U.S. Secy of State John Kelly on new efforts to improve the Palestinian West Bank economy

This is not a new idea, of course.

In fact, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu is one of its main proponents… It’s just that the time was never ripe, before. Or, that the Palestinians were doing something to prevent implementation of Netanyahu’s good intentions [which Palestinians believe is a way of distracting them from pursuing their political goals, such as self-determination].

In any case, here is an excerpt from remarks U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made at Israel’s Ben Gurion airport just before leaving after a 42-hour visit to meet officials in Ramallah + Jerusalem. It was his first on-the-ground effort to prepare the way for eventual resumed Israeli-Palestinian talks:

“It’s our intention, and we all committed to this, every party, to continue our intensive discussions with the belief that they are constructive and they are in good faith, and that we intend to try to create the conditions for peace so that we can resume negotiations between the parties in a clear and precise, predetermined manner.

“We also spoke about other steps that could be taken in order to facilitate this process and to make it more conducive to success. Specifically, we agreed among us – President Abbas, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and ourselves – that we are going to engage in new efforts, very specific efforts, to promote economic development and to remove some of the bottlenecks and barriers that exist with respect to commerce in the West Bank, to move very rapidly towards increased business expansion and private sector investment in the West Bank, all of which, we are convinced, will help improve the economic security of the people living there as well as improve the security of the people of Israel. Economic growth will help us be able to provide a climate, if you will, an atmosphere, within which people have greater confidence about moving forward. But I want to emphasize – I emphasize this very strongly: This is not in lieu of, or an alternative to, the political track. It is not a substitute. The political track remains the primary focus. But this is in addition to, in a way that could help to facilitate that track, and I believe will begin to take hold immediately. I held discussions regarding these efforts with both Israeli and Palestinian officials, as well as with the Quartet representative Tony Blair, and other private sector business people. And this will be a focus of our work over the course of the next months in a very intensive way, and I will have more to say about this in the very near future…”
Kerry’s remarks at the airport before leaving the region today are posted here.

Kerry continued:
“Prime Minister Netanyahu and I spoke about this in some detail this morning, about the specific steps that we could take to break through red tape, to help expedite the goal of economic growth on the West Bank, and I let him know that I have already been in touch with our partners in the United States. The White House is committed to this – the President is committed to this process – and we will put all of the energy of our own government – OPIC, Ex-Im Bank, USAID, the international financial institutions, the Trade Partnership Agency – all of these efforts will be put into this initiative to try to make a significant dent with respect to employment and economic security of the West Bank…”

In response to a question from the Associated Press, Kerry clarified:

“I will be very specific next week … we will announce some of the corporate entities that may be involved and some of the specific plans that we have with respect to it”.

A short while earlier, in Jerusalem, in a joint press appearance just before their morning meeting, PM Netanyahu said [the following remarks are posted here]:

“I am determined to not only to resume the peace process with the Palestinians but to make a serious effort to end this conflict once and for all. This has economic components. We welcome any initiatives that you and others will bring forward in this regard. But it also has a political component, political discussions that will address a myriad of issues. Foremost in our minds are questions of recognition and security”…

And then, Kerry added this:
“Could I just add very quickly one thing? We have been talking about some economic initiative, but I think both of us – and the Prime Minister just said this – we want to make it absolutely clear that whatever steps we take with respect to economics are in no way a substitute but they are in addition to the political track. The political track is first and foremost; other things may happen to supplement it”.

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