Friday, July 30, 2010

The Chevy Volt: Now For The Good News

The American economy does not recover simply because macroeconomic conditions are right, or because it is stimulated by government in ways that make them more nearly right. It recovers because new industries—-rooted in technological innovations, but growing out of established industries—-create whole new opportunities for entrepreneurship; new industries that engender collateral industries and build a new supplier ecosystem.

It wasn't (just)the Reagan tax cuts that lead to economic growth in the 1980s; it was the development of cellphones, personal computers, and the networks that connected them. It wasn't (just) Clinton's tax hikes that led to economic growth in the 1990s; it was the development of whole new layers of software for personal computers and the development of the Internet. Macroeconomic policies can create a favorable environment for this kind of entrepreneurship. But the environment will not determine the success of an economy anymore than the weather will determine the success of a farm.

Which brings me to today's Times. On page one, we learn how—on the very day it is reported that economic growth is slowing slightly—President Obama is visiting, among other companies, General Motors. On the editorial page, we learn from a contributor, Edward Niedermeyer, that GM's Chevy Volt is a lemon. Make no mistake: if the second claim is true, then the first story is not going to have a happy ending.

One can talk endlessly about green jobs leading the American recovery, but ultimately this boils down to whether America can be a center of the development of green mobility. If America's flagship automobile company cannot develop an electric car that matters—like IBM developed the personal computer, Motorola the cell phone, and Microsoft the operating system, and so forth—the prospects for growth, and for the planet, would be pretty grim.

HAPPILY, HOWEVER, NIEDERMEYER’S article is not only misguided as an assessment of how electric car technology can enter the mainstream market, but it misses the larger point—that of the significance of electric cars to the economy as a whole. (I say this respectfully, and regretfully, because his website, “The Truth About Cars,” is unusually well done.)

Imagine an article about the iPad that not only misunderstood how it fits into its information networks and market, but also says nothing about what a portent it is for the future of publishing.

Niedermeyer’s main complaint against the Volt seems to be its price:

G.M. decided to make the Volt more affordable by offering a $350-a-month lease over 36 months. But that offer allows only 12,000 miles per year, or about 33 miles per day. Assuming you charged your Volt every evening, giving you 40 miles of battery power, and wanted to keep below the mileage limit, you would rarely use its expensive range-extending gas engine. No wonder the Volt’s main competition, the Nissan Leaf, forgoes the additional combustion engine — and ends up costing $8,000 less as a result.

There are so many silly things implied here one hardly knows where to begin:

In the first place, most people—that is, according to DOT figures, 78% of people—drive less than 40 miles back-and-forth to work or doing chores around the home. So 36,000 miles over three years is not different from what most lease contracts assume.

Second, if you do drive under 40 miles a day, then you will be driving at between one and two cents a mile on electricity, instead of 15-18 cents a mile on gas. Do the math: at 2 cents a mile, 36 months of driving a Volt will cost you about $720. At 18 cents a mile, 36 months of driving a comparably priced gas-driven car will cost $6480. This means that the all-in-cost of the Volt will save you about $6120—or about half the total cost of the lease contract.

Third, and most important, the onboard engine is critical for the same reason the iPad’s ability to connect to cellular networks is critical: it lets you go anywhere, anytime; leaving that ability off the iPad to keep the price lower would be ridiculous.

The problem is not the cost of the engine (which serves as a dynamo that recharges the batteries, and allows the Volt to go another 320 miles, beyond the 40 miles it gets on electricity). It is running out of electricity in a snow storm on the New Jersey Turnpike on the one day a month you go to Granny’s. By building in the capacity to use the existing gasoline infrastructure, it turns the electric car into something a family of four can entertain as their only car. This is revolutionary.

Niedermeyer seems to have little idea of how new technologies need to root in existing technology infrastructures. Imagine Apple trying to launch the iPod/iTunes platform before the Internet was second nature to people. But he's also missed the importance of GM's lead in creating an operating system for the Volt—essentially an advanced mobile device—and especially the importance of software that governs, precisely, communication between the engine and the battery. (To be clear, I know, and like, Tony Posawatz, the line director of the Volt, whom I got to know as a journalist. But I am writing this without any connection whatever to GM, except for my citizen's share in its ownership, which I am grateful to Obama for.)

It is the onboard engine that is GM's competitive advantage; and every electric car that hopes to break into the mainstream market, as long as batteries are limited in range to under 100 miles, will have to go this route, falling back on 220,000 service stations, while driving mainly on electric power. Toyota, which Niedermeyer obviously admires, is planning a similar car.

