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.

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Netanyahu + his cabinet react to the Palestinian achievement of state status [non-member observer] in the UN

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said at the regular meeting of his cabinet on Sunday — after the cabinet announcement on Friday that 3000 new settlement units would be built + the E-1 area east of Jerusalem would now be developed — that “Today we are building and we will continue to build in Jerusalem and in all areas that are on the map of the strategic interests of the State of Israel”.

Netanyahu pointed out that Rabin did the same. He quoted Rabin as saying: “The response to the attack on Zionism and the State of Israel must reinforce and underscore the implementation of the settlement plan in all areas in which the Government decides regarding settlement”. Netanyahu went on: “These are not my words. These are the words of the government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and this is the language of the Cabinet’s 1975 decision in the wake of the UN decision that equated Zionism with racism”.

Netanyahu also said: “There will be no Palestinian state without an arrangement in which the security of Israeli citizens will be ensured. There will be no Palestinian state until the State of Israel is recognized as the state of the Jewish People. There will be no Palestinian state until the Palestinians declare an end to the conflict. Israel will not agree to Judea and Samaria becoming a base for Iranian terrorism, as happened in the areas we evacuated in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon”.

Concerning the UN vote on Thursday to upgrade Palestine to state status [albeit still a non-member observer], Netanyahu said: “The Palestinian Authority’s one-sided step at the UN constitutes a gross violation of the agreements that have been signed with the State of Israel; accordingly, the Government of Israel rejects the UN General Assembly decision. I would like to thank US President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper, Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas and the leaders of the other countries that voted against the proposal at the UN. History will favorably judge those countries that lined up on the side of truth, on the side of peace and alongside Israel at this time”.

Netanyahu also said: “the Cabinet will be briefed on the incitement that the Palestinian Authority is leading against Israel. I must say that in addition to this report, there is, to my regret, Abu Mazen’s sharp incitement speech at the UN, in which he incited against IDF soldiers and Israeli citizens while using lies and historical distortions. I must note that Abu Mazen did not see fit to say even a single word about the terrorism and rocket fire being directed against Israeli citizens; this is not the talk of a man who wants peace”.