Thursday, April 28, 2005

RAND: The Palestinians need an Arc

A team of crack analysts from the RAND Corporation have put their heads together and, after extensive research and consideration, determined what infrastructure the Palestinians most need in order to build a viable state:

A high-speed rail line.

More specifically, "a high-speed 140-mile interurban rail line, highway, aqueduct, energy network and fiber optic cable".

I kid you not.

Best of all, the proposed project - to be funded, naturally, by foreign development aid - would have a snazzy name: The Arc.

The primary function of such a project would be to provide the major transportation link for the West Bank. Its path and length - a 70-mile curve from Hebron to Jenin - arguably would connect the highest number of existing built-up areas in the shortest distance and at the least cost. The construction of the transportation line would invite the concurrent parallel construction of other needed lines for electricity, natural gas, telecommunications, and water. A national linear park could weave back and forth across the line as influenced by the landscape. The ensemble could have great symbolic power for the new nation. We propose to call it simply the Arc.

In the 106-page report, "The Arc: A Formal Structure for a Palestinian State", RAND addresses vital Palestinian economic and social problems such as urban sprawl, sustainable development, and automobile dependence. I'm not making this up.

To be fair to RAND, the report isn't meant to address matters of war and peace. They admit that much must be done in other realms before such infrastructure schemes can even be considered. Still, this scheme seems particularly far-fetched.

Experience shows that, as a collective, the Palestinians prefer fighting Israel to building their economy. When the latest assault against Israel was launched in autumn 2000, commercial ties were burgeoning, with joint factories, many Palestinians employed in Israel, and many Israelis shopping in Arab markets. The "second intifada" caused Palestinians severe economic suffering, but that didn't cause them to back off. They just added it to the list of their grievances against Israel.

Boatloads of economic development aid were poured into the Palestinian Authority since its founding in 1994. Some of it was channeled to corrupt officials, some of it was diverted for arms purchases, and the rest was used to build pointless "public works" which rarely benefited the public.

But assume for now that the Palestinians really are interested in peaceful development alongside Israel and transparency in government. This project still seems hallucinatory.

On the average, the Palestinians are poor. High-speed rail lines, fiberoptic cables and national parks do not address their real current needs. Their economy needs industry. It needs commercial investment. It needs international standards of quality. Most important, it needs the political, legal and economic stability which make business possible in any society.

To achieve that, they first need to reconcile themselves to living peacefully side by side with Israel for the long term. They need to disarm and disavow their terrorists and change the way they teach their children.

Until then, giving them a major transportation and communication network is like giving an unemployed street thug a car and a cellphone. They're nice to have, but they won't set him on the road to economic self-sufficiency. They might just make it easier for him to make trouble.

RAND describes itself as "a nonprofit research organization providing objective analysis and effective solutions that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors around the world". "Effective"? Or imaginary?

Meanwhile, I'll say it again: I don't believe there will be a Palestinian state. As students of logic know, once you presume the impossible, any conclusion is valid.

Hat tip: The Jerusalem Post


Jack said...

No Palestinian state? I am not so sure about that. I don't really want it to happen, but I am not real optimistic about it not happening.

Zman Biur said...


Read my original post on the subject and see what you think.