The Wolfensohn Mission

( David Brodet - * James Wolfensohn, former president of the World Bank, took upon himself a near impossible mission to generate an economic dimension to Israel's unilateral disengagement plan and to stabilize, with the help of economic components, the new political reality in Gaza in its post-occupation independent status. His plan presumed close links with Israel, considerable international aid, and the existence of a rational PA. * The reality of the first two months has been particularly hard. The crossing to Egypt has not been regularized, and Israel feels its interests have been damaged by Egyptian and Palestinian failure to supervise the passage of goods and ordnance. The security situation and acts of violence are preventing realization of Wolfensohn's proposal regarding the escorting of regular convoys between Gaza and the West Bank. * Wolfensohn's initiative to purchase the hothouses and turn them over to a Palestinian company was unique and praiseworthy, with 80% of the hothouses transferred to the Palestinians. But the lack of clarity in the Gaza-Israel link is liable to sabotage any chance of exporting the hothouses' agricultural produce, while at the same time preventing supply of production inputs such as fertilizer. * The unstable security situation and uncertainty regarding internal governance are discouraging international initiatives to invest in vital economic projects. The danger in delaying projects assigned to the international community is that its attention will be diverted to other regions that have urgent needs. * Finally, Israel's departure from Gaza in favor of an independent Palestinian regime has not, thus far, produced a stable and efficient government that can exercise authority and generate the necessary conditions for moving the economy forward and creating confidence. * Wolfensohn brought to our region good will, a proven track record from public and private endeavors, and exceptional international connections. He received the backing of all actors in the region and beyond, and formulated a precise plan for dealing with the challenges. He now finds himself, along with his sponsors, the Quartet, as but one more in a long chain of figures over recent decades who have fallen victim to the syndrome of an extended and complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The writer, former director general of the Ministry of Finance, headed the Israeli delegation that negotiated the Paris commercial protocols with the Palestinians in 1993-94.

2005-11-08 00:00:00

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