President Trump is taking the appropriate first steps toward Middle East peace by calling for an economic “workshop” to encourage capital investments in Judea and Samaria (i.e., the “West Bank”) and Gaza.
In fact, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner recently met with top foreign officials in the Middle East — a preface to his expected unveiling in late June of the economic portion of the Trump administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan proposal. According to Kushner, the plan will focus on building the economy of the region and encouraging financial collaboration between Israelis and Palestinians.
What many people in the United States are unaware of is that Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria have already paved the way for prosperity — if only the Palestinians living there would be willing to work together with the Israelis for their own benefit. I recently spoke to someone affiliated with One Israel Fund, a group that donates funds for essential humanitarian services in the area, who said that people would be surprised if they saw how the residents actually lived in Judea and Samaria. What the anti-Semitic BDS movement does not want to acknowledge is that Jewish businesses employ Palestinians and economic attacks upon those businesses hurt the local Arab population just as much, if not more, than it hurts the Jewish residents.
But the Israelis in Judea and Samaria cannot work with the Palestinians of the region if they refuse to do so. According to a spokesperson for One Israel Fund, the group has been trying to close the gap between what the government of Israel provides and what is needed by the Jewish communities and others in the area. For example, One Israel Fund, in conjunction with one of the local regional councils, is building a vitally needed medical center, which will provide state-of-the-art, life-saving care to all who live in this area, which is currently devoid of quality medical services.
Once it opens, the Binyamin Medical Center will provide care to hundreds of thousands of people living in the region, including Israeli citizens and Palestinian-Arabs alike. With current infrastructure in the region, medical services are severely limited. There are currently no medical facilities, and travel into Jerusalem for medical care is met with many challenges — from security risks to lengthy travel time. One Israel Fund is working to fix this. The Binyamin Medical Center will provide state-of-the-art medical services close enough for local residents to actually use them. In addition to general and emergency medical services, the medical center will feature advanced imaging, pediatric services, a surgical center, advanced eye care, dental clinics, a pharmacy, a women’s health clinic, rehabilitation services, various types of therapies, dieticians, and psychological services.
This medical center is an absolute necessity in the region, where the constant threat of terror attacks on the roads can make travel to a farther medical facility treacherous. Unfortunately, there is still unrest in these parts, even as Jews try to go about living normal lives. For a quarter century, One Israel Fund has been helping residents live with more safety and security by investing in an array of projects, including surveillance camera systems and armored vests for civilian security and medical personnel.
Another key project undertaken by One Israel Fund is the improvement of communication in the region. The organization has used its funds to erect relay stations in the area, boosting reception and coverage in the area. This allows emergency personnel to communicate reliably in the field, which makes proper deployment and acquiring real-time information possible. Also, the organization is working to re-employ currently unused radios, updating them to be more efficient and to work throughout the entire updated network.
These advancements make the difficult life of Jewish residents in the region a bit easier. Jewish residents wish to make their homes in Judea and Samaria and work with all of their neighbors to improve the region, both economically and socially. The advancements made by these Israelis benefit not just themselves, but the Palestinians in the region as well. While the Palestinian Authority continues to deny this reality for political reasons, there are those in the Palestinian community who see it and are partnering with Israelis to see this vision brought to fruition.
One such man is Ashraf Jabari, a businessman from Hebron who co-founded the Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce with Israeli Avi Zimmerman. Together, the two men are working to bridge the differences in their communities and to unite for the common good. Jabari, who has been heavily criticized by leaders in the Palestinian Authority as a “collaborator,” believes this path forward is the best for his people, who currently face much economic hardship under the corrupt leadership of the PA.
But this critical work done by both Israelis and Palestinians cannot happen if the area’s residents are lacking those things that make life possible — such as safety, security and health care. Organizations such as One Israel Fund are doing all it can to make life better for those who are living there, which will likely ultimately lead to economic and social growth in the entire area, for the betterment of the Israelis and the Palestinians alike.