Michael Hudson writes: For an unforgettable “Groundhog Day” experience, there is nothing better than a trip to Palestine and Israel. We’ve experienced multiple revolutions over the past six decades in information technologies, social mores and political upheavals.
The Soviet empire collapsed, democracy advanced around the globe, Asia began to rise and the West began to decline. It is all quite disorienting. But one thing remains constant: The Arab-Israeli conflict. It just grinds on and on.
For those of us who have been studying it professionally, there is something oddly reassuring about that. For most others not directly involved, it has just become boring. Too bad, because, like a smoldering peat fire, the Palestine problem helps keep the entire Middle East on the boil.
Here are some verbal snapshots from a recent visit to Palestine and Israel.
Getting out of Fortress Israel into the promised land of Palestine is not nearly as difficult as getting back in. Ramallah has become a boom town, far different from the sleepy metropolis it used to be.
“There’s lots of money here,” my taxi driver observed, “but not so much anywhere else in the West Bank.” A lot of that money comes from Western donors to support that sickly enterprise known as the Palestinian Authority. Other money is coming in from the Gulf. Land prices are out of sight.
The Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, darling of Washington and the World Bank, is building small city that would aspire to be Dubai or Singapore. But Ramallah, like the other main towns of the West Bank, is hemmed in by Israeli checkpoints. And for a Palestinian to get from Ramallah to Bethlehem requires a two-hour (or more, depending on delays at checkpoints) journey down into the Jordan valley and back up again, which could be done via Jerusalem in a half-hour were there no Israeli obstacles.
Arab Jerusalem (the east side including the Old City) is languishing economically and socially because it is now effectively cut off from its natural hinterland – Bethlehem and Hebron to the south, Ramallah, Nablus and Jenin to the north.
If you want to contemplate the possibilities of the two-state solution, there is no better place to do so than on a drive between Ramallah and Nablus. Where is this other state going to be, anyway? I got a ride with a friend who has been making the trip regularly for some years. She said the pace of settlement construction has dramatically increased under Netanyahu’s regime.
At every crossroads there are signs and roads to new Israeli settlements, and on virtually every hilltop there is a new “outpost”. Settlers continue to seize the agricultural lands belonging to Palestinian villages. By any conception of a genuine state, with territorial contiguity, these settlements would have to go. But is there any Israeli government, hawkish or dovish, that could make that happen?