Independent of Netanyahu's calls for economic peace with the Palestinians or any action the current Israeli government may have taken towards this goal, trade between Israel and the West Bank appears to be healthy and growing. Between 2006 and 2008, the value of trade between Israel and the West Bank seems to have increased approximately 28% and was (in 2008) apparently worth over $3.8 billion. It also appears that in 2009, this upwards trend was continuing and that it applies not only to domestic trade with Israel, but also to goods shipped to the rest of the world through Israeli ports.
The above was presented in a report at a conference held between Israeli officials and 40 or so Palestinian business people from various industries near the Allenby Bridge, where much of this trade comes across. This report has been difficult to find online, so it's unclear exactly what it says. The same is true of the identity of the Palestinians present, this would be interesting to know to get a better picture of who is directly involved in this increased trade.
No doubt aware of the increased trade, it will be stimulated by Netanyahu ensuring the Allenby crossing is open for longer periods to increase the volume of trade which passes through it.
All of this is good news on many levels. For one, peoples that have beneficial trading relationships are less likely to want to fight one another and disrupt this trade. It is also, hopefully, an indicator that things in the West Bank are improving (indeed, these figures are being presented as evidence of Israel and the PA to weather the economic storm unscathed) and that ordinary Palestinians will benefit from increased economic activity as well as wealthier business people (this blog post recalls that corruption in the West Bank could see ordinary Palestinians deprived of the benefit of this trade). It improves the viability of a future Palestinian state with an economy not only tied to its neighbour, Israel, but to the rest of the world and finally, it creates real relationships between Israelis and Palestinians. It allows people to know one another, even if only in a business relationship, but allows them to realize that the other is just like them, out to make a living and do well for themselves and their families.
A good example of this last point is the new Israeli-Palestinian Chamber of Commerce (IPCC.) The first of its kind, and not quite one year old, "The IPCC is a vital tool that advances cooperation through dialogue both in the private and public sectors." Essentially, it's a way for Palestinian and Israeli business people to learn about the economic benefits of working with one another as well as the ultimate goal of creating peaceful cooperation between the two peoples.
Peace we be built as a result of the thickening and the density of the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians on all levels and in all facets of life.
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