By the way, Niedermeyer also falls into the trap of speaking about the batteries as a Korean, not an American, innovation. But the battery cells the Koreans make--and make well--are to the battery pack in the Volt what protoplasm is to, say, an organ. It is the way the cells are put together, the way their voltage is regulated, they are heated and cooled, and so forth, that is the critical intellectual property. General Motors has a lead here, too, which they could blow. But it is absurd not to acknowledge it.

WHICH BRINGS ME to the final point. It is precisely because the Volt is the first car with a real shot at the mainstream car market that we should be thinking about its impact, and the impact of all electric vehicles, on the economy as a whole. What makes the Volt such a landmark is that electric cars are the killer app for the smart grid.

This launch of the Volt, really, should be seen as comparable to the launch of personal computers. The car makes sense as a solution to the problem of gas prices and ecological responsibility, the same way the personal computer made sense as a solution to the problem of having to retype documents. But in the same way that the ubiquity of personal computers drove the development of the Internet, the growing presence of electric cars will drive the development of the smart grid, and all the infrastructure jobs this entails.

I wrote about the dangers, and urgent commercial opportunities, that electric cars present to the existing electric power grid at length about a year ago in Inc. Magazine. You can read the article here. Or watch a 25 minute lecture on the subject to the 2010 Personal Democracy Forum here.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

'future historians will inevitably wonder'

"If this bill passes, future historians will inevitably wonder why, at a critical moment in its history, Israel chose to tell 85 percent of the Jewish diaspora that their rabbis weren’t rabbis and their religious practices were a sham, the conversions of their parents and spouses were invalid, their marriages weren’t legal under Jewish law, and their progeny were a tribe of bastards unfit to marry other Jews."

So writes Alana Newhouse, the gifted editor of Tablet, in the New York Times, responding to the conversion bill currently snaking itself through the Knesset; a bill that will, in effect, return Israel to a state in which only the orthodox rabbinate will be able to perform legally recognized conversions to Judaism, thus stripping legitimacy from Reform and Conservative rabbis.

But is this really what future historians will wonder about? Have organised American Jews, even the hippest among them, entirely lost their ability to distinguish between an argument about political rights in a democratic state and the question of who gets to come to Camp Ramah? Will future historians not wonder how a democratic state--any democratic state--should presume to define or legally designate what a "Jew" is, or a "Christian," for that matter, or award material privileges to individuals based on this legal designation, especially a state with a 20% (and growing) non-Jewish minority?

The Jewish state began as a Jewish national home, distinctive for its Hebrew language and thick cultural soup, in which individual poets, politicians, etc., made individual choices about identity and voluntarily joined associations and movements inspired by what of Jewish civilization mattered to them. Even schlock Diaspora writers got the point. Nowhere in the 640 pages of Leon Uris's Exodus do Ari Ben Canaan and his English girlfriend, Kitty, speak about her conversion. As far as the new state was concerned, was not the new Jew anyone speaking Hebrew, slinging a rifle over her shoulder, living in the Jezreel Valley, and fucking Ari Ben Canaan?

And will historians not wonder how this inclusive, democratic spirit--this great cultural adventure--would become so debased and over-shadowed during three generations, such that even American literary critics like Alana Newhouse, who on Monday will pronounce knowingly on Herman Wouk and Philip Roth, will, on Friday, think the problem is which rabbis have the right to make people into Jews, so that other made Jews would have the "right to marry" them? Will historians not wonder about a country, any country, where Newhouse does not have the right to marry anyone-the-hell she wants, Jew, Arab, or brunette fetishist? Particularly about a country that depends not only on the goodwill of the Jewish Diaspora, but the goodwill of all the Western democracies where the right to civil marriage has become boring?

I know that Newhouse, who is brilliant and sassy (and, I can state from experience, treats writers perfectly) thinks she is making a case for pluralism. But she is not, except in the suffocating sense that Sophie Portnoy made the case for hygiene. Imagine that Quebec had actually voted for independence in 1995, and that Canada could do nothing about it. Imagine that, by 2005, the new state passed all kinds of laws that privileged people legally define as Quebecois--access to land in the Laurentians, for example--and that one feature of being Quebecios was being a member of the Catholic Church. Imagine, then, that political leaders in the St. Jean Baptiste Society, which had won the national election, began debating whether Hans Küng, or liberation theologians in Latin America, had the right to convert you to Catholicism. Now imagine you were a Montreal Jew like Mordechai Richler, or a Frenchman like Camus, for that matter, and what you would think of this debate--or, indeed, think about Catholic intellectuals in Paris who thought this was a serious question about pluralism?

