May 13, 2002

Massive development aid is the key to Middle East prosperity – and peace.From my perspective as an Israeli businessman, industrial development may well provide a solution to the strife that besets my region. The centripetal nature of the Middle East conflict threatens not only this area but also the world at large. Many voices are discussing the causes of the dispute, while others argue the merits of the tactics of both sides, but I don’t think anyone is looking at the future of the region.

My solution? Initiate a new Marshall Plan to focus on three diverse countries in the eastern Mediterranean: Jordan, Turkey, and Israel and to include a fourth later on – a nascent Palestinian state. Why direct support initially to Jordan, Turkey, and Israel? All three countries are short of oil, but are rich in human resources. All are oriented to the West and seek inclusion in the European Union in due course.

Real stability is based on the economic growth that derives from industry. Examples abound in areas that experienced conflict in past decades. Once known for its bloody warfare, Northern Ireland is the fastest-growing economy in the United Kingdom. South Korea, the site of a major war at mid-century, now competes with Japan by making cars at competitive prices.

A bright future might ensue for the Middle East also if the United States, the EU, and perhaps some Muslim nations were willing to invest in a new Marshall Plan. This may sound unorthodox coming from an Israeli, but I believe that Jordan should be the first recipient of funds – at least $1 billion – to be designated for industrial development, infrastructure, and technical training necessary to make it truly competitive in the global market.

Let Jordan serve as a pilot project before funds are allocated to Turkey and Israel. Jordan, with 4.2 million people, has as its immediate neighbors Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, and Israel. It is eager to transform itself into a modern nation. By kick-starting its economy with major funding, it is reasonable to conceive that its GDP would double in the years to come. It is the best investment the West can make. If Jordan flourishes, it will serve as a model for the entire region and Israel’s security will be enhanced.

The Marshall Plan determined the course of the second half of the 20th century. It helped Western Europe leave the eastern European countries behind. It proved that democracy creates stable and prosperous societies.

We would be wise to adopt some of its lessons, such as the following:

 ** When you provide aid to impoverished nations, you designate the funds for infrastructure and manufacturing – not for social welfare.

 ** You set a time limit for this aid rather than providing never-ending social assistance. In this way the funds, as Marshall put it, provide “a cure rather than a mere palliative.”

 ** You involve the aid recipients in the formulation of the economic recovery plan rather than superimposing a fixed solution.

 ** You don’t necessarily have to agree with the political systems

you’re assisting. But, by helping countries achieve financial independence, you give them a chance to become more democratic.

If the free world is to remain secure, it must calm the area south of Europe. Conflicts in the Balkans, Turkey, and Israel disturb the security and tranquility not only of the region they’re in, but that of the entire world. Religion, historical grievances, and economic inequities fuel the fires.

Our world today depends on oil. Eliminate this resource and modernization comes to a screeching halt. But, what should have been an asset for the oil countries in the Middle East has become a liability. Decades of idle riches are beginning to damage these countries economically and socially. In February, The New York Times reported that the GDP of Saudi Arabia fell in the last 20 years from $28,600 per person to less than $8,000. Boredom and the absence of a work ethic in these oil-producing countries produced bin Ladin.

Nonetheless, unless alternative energy sources are found, we cannot reduce the power the oil-producing states wield. Iraq’s recent one-month oil embargo is just one example. And keep in mind that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah’s recent comment that oil is “not a weapon” was coupled with his insistence that “grave consequences” would ensue if the United States does not reduce its support for Israel.

Why wait to begin the process of stabilizing this region? As Secretary of State Marshall said in his speech at Harvard in 1947, “The remedy lies in breaking the vicious circle and restoring the confidence of the… people in the economic future of their own countries.”

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

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