Israel/Palestine

If money talks, will bullshit walk?

Over at a blog called Marginal Revolution, they’re highlighting a very interesting solution the impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by a chap called Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, a political science professor at NYU:

“In my view, it is a mistake to look for strategies that build mutual trust because it ain’t going to happen. Neither side has any reason to trust the other, for good reason,” he says. “Land for peace is an inherently flawed concept because it has a fundamental commitment problem. If I give you land on your promise of peace in the future, after you have the land, as the Israelis well know, it is very costly to take it back if you renege. You have an incentive to say, ‘You made a good step, it’s a gesture in the right direction, but I thought you were giving me more than this. I can’t give you peace just for this, it’s not enough.’ Conversely, if we have peace for land—you disarm, put down your weapons, and get rid of the threats to me and I will then give you the land—the reverse is true: I have no commitment to follow through. Once you’ve laid down your weapons, you have no threat.”

Bueno de Mesquita’s answer to this dilemma, which he discussed with the former Israeli prime minister and recently elected Labor leader Ehud Barak, is a formula that guarantees mutual incentives to cooperate. “In a peaceful world, what do the Palestinians anticipate will be their mainsource of economic viability? Tourism. This is what their own documents say. And, of course, the Israelis make a lot of money from tourism, and that revenue is very easy to track. As a starting point requiring no trust, no mutual cooperation, I would suggest that all tourist revenue be [divided by] a fixed formula based on the current population of the region, which is roughly 40 percent Palestinian, 60 percent Israeli. The money would go automatically to each side. Now, when there is violence, tourists don’t come. So the tourist revenue is automatically responsiveto the level of violence on either side for both sides. You have an accounting firm that both sides agree to, you let the U.N. do it, whatever. It’s completely self-enforcing, it requires no cooperation except the initial agreement by the Israelis that they are going to turn this part of the revenue over, on a fixed formula based on population, to some international agency, and that’s that.”

I have my doubts that it’ll work, though. The religious nuts – in both Hamas and on the fringes of Israeli politics – would never accept prosperity and security as a substitute for their holy god-ordained missions. While the majority on both sides would like to be economically stable, havegood jobs and see real educational and career prospects for their children, there are enough nutters to derail any attempt to achieve this.

But, on the other hand, if prosperity and security for all were actually in sight, it might make support for the nutters marginal at best. It might even make the average person openly hostile to the shit-stirrers and assorted millennial strugglists.

So could Gaza be the new Swiss Riviera?

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