"Neither the Jewish diaspora nor Israel can afford a split between the two communities — a dystopian possibility that, if this bill passes, could materialize frightfully soon," she writes. I see. Dystopia is an Israeli law that "splits," not a legal system that fails to protect the splinters. Anyway, I suspect future historians will have better things to do than wonder about the narcissism of people who think that their "people" is the only people in the world.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sheikh Jarrah: The Opening Heart

My friend Avner Inbar, a leader of the young movement, writes a kind of manifesto for "Just Jerusalem" in today's Jerusalem Post.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sheikh Jarrah: 'Strong Seeds'

I am in New Hampshire, but my friend David Shulman who recently wrote this analysis of the aftermath of the Gaza Flotilla in the New York Review, files this report from last Friday:

Sheikh Jarrah, July 9, 2010

I've been thinking about truth. About what the word means, and how we know what it means. This comes in the wake of yesterday's demonstration, with its by now habitual rituals unfolding in their remorseless, bitter order—the hopeful beginning, the drumming and slogans, the dispossessed Palestinians standing beside us as we chant, the rapid, volatile crescendo, the eventual police attack, and the arrests. Sarah, a young woman of astonishing courage and clarity, was among the first to be arrested.

On the one hand, Sheikh Jarrah is a touchstone. As my son Misha said to me on the way back: Some things are amazingly simple. In Sheikh Jarrah you can see pure theft in all its starkness. The Bible says "Thou shalt not steal," and it—God, that is-- was referring to Sheikh Jarrah. Any one can see it. The shocking thing, of course, is that the whole apparatus of the modern state—the municipality, its committees and master plans and grey bureaucrats, the mayor, the government, the Prime Minister, the cabinet, the courts, the police, the secret services—all these have colluded in actively perpetrating the theft. There's really not much room for argument. Either you stand by and let them throw innocent people out of their homes, or you come each week to demonstrate and resist. It's particularly terrible because the wave of expulsions is continuing, in fact intensifying. Two weeks ago we shifted the demonstration to the new set of houses that have been targeted. As so many times before, we heard an aged, wrinkled Palestinian grandmother say: "Why are they doing this to us? I prefer to die than to leave my home."

It's clear that the government wants to destroy the whole of Palestinian Sheikh Jarrah, to rid the neighborhood of its many dozens of extended families, and to replace them with Jewish settlers. It's quite possible that in a few years' time, if the process continues to accelerate, there will be nothing left of Sheikh Jarrah. The mosque will be replaced by a yeshiva—plans for its location already exist--the homes of the Palestinian refugees from 1948 will be occupied by fanatical settlers, new (ugly) apartment buildings will go up, the Arabic street signs will disappear; in short, a whole piece of reality, with its language, its memories, its dreams, its human dramas, large and small, will be liquidated. That's the plan. That's what they want. Why should they want it? Hate exists. Truth can be simple.

On the other hand, I think this simple truth is itself enveloped by another, deeper one, more inchoate and lonely, perhaps resistant to formulation. I'll try to say something about it and about the way it becomes manifest.

THE EARLY PART of the demonstration is somehow satisfying. No sooner do we arrive than Ezra Nawi spots me and recruits me to his infiltration squads: "Come with me." I should describe the situation. The stolen houses, now inhabited by Israeli settlers, are about 100 meters down one of the main streets leading into the neighborhood. In recent months, the protestors have been strictly barred from approaching the houses, or even from setting foot in the upper part of the road. Settlers and right-wing activists have free run of the entire neighborhood, as do ultra-orthodox Jews who come to pray at the nearby tomb of Simeon the Just. Our quarrel is not with the latter. The houses themselves are now draped in Israeli flags, and on the roof of the al-Ghawi house there is also a large, crude candelabra, probably there since Chanukah.

