Opinion

Gaza: the economy will bring and keep peace

PHOTO/FILE - Gaza
photo_camera PHOTO/FILE - Gaza

In 2007 the Gaza Strip was blockaded by sea, land and air, and since then living conditions have been decreasing. In summary, in Gaza, the population has access to an average of 13 hours of electricity per day, the unemployment rate is 45% and, due to poverty, 80% of Gazans are dependent on humanitarian aid. The UN had already warned that by 2020 the situation would make the territory uninhabitable. On 28 January of the same year, US President Donald Trump presented "Peace to Prosperity", known as the "Trump peace plan". 

The "Peace Plan" or also known as "The Deal of the Century" brought with it a wide range of opinions. Some considered it the "slap in the face of the century" while others applauded it as the only "realistic way" to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

One might ask whether such a "Peace Plan" could have been called an "Economic Plan to End the Conflict". Daring to give it this nomenclature may or may not seem appropriate on closer examination. In its "General Framework" the plan is defined as "the path to prosperity, security and dignity for those involved". It seems coherent to emphasise that far from being a predetermined plan, it acquired the status of a "basis" on which the parties could move towards future negotiations that would allow them to achieve peace and develop their potential. 

For this reason, the plan was composed of two axes: the political framework and the economic framework. The political framework was characterised by mutual recognition of the state of Israel and a future Palestinian state, equal civil rights for all citizens, defensible borders for the state of Israel, territorial expansion of Palestine similar to the land area of Gaza and the West Bank, transport links between Gaza and the West Bank, no uprooting of Israelis and Palestinians from their homes, and the establishment of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. An agreement that critics, including the European Union, see as clearly biased in favour of Israel.  

The economic axis focuses on three pillars: unlocking economic potential, empowering the Palestinian people and improving Palestinian governance. To this end, "Peace to Prosperity" would provide more than $50 billion in new investment over the next 10 years. 

Although at first glance they appear to be heterogeneous blocs, both axes seem to converge. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is so complex that it is impossible to avoid the necessary homogeneity between the economic and the political. Each of the political proposals requires a prior economic stability that allows them to be established and thus endure over time. 

The economy brings peace, and maintains it. After the First World War, numerous academic studies appeared aimed at understanding the determinants of peace, how to foster and maintain it. In the beginning, the aim was to find out which elements should be studied in order to avoid future wars. Later, this process evolved; wars began to be understood as a long process in which work should be done on both their origin and post-conflict. 

This is how post-conflict studies emerged and developed. These studies showed that it is not enough to negotiate and sign a peace, it is necessary to work on a series of aspects that are necessary to maintain peace. The vast majority of studies follow the same line of work in which the economy acquires vital importance. 

Empirical evidence and literature suggest that the variables that influence peace are many and not necessarily all observable at all times. For example, information contained in large databases such as Codebook Uppsala Conflict Database Categorical (2006) records a total of 197 variables, but only about 37% can be classified, on socio-economic criteria, as important in determining lasting peace. Consequently, it should be grouped into a few variables with a high power of impact on peace in a society. 

According to authors such as Collier and Hoeffler and Djankov and Reynal-Querol, poverty is the main cause for internal armed conflicts to start or restart (...) the failure of economic development is the primary root cause of conflict. Countries with low, stagnant and unequally distributed per capita incomes, which have remained eternally dependent on primary commodities for their exports, face dangerously high risks of protracted conflict. 

Thus, science has shown that economic factors are closely related to the subjugation of peace. Adequate economic management is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for the reconstruction and sustainability of peace. 

Thus, could Peace to Prosperity have been a solid foundation on which to build a lasting peace process? We will never know; perhaps with a proper political axis, equitable and in line with international parameters, the $50 billion would have avoided such a status quo. 

However, as mentioned above, the economy is not everything in order to find a solution; structural changes must first take place. Among other things, terrorist violence must cease in line with a change of government in Gaza, and all signs point to the PNA taking over, provided it can count on the resources of the international community. Yet, there are those who are betting on the UN, without Israeli backing, to take on a relevant role. A relevant role that will require new financial capital. 

"War generates poverty, but poverty also generates wars" 

Jacobo Salvador Micó Faus 

Analyst in international terrorism and researcher in anti-Semitism.