A stunning story in the NYT about the prosperity of the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank - stunning because it contradicts the narrative we usually read, that the Palestinians are drowning in a sea of misery, and stunning because of the political implications.
The International Monetary Fund is about to issue its first upbeat report in years for the West Bank, forecasting a 7 percent growth rate for 2009. Car sales in 2008 were double those of 2007. Construction on the first new Palestinian town in decades, for 40,000, will begin early next year north of Ramallah. In Jenin, a seven-story store called Herbawi Home Furnishings has opened, containing the latest espresso machines. Two weeks ago, the Israeli military shut its obtrusive nine-year-old checkpoint at the entrance to this city, part of a series of reductions in security measures....
Asked to explain why the West Bank’s fortunes were shifting, a top Israeli general began his narrative with a chart showing 410 Israelis killed by Palestinians in 2002, and 4 in 2008.
“We destroyed the terrorist groups through three things — intelligence, the barrier and freedom of action by our men,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity in keeping with military rules. “We sent our troops into every marketplace and every house, staying tightly focused on getting the bad guys.”
But he added that the 2006 legislative electoral victory by Hamas, followed by its violent takeover of Gaza in 2007, led Mr. Abbas to fight Hamas. Palestinian troops have been training in Jordan under American sponsorship.
There are now several thousand men trained in that way, and their skills, along with those of the European-trained police force here, have made a huge difference...
Speaking of the seriousness of the Palestinians, he added, “Twice in recent months we have been amazed.” The first time was during Israel’s military invasion of Gaza when Palestinian police officers kept the West Bank calm during protests. The second was in June when the security forces clashed twice with Hamas men in the city of Qalqilya, fighting to the death.
Read the whole thing here.