The Mubarak model is out. The extremists, however, are ready, willing and able to put their model in place. It is important, therefore, for those who seek freedom to put a new model on the table, one that inspires a sense of hope, one that competes effectively for hearts and minds, and one that points to the possibility of peace, prosperity and freedom, on the Arab street, in the Muslim world, and in the world as a whole.
And what will this new model look like? It will look like a Green Industrial Zone
between Israel and Gaza, which creates some 200,000 jobs, and which will bear witness to the miracle of Jews, Christians and Muslims working together, side by side, for the sake of a brighter future.
And why will a Green Industrial Zone
make any difference now, when so many other such projects have been tried before? Because the Arab Spring is a game changer. Because the man on the street has found his courage, and is crying out for two things: a job, and the personal freedom to live his life as he sees fit. Because the Arab leadership is running out of time, and running out of options. Because at this particular point in time, when so much is at stake, there is a hint of an alignment between the self-interest of some of the key players in the region, and the best interests of the region as a whole. Because the leaders may actually need one another for a change, to stave off some very common existential threats; namely the threat of a nuclear Iran, and the threat of the man on the street. And because these common threats could be used to forge a security/economic alliance between the Arab States, Israel, Europe and the U.S. to provide security, and to revitalize the entire region with good paying jobs.
And who would be willing to build a Green Industrial Zone
between Israel and Gaza? Wealthy and powerful people, who would never have said yes before, may be willing to give it a shot this time around. People like Stef Wertheimer, a multi-billionaire in Israel, who sold his business, Iscar, to Warren Buffet, and who enjoys building Industrial Zones where Jews and Arabs work together. People like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, who have partnered together in philanthropy, and who may see this project as giving needed direction to U.S. foreign policy, and creating American jobs in the process. People like the Saudis, who have the cash, thank God, and who may see job creation as a way of restoring Arab pride, and bringing about positive change in a gradual and moderate manner, instead of dealing with revolution at their doorstep. People like Hamas, who may still hate Israel’s guts, but who may partner with her, nonetheless, in order to create the jobs that the people are demanding. And even Israel, which needs something like this to break the paralysis of the peace process, and which would prefer an industrial zone on her border, as opposed to launching sites for missiles.
And why a Green Industrial Zone
in particular? Because a project of this sort would provide the answer to 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? And the answers are simple enough: We grow our economies by investing in one another to create good paying jobs. We protect the environment by using business to address the environmental issues endemic to the region, such as water shortages and the like. And we weaken the hold of extremist thinking b giving the man on the street a place at the table, a stake in his future. In the final analysis, the ideological extremists will not be able to capture the public’s imagination, once people begin to imagine a better life for themselves.
And why will one, single, solitary project of this sort make any difference to the collective future of mankind? Because at a time when the whole world is looking for answers, and looking for ways to revitalize itself, this particular project will put together all the pieces of a solution to our most intractable problems, will package those pieces in the most attractive way possible, and will allow us to sell the man on the street on a Vision of Hope
for the future. As such, a single, solitary project will capture the world’s imagination, and will attract additional investment dollars, for other such projects, and what begins as a single, solitary, project could well blossom into a movement for change.
Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus, in Montgomery, Alabama. Normally a non-event. But Marin Luther King was no ordinary man. He was a man with a vision, a big vision of hope for America, a vision of equal rights and justice under the law. He saw in Rosa Parks a way to breathe life into his vision. And soon enough, the reality on the ground grew to fill up the space created by the vision, a vision of hope. Such is the dynamic of change in the world, and such is the prescription for change in the Middle East.
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