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The practical case for a West Bank state

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It is widely recognized that there can be no lasting peace in the Middle East until a basis has been found for a self-governing Palestinian Arab administration in a form acceptable to the Palestinians, the Arab states, and Israel.

Fortunately, the possibilities of creating such a state are, in practical and economic terms, better than at any time during the last 30 years.

There are three reasons for this:

* The exceptional capabilities of the Palestinian people.

* The rapidly growing economic strength of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

* Improvements in agriculture in the Middle East, particularly in the extremely economical use of irrigation water. These have increased the absorptive capacity of the West Bank and for the first time made it feasible to use expensive desalted water for resettlement in the arid Gaza-Sinai region. These last developments could make possible the resettlement of large numbers of Palestinian refugees essential to the establishment of the new state.

One ironic effect of the refugee camps that have housed so many Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza since 1949 has been that the population concentration has enabled the excellent UNRWA/UNESCO school system to reach at least 90 percent of refugee children since 1966-67. Of these 47 percent were girls. These figures considerably exceeded the averages in the Arab states as a whole.

There are three new universities in the West Bank. First-class teacher training and vocational training institutions have been established for young men and women in all the refugee areas. As a result many well-qualified Palestinians are in responsible professional posts throughout the Arab world.

If international help could be given to provide for the external security of the new state, the Palestinians could in a fairly short time assume responsibility for all the remaining functions of government.

The annual economic growth rate of the West Bank and Gaza Strip has been very high, 18 percent throughout the first 10 years of the Israeli occupation: progress has been mainly in agriculture, the construction and transport industries, and a host of small businesses.

Developments in desalination have transformed the prospect of settlement based on irrigation using desalted water in arid coastal zones. Using proven methods, new areas could be developed for intensive resettlement in the Gaza-Sinai region.

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