The view from the Gaza strip

By Ben Lynfield, June 20, 2008

“Everyone is waiting for the ceasefire because our lives are terrible.”

With those words, Raed al-Atamneh, a taxi-driver in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, summed up the mood in advance of the Egyptian-brokered truce.

“People expect goods to come into Gaza now. I hope this agreement will stop the shooting, stop the dying. People want to feel safe and have a good life, but the power is in Israeli hands, not Palestinian hands,” Mr al-Atamneh added.


Israelis: Palestine welcomes you

By Ben Lynfield, June 13, 2008
PA tourism chief urges visits to Bethlehem to boost the West Bank’s economy

Israeli tourists are welcome in Bethlehem and would be safe if they visit, the Palestinian Tourism Minister promised this week.

“It is true we still live under isolation, we still have the wall and you have to enter though checkpoints, but once you enter you will find people who receive you warmly and you will have a unique experience,” Khouloud Daibes said in her office near Manger Square.


Outrage over East Jerusalem plans

By Ben Lynfield, June 6, 2008

In the face of criticism from the Palestinian Authority, the United States and the UN, Israeli housing minister Zeev Boim has defended a decision to expand Jewish housing in parts of East Jerusalem considered as settlements by the international community.

Mr Boim said that the decision to build nearly 900 units at Har Homa and in Givat Zeev was taken with the “knowledge and approval” of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and underlined the government’s policy to maintain Jerusalem as an undivided capital.


Forget the Palestinians — Iran is the big issue for presidential hopefuls

June 6, 2008

It was not the first time Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had told this story. Apparently, she thinks it resonates with Jewish-American crowds. It is the story of her last meeting with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon before he went into a coma, how he showed her the sheep on his farm, and she, city girl that she is, had never met a sheep face-to-face, or so she says.


Help build trust with Arab Israelis

By Michael Howard, June 6, 2008

The ordinary individual, too, has a role to play in the peace process

Last month we celebrated the 60th anniversary of the birth of the state of Israel. We paid tribute to its numerous spectacular achievements. We congratulated those responsible. Yet the fact that Israel still lives in an area of strife and has failed to build a lasting peace in the region casts a long shadow over those celebrations.


Amnesty slates Israel and Palestinians in report

By Bernard Josephs, May 30, 2008

Both the Palestinians and Israel have been heavily criticised in a major report issued this week by Amnesty International to mark the 60th anniversary of the International Declaration of Human Rights.

Launching the report, the organisation’s secretary-general Irene Khan said it covered countries all over the world, but noted that in the Middle East the brunt seemed “to fall on civilians taking no part in conflict”.


PA economy is a 'coiled spring'

By Ben Lynfield, May 30, 2008

A festival for Jericho celebrating it as the world’s oldest city; call centres providing jobs in the West Bank; a water desalination project for Gaza.

These and visions of new towns in the Judean hills were on offer last week at the Palestine Investment Conference in Bethlehem, hosted by Tony Blair and the Palestinian Prime Minister, Salaam Fayyad.

“The Palestinian economy is like a coiled spring. It has been put down and down and down and it is ready to bounce back,” Sir Ronald Cohen, head of the Portland Trust, told the conference.


Bethlehem opens up for business

By Ben Lynfield, May 23, 2008

Economic hopes were boosted by this week’s Palestine Investment Conference

The Palestinian Authority this week attempted to defy sceptics by presenting the West Bank as a land of business opportunity during a three-day investment conference in Bethlehem aimed at giving an international boost to the moribund economy.

“You don’t have to be crazy” to invest in the Palestinian private sector, said Mohammed Shtayyeh, director of the Palestinian Economic Council for
Development and Reconstruction.


Kickstarting the economy with a new £150m town

By Ben Lynfield, May 23, 2008

On the computer screens in the offices of the Bayti Real Estate and Investment Company, on a quiet Ramallah Street, a potentially historic attempt to create the first-ever planned Palestinian town is well under way.

The effort could be a major Palestinian milestone, or a fiasco, depending on Israel’s stance and the ability of Bayti to deliver in the West Bank — a more volatile setting than Morocco, the venue for its previous projects. 


Let’s help the Palestinian economy to grow

By Douglas Alexander, May 23, 2008

This week’s Palestine Investment Conference can change the face of the region

The path to peace in the Middle East is as rocky as it is long. Progress has been arduous, sometimes non-existent, and it is not surprising that at times hope has fallen by the wayside.

Today, once again, we are at a fork in the road. One route leads to continued conflict, the other potentially to lasting peace. For everyone in the region, that would be a great prize. After decades of bloodshed and hatred, there is a chance of a brighter future.