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Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Good news is no news in Israel/Palestine

With events in Egypt hogging the headlines, it is hard for other stories in the Middle East to get much of an airing right now. This is perhaps especially true when the stories concerned can be considered good news and don't involve anybody trying to kill each other today. A friend asked me if I had seen the announcement by Netanyahu and Blair of a package of economic development measures for the Palestinians. I had to confess that I hadn't, which demonstrates what a low media profile this news has had. So I did a Google News search and found that the Jewish Chronicle has covered it in some detail, but then the Jewish Chronicle would - it's a specialist paper for coverage of news from that part of the world. If you want to see how the wider media has covered it, here is The New York Times' story (including, if you scroll down far enough, a fascinating report of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad's take on what's happening in Egypt). Fairness and completeness dictate that I acknowledge that many media outlets are reporting that the Palestinians (or at least some Palestinians) have reacted negatively to the package announced by Netanyahu and Blair. As well as seeking a political settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, it is urgent to continue to improve the living standards of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza - who can sensibly oppose such an improvement? There is no contradiction between the long-term (hopefully medium-term) peace process on the one hand, and short-term economic development on the other. Israel is right not to wait for peace before encouraging Palestinian economic development.

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