Leaving Israel, August 11, 2006

This is the re-posting of an earlier note:

Hi from Home

Sorry for two notes so close together, but travel conditions today warrant an update after British authorities arrested 24 terrorists who planned to blow up 10 planes over the Atlantic yesterday. I left Israel this morning on Lufthansa with the Governor of the PMA heading for Washington DC. We assumed that we were on the same flights all the way. Thus in Frankfurt I followed him to his gate. After one hour of extra security procedures we arrived at the gate to discover that we were on different flights and I was in the wrong terminal. Thus I passed through another security check point in the correct area and boarded my flight. To my disappointment the plane lacked the sleeper seats I was expecting. I am afraid that I grumbled about it to the steward. Half an hour later my name was called along with 5 other first class passengers and informed that we were being moved to another flight using a 747 with proper seats. The steward whispered that it was because of my complaint. This, however, meant that we had to go through the original security check point yet again. This time they took away my toothpaste and other similar items from my PC bag. They were not impressed when I told them that all of these items had passed through there three hours earlier. Go figure. Anyway, I am home safe (except for the security warning about demonstrations in Washington against US support of Israel’s war against Lebanon).

I would like to share with you the experience last week of one of my fellow advisors at the Palestine Monetary Authority (PMA). He was leaving Gaza, where the PMA has a branch, to return to Ramallah where I was working when he and his driver come under fire from an Israeli tank. This occurred at the Palestinian side check point of the border crossing from Gaza into Israel (the only way to get to the other part of Palestine in the West Bank). The gun fire lasted three hours during which he spoke by phone from the floor of his car to the Governor of the PMA and the U.S. Embassy. He is a fellow American and was born and raised in Virginia. You will be shocked, as he and I were, at what the American Embassy said to him. The woman on the phone said that his name, Akram Baker, sounded Arabic and asked if he was of Palestinian decent. He said yes. She asked what he was doing in Gaza and informed him that the Israeli government does not want American’s of Palestinian decent in Gaza and that the U.S. government would not help him. Israel basically keeps Palestinians living in Gaza prisoners within Gaza and makes it very difficult for Palestinians to enter and leave Gaza. The PMA Governor contacted the Palestinian President Abbas who got the Israelis to call off their tank. We seem to have a new second class American citizen.

The day before this incident one of the PMA employees in Gaza and her daughter were killed by an overhead Israeli helicopter. Akram asked me how I would define terrorism and answered his own question by saying the UN defines it as terrorizing (intimidating, frightening, even murdering) civilians in order to promote some political or ideological goal. Doesn’t that describe, Akram asked, Israel’s continued use of collective guilt and pressure against Palestinians to pressure their government to control terrorists in their own midst. For example, placing dozens and dozens of check points throughout the West Bank to make it difficult for Palestinians to travel around their own homeland (I had to go through two permanent check points every morning and again every afternoon between East Jerusalem and Ramallah—all in the West Bank—plus the occasional impromptu ones). Or closing the border to Palestinian day workers in Israel whenever a suicide bomber blows himself up in Israel? Or by arresting Palestinians legally and fairly elected to the Palestine National Authority (PNA) Parliament for simply being members of the Hamas political party because some terrorists affiliated with some members of Hamas held an Israeli solder. Or by destroying vast parts of Lebanon’s infrastructure and killing over a thousand of its men, women, and children to punish them (Christians included) for not being tougher against Hezbollah fighters in their midst (before the current war, a majority of Lebanese opposed Hezbollah and now a majority support them). Or, killing the PMA employee and her daughter as they walked down the street because they “tolerated” Palestinian terrorists in their midst who held an Israeli solder hostage.

For Palestinians, Akram said, Israeli solders are terrorists. That is why Palestinian children sometimes throw stones at the Israeli solders as they drive through their neighborhoods. It is the only weapon they have. A few become suicide bombers.

But what is Israel to do to defend itself when so many of its neighbors do not accept its right to exist. Become a better neighbor perhaps? But what does it mean that many Arabs do not accept Israel’s “right to exist?” This is a sanitized reference to the desire of many Palestinians to drive Israelis back off the land they took from Palestinians in 1948 and 1967. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other Palestinian terrorists are the small minority that cannot get over that historical fact and move on. Most Palestinians—everyone I have ever met—have moved on and would just like the Israelis to withdraw from the territories the UN demands them return (West Bank and Gaza) so that they can get on with their lives. In fact, like almost all political movements anywhere, Hamas really simply wants to govern like any other political party and has separated itself from its militant wing (sounds like the IRA of old). It is in Israel’s interest to make normal political participation more rewarding for Hamas than terrorism—to let Hamas or any other elected government succeed or fail on their merits and to hold them accountable for their performance. Israel and the rest of us should do all possible to help the Palestinian government succeed. A successful Palestine would be a safer neighbor for Israel. Instead, Israel has stopped transferring the taxes it collects for the Palestine government on imports through Israel, proliferated walls and checkpoints throughout the West Bank and made proper administration by the Palestinian government impossible. Now the failure of the PNA will be blamed on the U.S. and Israel. When will they ever learn,… when will they ever learn.

About wcoats

Dr. Warren L. Coats specializes in advising central banks on monetary policy, and in the development of their capacity to formulate and implement monetary policy. He is retired from the International Monetary Fund, where, as Assistant Director of the Monetary and Financial Systems Department, he led missions to over twenty countries. Before then, he served as Visiting Economist to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and to the World Bank, and was Assistant Prof of Economics at the Univ. of Virginia from 1970-75. Most recently he was Senior Monetary Policy Advisor to the Central Bank of Iraq; an IMF consultant to the central banks of Afghanistan, Kenya and Zimbabwe; and a Deloitte/USAID advisor to the Government of South Sudan. He is currently a member of the Editorial Board of the Cayman Financial Review and until the end of 2013 was a member of the IMF program team for Afghanistan. His most recent book is entitled "One Currency for Bosnia: Creating the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina."
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