How Arafat Can Beat Hamas in Gaza: With Jobs, Not Guns A Permanent Middle East Free-Trade Area Could Provide Political and Economic Stability

Article excerpt

FOR all the hope kindled early last year for the Middle East peace process, the final months of 1994 brought some tragic episodes of violence: In November, Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority police killed at least 13 and wounded some 200 of their own compatriots in Gaza, protesting the peace accord with Israel. In October, a Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) suicide bomber killed 22 and wounded 48 on a bus in Tel Aviv.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has told a sympathetic United States Secretary of State Warren Christopher, "Arafat must choose between making peace with Israel and making peace with Hamas." Hamas has responded that if Mr. Arafat fought them, Gaza would burn.

Arafat said he would not fight Hamas but would nonetheless prevent violence. He can fight Hamas with jobs, not guns. For peace to last it should generate abundant jobs for Palestinians and be good for both Arab and Israeli business.

A credible promise of permanent peace and prosperity in an at least relatively booming Gaza could isolate the Islamic killers, whose terrorism would threaten those Palestinian jobs. Mainstream Hamas and Islamic Holy War, offering only endless struggle, would be marginalized.

A permanent international Middle East Free Trade Area (MEFTA) in the Israeli-controlled Gush Katif (Katif Bloc) of Israeli settlements in southwest Gaza could provide the long-term political and economic stability for the private investment needed for permanent full employment of the Gaza Palestinians. Temporary jobs funded by international donors will not end the widespread poverty on which Hamas thrives.

MEFTA would be a combined Hong Kong and Riviera under administration of the Multinational Force and Observers. The American-led MFO monitors the successful Egyptian-Israeli peace in the Sinai. MEFTA would have companies of many nationalities, including Arab and Israeli, doing low-labor-cost, free-trade business, with miles of hotel-lined beaches, and duty- and tax-free shopping. The MFO police force would include elite Palestinian, Israeli, and Egyptian police.

MEFTA would have business communities for tourism, manufacturing, commerce, agriculture, and research and development, each with its own executive housing. The best and the most business sites would be allocated to the Palestinian Authority, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and the principal MFO states - US, Britain, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Uruguay, and Columbia - plus Russia and Saudi Arabia. …