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A Peace Process We Can Believe In

10:06 AM, Dec 3, 2009 • By RACHEL ABRAMS
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What would Palestine look like today if the Arabs hadn't rejected the 1947 partition plan that assigned to them most of the arable land and to the Jews most of the desert; hadn't continued to dream of being restored to the puppethood of a resurgent Third Reich; hadn't set upon the Jews with their superior military might to test the will and courage of the Zionist settlers and the bleeding European remnant to build a Jewish homeland-and lost; hadn't rebuffed a multitude of offers by a procession of Israeli prime ministers-both before and after Menahem Begin handed over the Sinai to Egypt-to give them land in exchange for peace; hadn't chosen to respond to Jewish propitiation by murdering Jews; hadn't been driven by religious hatred to anathemize the idea of a Jewish state in their midst? What would it look like today if their intransigence hadn't leached like blood into the fabric of the Palestinian leadership and remained there as a stain through decades of peace negotiations?

What if instead of squandering it for sixty years on victimology and bomb-making the Palestinians had taken all the talent and ingenuity and energy for which they're famous and expended it on building a state; on establishing a democratic government; on turning malarial swamps and barren deserts into rich, fertile farmland; on pioneering breakthroughs in science, medicine, mathematics, and technology; on music, literature, art, movies; on creating a live nation booming with progress and awash in Nobel Prizes?

We may get to know the answer in this century. In a bracing Wall Street Journal piece, Tom Gross says "an independent Palestine is now quietly being built, with Israeli assistance." On a recent visit to Hebron he found the shops and restaurants full, and "villas comparable in size to those on the Cote d'Azur or Bel Air had sprung up on the hills around the city."

Life is even better in Ramallah, where it is difficult to get a table in a good restaurant. New apartment buildings, banks, brokerage firms, luxury car dealerships and health clubs are to be seen. In Qalqilya, another West Bank city that was previously a hotbed of terrorists and bomb-makers, the first ever strawberry crop is being harvested in time to cash in on the lucrative Christmas markets in Europe. Local Palestinian farmers have been trained by Israeli agriculture experts and Israel supplied them with irrigation equipment and pesticides.

A new Palestinian city, Ruwabi, is to be built soon north of Ramallah. Last month, the Jewish National Fund, an Israeli charity, helped plant 3,000 tree seedlings for a forested area the Palestinian planners say they would like to develop on the edge of the new city. Israeli experts are also helping the Palestinians plan public parks and other civic amenities.

If the Palestinians free themselves, finally, of the Jew-hatred that has for so long permeated their history books, if they overcome the odds against them of a leadership that for generations has enriched itself on the backs of their misery and preferred their wretchedness to nationhood, if they actually succeed in building a state, not a single one of the nearly infinite number of hours wasted on that goal by all the James Bakers and Dennis Rosses and Condoleeeza Rices and George Mitchells of the world will have been responsible. Their own will, and the outstretched hands of the people they've spent all those decades blaming for their desolation and trying to destroy will have helped them get there. And that's a peace process we can believe in.