The peaceful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have inspired many in the Muslim Middle East to think critically about how they might transform their countries into a better place for themselves and their children.
The protests have led some authoritarian regimes to reconsider their ways, and have driven others to react violently to oppress peaceful expression. The protests have encouraged still other regimes to engage in unfortunate international provocations.
While some commentators and observers have carelessly lumped all of these protests together, no two have been the same. Each uprising has been a reflection of very different national situations, which will have to be resolved in distinctly different ways.
In Palestine, these peaceful uprisings have caused us to examine our own situation, and to understand the sources behind the injustice and suffering that has plagued so many Palestinian people for so long. Though it is easy to look outside Palestine to identify the sources of our suffering, many Palestinians of every stripe have concluded that we must also look inward if we are to properly identify the challenges we face.
Despite real progress toward the development of government capacity by the Palestinian Authority, under the current leadership, Palestinians have been saddled with infighting and feckless negotiations. It is time for a change. It is time for a New Palestine based on the principles of freedom, unity and prosperity.
The protests that began on March 15th reflect both the dismay over the existing system, and the belief that a new system can be forged that will lead to freedom, unity and prosperity.
Every Palestinian yearns for freedom. Every Palestinian, regardless of the posturing and rhetoric, dreams of a unified Palestinian nation. And, every Palestinian seeks to have their hard work rewarded with prosperity.
But freedom, unity and prosperity cannot be attained until a plan is adopted that will enable territorial integrity that allows for the freedom of movement, freedom of association, and the commercial freedoms required for a successful Palestinian state based on the principles of democratic capitalism. This is why a New Palestine requires the implementation of the Palestinian Arc, a national infrastructure corridor that ties the West Bank and Gaza together into a single social, economic, and political space.
The Arc provides for a Palestinian national transportation and infrastructure corridor, along with key links between hub stations and the historic centers of the principal cities of Palestine.
The Arc is a concrete vision of progress that inspires people to believe that a viable, positive future for Palestine is attainable. It is a concrete vision that the Palestinian people can use to hold their public officials accountable.
The Arc is a vision which provides real, high value jobs to a Palestinian people who have long been chronically under-employed. Thus the Arc engenders an upward spiral of hope and confidence, giving political leaders the space to make the difficult compromises that none currently has the capacity to make.
The leadership of a New Palestine committed to the principles of freedom, unity and prosperity would understand that the implementation of the Arc will not relieve us of the need to negotiate with Israel. The Arc does, however, provide a vision of a viable and prosperous Palestine that can live peacefully alongside Israel, allowing both to thrive.
The Arc would lay the foundation for prosperity. And for far too long, hopeless negotiations have floundered because they have been based on the ill-conceived premise that borders and security can be negotiated in the absence of a Palestinian land-use strategy that gives form to a Palestinian nation capable of thriving socially and economically.
With the Arc as the vision for a New Palestine, negotiations have a purpose and an end outcome. But even prior to the conclusion of final settlement negotiations, we can begin on the construction of a New Palestine that can be a partner in peace, prosperity and security with Israel and other regional partners.
The Arc will serve as the organizing principle for a generation of Palestinian youth who thirst for freedom, unity and prosperity. Furthermore, it will serve as an anvil on which a new society can be forged.
Perhaps most important for those outside Palestine, the Arc offers an opportunity to extinguish a smoldering conflict that unnecessarily fuels political turmoil in corners of the planet far from the Middle East. The New Palestine has no interest in being anyone’s or any nation’s cause celebre. The New Palestine only seeks well wishers, investors, and partners in prosperity.
We must wrest control of our own destinies, and invest in the transformation of Palestine into a thriving nation, based on a concrete vision of progress. A vision that is deserving of the Palestinians who have toiled for so long. For the New Palestine, the Arc is that vision.