Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Should They Stay or Should They Go?

A few days ago, The New York Times had an article about businesses which cater to designing products which are "Shabbat-friendly" -- that is, which won't cause observant Jews to violate their Sabbath upon use. Generally, this involves a lot of automation and a fair amount of creativity (Rabbinic maxims about "indirect effect" help a lot). Not being quite that observant myself, the exercise strikes me as a little silly, but at the same time I'm happy that people are catering to this need.

But that's not why I want to post. Rather, I was struck by the article's off-hand notation that one of the groups engaging in the work, the non-profit Zomet Institute, had its research facility located in a West Bank settlement, Alon Shvut. So I'm curious -- when Israel eventually cedes control of the West Bank (as it inevitably will, and should), what happens to the facility?* Should the Israeli organization relocate, or should it stay and maintain operations?

On the one hand, withdrawal means withdrawal. There is little indication that Palestinian groups are interested in residual Israeli institutions remaining in their territory, nor that Israeli organizations are all that keen at operating under Palestinian jurisdiction. Security, obviously, is a major problem. And, not to put too fine a point on it, but a significant stroke of Palestinian advocacy on the final status of the West Bank has taken a definitive "judenrein" tint to it.

On the other hand, a high-tech research facility would undoubtedly be a boon to a fledgling Palestinian state, giving high paying jobs, a good tax base, and trade opportunities with Israel and the wider world. Also, if I can be optimistic for a moment, it offers a chance for Jews and Arabs to work side by side in the new state to sell to the broad, global Jewish community. That's an opportunity to heal a lot of wounds. For Palestine to survive in the global environment, it's going to need companies like this located inside its borders. This group is a non-profit, but it offers the chance to be the locus of a technology hub in the future Palestinian state. I thus hope that it is able to stay. Even in a two-state solution, the destinies of Israel and Palestine will remain woven together. It is the groups that cross-borders which offer the way forward for both peoples.

* Though I think that Israel eventually will leave the West Bank, and most definitely should, the exact borders of any final settlement are, of course, unknown. It is likely that clusters of Israeli settlements near the border will eventually be incorporated into Israel proper, possibly as part of a land swap, and perhaps Alon Shvut will be included. But I'm operating off the assumption that it won't be.

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