peace.
1) No Right of Return. $30B
Descendants of the 750,000 Palestinians who were forced out
in 1948, and those dispossessed in later annexation and bulldozing,
would share $30b, which amounts to $10,000 to 3 million persons.
Disbursement of the funds would probably require the creation
of a better banking system with anti-corruption safeguards.
2) Sell the settlements $20B
The 200,000 settler families would then be able to sell their
properties to this new middle class of Palestinians. The market
demand for settlement housing units, together with the expected
decrease in violence, would dramatically increase the value of
those homes. Each settler family who sells would also receive
a $100,000 inducement, a relocation bond towards qualified moving
expenses or to deposit as equity in mortgage applications for
expensive Israeli real estate.
3) The Big Dig ($15B)
To connect the West Bank and Gaza, a very large scale construction
project would be undertaken, similar to the "Big Dig"
of Boston. The development of a 6 lane underground highway tunnel,
vented and well-lit, would result in two continuous nations,
a topological first in world history. This "Big Dig"
would create union scale construction and maintenance jobs for
many unemployed Palestinians and Israelis, both men and women,
who would be required to sign a nonviolence pledge. The threat
of immediate termination upon evidence of co-worker harassment
would guarantee a cooperative workforce. US companies such as
Bechtel or Halliburton could bid to manage this major project.
4) Water Projects ($20B)
Currently, water is at the core of the dispute, and resolving
it would reduce security and economic pressure. An aqueduct project
which allocated the water flowing from the north, public works
projects throughout Palestine to manage the aquifers, and advanced
software to create a market in water rights would help. Peace,
as well as an annual contribution to the treasuries of Lebanon
and Syria would help keep water flowing. Finally, nuclear powered
desalinization plants (American made and guarded) could supply
more freshwater to both nations.
5) The Jerusalem Real Estate Investment Trust ($15B)
The capital of the Holy Lands would be demilitarized, to be
administered in perpetuity by an international non-profit Real
Estate Investment Trust (REIT) with an inter-denominational board.
With its $15B in seed capital, the trust would begin to buy up
all available properties in Jerusalem, and then rent them, perhaps
to current owners. Both Israel and Palestine could establish
their capitals there, as well as embassies of foreign powers.
The idea is that this REIT would, over time, become wealthier
and wealthier through rental and fees, and after 50-100 years,
end up owning almost all Jerusalem property. Stock in the REIT
would be publically traded, providing world-wide shared public
ownership of Jerusalem.
Where will the money come from?
The US already spends $3B a year in Foreign Aid to Israel,
and there are rumors that it will increase to $10B. The European
Union also provides aid, as do Arab countries. So while $100
billion seems like a big investment, over time, that is what
is being spent anyway! But spending it on peace can generate
Radicals are calling for an end to aid to Israel, as well
as for divestment from Israeli corporations. And although neither
Israeli nor Palestinian covert intelligence operations were implicated
in the 9/11/2001 attack on the US, the stress which emanates
from the Occupation/Intifada clearly fans the flames of hate
which drives such acts. The anger caused by the last 50 years
of conflict and terror is real, but can rapidly pale in time
with economic development and coexistence.