WASHINGTON (Dec. 27)
The Ripon Society, a national Republican Party research and policy organization, in a policy paper issued here, recommended that the parties involved in seeking peace in the Middle East consider establishment of all or part of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a free trade zone. The paper declared that the status of the West Bank remains the most difficult problem to be faced in reaching settlement.
However, it suggested that by setting the problem in the proper economic context, the intensity of the political dispute might be lessened. Questions of sovereignty and authority could be negotiated in an atmosphere where the focus would not be on “the all or nothing question of whether the West Bank should immediately be set up as a sovereign nation,” the Society declared.
The paper, issued last Friday, cited the existence of 30 jurisdictions having free ports or free trade zones, including Aqaba in Jordan, the Suez Canal cities in Egypt, Beirut, and Bahrain in the Middle East. Such areas generally provide for removal of taxes, tariffs and other controls that are barriers to free trade. They allow industries which are located there to operate with minimal taxes and restrictions on investment.
The Society suggested that such a zone on the West Bank could become a trade and investment gateway to surrounding countries and perhaps to the entire Middle East, replacing war-torn Beirut; and provide employment to the present Palestinian residents of the West Bank and thus assure stability to the area as a whole.
“The free market orientation of such a zone would ensure the permanent exclusion of the Soviet Union from the area and prempt the possibility of a radical socialist Palestinian state on the model of Cuba,” the Society said.
COULD AID SELF-DETERMINATION
The paper also declared that the establishment of a free trade zone would provide an opportunity for self-determination for the Palestinians while protecting the security interests of surrounding states.
Elected West Bank representatives “might exercise merely local government functions or agreed-upon kinds of international representation,” the paper stated. “However, because of minimal taxing authority, the authority would be unable to support a military buildup threatening to Israel or Jordan.”
A policy of the authority to protect existing residents of the West Bank from the loss of their land through sale as well as force would allow the Palestinians to benefit more from the economic expansion, the Society asserted, adding that such a “non-alienation” policy would create–in a literal sense–a Palestinian homeland.