Photograph: Tanya Habjouqa/ Panos Pictures
A true peace plan will be known by its fruit
Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon
August 2, 2019
After nearly a century of war in the Holy Land between Palestinians and Israelis, the temptation for Christian peacemakers is to jump onboard any plan that purports to offer a solution. Any skepticism about the fairness of the terms or the effectiveness of the deal can come across as scorning peace. After so many years of fighting, shouldn’t we just embrace any peace plan no matter how imperfect it may be? Why can’t critics of the Trump Administration’s newly announced “Peace to Prosperity, The Economic Plan: A New Vision for the Palestinian People” just accept that it’s better than nothing? The reason: because it is actually worse. “Peace to Prosperity” is not just an incomplete peace or a less-than-ideal compromise. As a close look at its terms will show, the plan is an attempt to put an end to the conflict by buying out the Palestinian leadership while stifling the voices of the rest.
“Peace to Prosperity” offers Palestinians little say in the development of their own economy. While claiming to “empower the Palestinian people to build a prosperous and vibrant…society,” the name of the plan “A New Vision for the Palestinian People” betrays the truth that the international community will be directing the development process. “International partners,” the plan says, “will…put the Palestinians on a trajectory to achieve long-term fiscal responsibility.” Plans to integrate the Palestinian economy into the regional and global economy by lowering tariffs and trade barriers only makes the continuation of Israel’s military occupation more profitable for business.
Similarly, “Peace to Prosperity” conditions receipt of development aid on the Palestinian Authority’s ability to meet government reform benchmarks set by international investors. As the plan specifies, “Capital raised through this international effort will be placed into a new fund administered by an established multilateral development bank. Accountability, transparency, anti-corruption, and conditionality safeguards will protect investments and ensure that capital is allocated efficiently and effectively.” While no doubt the PA could stand to become more democratic and transparent, making self-government contingent on reform is a modern manifestation of an old colonialist attitude that subject peoples need to earn their freedom.
But perhaps most alarmingly, “Peace to Prosperity” potentially lays the groundwork for a political settlement where the Palestinian Authority retains only local autonomy over Gaza and the scattered urban islands of the West Bank while Israeli occupation continues otherwise unaltered. Infrastructure projects, including a transportation corridor between the West Bank and Gaza and “special access roads” in the West Bank, operate on the premise of territorial fragmentation. Such a political vision has striking parallels with the Indian reservations in the U.S. or the Bantustans of apartheid South Africa.
Christian peacemakers need to discern between comprehensive plans that offer true peace and short-term deals that simply create stability and calm by silencing the cries of the oppressed. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus quotes Isaiah’s understanding of the messiah’s ministry as proclaiming “good news to the poor,” proclaiming “freedom for the prisoners,” and “to set the oppressed free.” A peace plan offered in good faith will meet these criteria. Anything else is a mirage that in fact makes peace all the more difficult to obtain.
Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon is the executive director of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) and an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC). She is the editor of A Land Full of God: Christian Perspectives on the Holy Land (Cascade, 2017) and author of Social Justice Handbook: Small Steps for a Better World (IVP, 2009) as well as other books and publications. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of CMEP.
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