The following conversation took place between me, myself and I; three people I happen to know quite well:
What is your answer for the Middle East?
I would use Arab and Western capital and knowhow to build a Green Industrial Zone in Rafah, Gaza; where Gaza, Egypt and Israel converge, and where 300,000 Jews, Christians and Muslims would show up to work on a daily basis.
Why Rafah in particular? Isn’t that a tough neighborhood, to say the least?
Rafah is the “wild west” of the Middle East. But because it’s such a tough place, is why you want to build it there. Like Frank Sinatra sang about New York City, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere…”
Why a Green Industrial Zone? Why not a plain old, run-of-the-mill industrial zone?
Because we’re not just building an industrial zone. We’re building a new model for the Middle East, a model for positive change in that troubled region. We want to inspire a sense of hope, and deliver on that promise with jobs: jobs which grow our economies, jobs which protect the environment, and jobs which help weaken the hold of extremist thinking. By focusing the project on the environment, and by working to improve the human condition, on issues such as clean water, food production, healthcare and green energy, we are more likely to garner worldwide attention and additional investment dollars. As such, we could replicate the project throughout the Middle East, in a bid to revitalize the entire region with jobs. What begins as a single solitary project could well blossom into a movement for change.
How about Hamas? Wouldn’t they just blow up the place?
Even Hamas needs to create jobs. It’s one thing to get elected. It’s quite another to govern. As Hamas, or the Muslim Brotherhood, undertake to govern, and as they take note of what is happening on the Arab street even as we speak, they may come to the realization that job creation is in their interest as they attempt to consolidate political power. Therefore, while they may not agree to peace, they may agree to protect our Green Industrial Zone, as a way of inspiring the man on the street, and delivering on that promise with jobs.
What makes you think that wealthy Arabs and Westerners would likely invest in such a venture?
For the first time, in a long time, Arab, Israeli and Western leaders are facing some very common existential threats, namely, the prospect of a nuclear Iran, and the fury of the man on the street. These common existential threats, what we call a mosaic of mutual self-interest, could be leveraged into a strategic/economic alliance between the Arab states, Israel, the U.S., and Europe, with two purposes in mind: to provide security in the region, and to use Arab and Western capital and knowhow to revitalize the region with jobs. Millions of Western jobs could also be created in the process as we open up a new market for our goods and services.
Where would you get the green technology to run a Green Industrial Zone?
As it happens, counties like Israel offer quite a bit in this regard. My friend in the Technion, for example, just invested a way of engineering fruits and vegetables that are draught resistant and that use 70% less water. Imagine the possibilities for feeding people in places like the Middle East and Africa. And Israel would likely cooperate because she would much prefer to see positive change occurring in the Middle East, so that an already tough neighborhood does not become even more so.
Where would you find the workers with the necessary skills to handle green jobs?
We would build a vocational school, as part of our Green Industrial Zone, to train young workers, and to equip them with the necessary skills. We would also invest in female entrepreneurs and promote women’s rights.
Why women in particular?
Empower Muslim women in ways that they deem appropriate, and you will have changed the face of the Middle East. Who are women? They are the givers of life and the caretakers of life, and as such are uniquely qualified to reconstitute their societies consistent with a Vision of Hope.
Do you really believe that a new model of this sort is even possible?
Maybe, maybe not. However, some of the key players in the Middle East are quickly running out of good options. They may choose to join in, not because they necessarily love one another, or because they want peace, or because they want a better world for their children. No, none of that crap. They may join in because they’re running out of options, as the old model that has been put in place is falling apart. The writing is on the wall for all the business and political leaders in the Middle East. We see the energy in the hearts and minds of young people. We either find a way to marshal that energy and point it in a positive direction, or it will all explode in our collective faces.
How long will it all take?
A new Middle East may take generations to pull off. However, the plans for the industrial zone in Rafah already exist. A wealthy industrialist in Israel, Stef Wertheimer, already drew them up, and was ready to break ground, when the second Intifada broke out in the year 2000, and the plans were scrapped. We could use those plans, put some serious capital behind them, and launch the project immediately by with Caterpillar tractors showing up to clear the land. Even this first step would inspire a sense of hope, and would buy us time to effectuate positive chance gradually, as opposed to dealing with revolutionary change on our doorsteps.
A Green Industrial Zone in a wild and crazy place like Rafah will resonate with hope, and will deliver on that promise with jobs. It will be the model which answers the three greatest questions of our time: How do we grow our economies? How do we protect the environment? And how do we weaken the hold of extremist thinking? As such, it will capture the world’s imagination and be replicated in a bid to revitalize the entire region with jobs and personal freedoms. It will restore the rich legacy of Arab pride and dignity. It will bring stability where chaos now reigns. And it will point to a place where, for a change, everybody wins.
Even though I enjoy my own company, your comments would be greatly welcomed. You could also visit us at www.sellingavisionofhope.org for more information.