Blogs: Paul Pillar

Pope Francis and the Middle East Peace Process

Paul Pillar

Along with the great asymmetry of security and military power and control there is a comparable asymmetry of wealth and well-being. The system, constructed and controlled by Israel, that determines how the occupied territories operate functions to the economic advantage of Israelis and to the marked economic disadvantage of Palestinian Arabs. This involves matters ranging from water resources to transportation arteries and the separation wall, which divides many Palestinians from their livelihoods and is just one of countless impediments to Palestinian business erected by the occupation authorities. There also are numerous less visible impediments, involving permit denials, restrictions on trade, and financial controls. Most recently Israel is using its control over currency to undermine Palestinian banking—with, as is the case with any banking system, negative ripple effects on other commerce that depends on the banks.

It should be no surprise that in the face of all these impediments the economic gulf between Israel and the Palestinians under occupation is huge and has been getting larger. GDP per capita in Israel is nearly 20 times that of the West Bank. It is 40 times that of the Gaza Strip, where a suffocating blockade and periodic military assault have made the squalor even worse.

For the pope of the poor, the plight of the Palestinians is a natural fit for his larger mission. Perhaps Francis can get enough people in the world thinking about this issue correctly—not in terms of diplomatic dances about who is recognizing whom but instead as the plight of an oppressed and downtrodden population—that even discourse in the United States, political shackles and all, would be affected. If so, the effect would be congruent with the other, more hard-nosed, reasons the United States should not allow this conflict to be consigned to the back burner.

Image: Wikicommons.                                                   

Pages

Pages