Something changed slightly in the course of this last week. Some of our people prepared an appeal to the Legal Adviser to the government, Yehuda Weinstein; the letter sets out, in precise, understated language, the tortuous story of police violence and illegal actions in Sheikh Jarrah over the last few months, and also offers the fairly obvious explanation that senior officers in the Jerusalem police are driven by a blatant right-wing bias. The letter was signed by many well-known public figures in Israel and received much media attention. So today, riding on the crest of a wave, however small, we are no longer playing by their rules. The police barricades are up, and both the blue-grey Jerusalem police and the sinister, black-clothed riot police are there, but a good 200 to 300 activists, maybe more, are already milling around in the upper part of the street. I follow Ezra and a few others by a roundabout route, over walls and fences and through an olive grove, to end up in front of the stolen houses themselves. The drummers are drumming, and there are shouts: "Free Sheikh Jarrah!" "One Two Three Four, Fascism Will March No More!" And so on. I hug Nasir, one of the evictees. About fifty of us have gotten through, and there is a steady stream of new faces, including, to my delight, my son Misha and his bride-to-be Erika (they announced their engagement to us just half an hour before).

It is good to be here, close to the families (a really good place to celebrate an engagement). On the outer wall of the al-Kurd house, someone has etched a Palestinian flag with the caption: "History Is With Us." A small contingent of police is there to hold us back, and at first they are relaxed, almost nonchalant. Occasionally, we hear shouts and cries from the upper street; later we discover that the police had already moved to suppress the protest there with violence, and the first arrests were under way. Eventually they get to us, too. Reinforcements arrive, and soon they attack, pushing and poking us, lashing out, bending arms, kicking a little, roughing us up, and occasionally picking someone out and carrying him or her off to the detention vans. I've seen much worse, but it isn't pleasant, and it is, needless to say, both illegal and gratuitous. A non-violent demonstration of this sort has repeatedly been pronounced legal by the judges who, week after week, released the arrested activists (after a weekend in jail) and reprimanded the police for making the arrests in the first place.

Herded uphill, amidst the yelling and the scuffles, we are singing the famous Hasidic song of Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav: "The whole world is but a very narrow bridge, and the main thing is not to afraid." Speaking of truth, it rings true on this sorrowful street, like a memory of what it once meant to be Jewish. I wonder what Rabbi Nachman, one of the deepest minds in Jewish history, would have said about what is happening in Sheikh Jarrah. Actually, I think I know. A policeman strikes Erika, and Misha instinctively moves to protect her, pushes him back. A friend asks me why we are refusing to obey the police commands, why we are moving so slowly, holding our ground, so that they have to push and drag us physically up the hill, and some people get hurt and get arrested. I explain. It is important to resist. It is basic to who we are and what we stand for. Even if no one is watching, even if no one knows, if we are to remain human, we must continue to bear witness and to resist.

EVEN AS I say the words, I realize they're not much of an argument. So what if we resist? Look at the forces arrayed against us, look at our failure to make change happen. Where are the hundreds of thousands who should be standing here with us? What good is truth, anyway, when the liars and the thieves and the demented politicians have the guns, and when the ordinary Israeli person, whoever he is, just living his life, won't break through the shell of his lethal indifference? But I'm not groping toward a philosopher's truth, and the moral equation is not, after all, in question. We've already defined the situation. "Thou shalt not steal." What does this have to do with being poked and prodded up the hill?

I think the point is that there is no ordinary person. For every one there's the same precarious balance, and the same struggle. The easy way is always to go along with the cruelty; most do. Some don't. You can see it here on the street. Something has galvanized the people around me to do the decent thing. I don't think they had to think about it. It is something one knows the way we know that someday we will die, though we mostly deny this in our hearts; or the way we know how to fall in love, and how to stay in love, and how to hold a baby and how to rest when we are tired and other things like that. Such knowledge isn't simple in the way the other kind of truth might be.

It is something we carry in our bodies, and it's often a rather delicate and complicated business, where it's easy to make the wrong choice out of fear or laziness or confusion. Hence the struggle. When you make the right choice, there's truly no mistaking it. No syllogisms or proof-texts are needed. Your skin tells you, or your muscles and bones, even before your mind looks for words. You feel whole—a whole human being, capable of action. I look around me at the stalwarts of the Sheikh Jarrah protests. The moral calculus of action, easily put into words, is not the only reason they are here. Actually, nothing instrumental can fully explain it, any more than the instrumental or the reasonable can explain why we are alive. Let them poke me and push me and arrest me and curse me, I don't care. I care that they have driven Nasir and his family from their home. In that sense, I'm here for truth, a Greek truth, perhaps, the peeling away of a veil. I will stand my ground.

There was another good example of it last week. Yonatan Shapira, a captain in the Air Force who has refused to serve, who helped organize the letter of the pilots refusing to perform missions in the Palestinian territories, sprayed two graffiti on the last remnant of the wall surrounding the Warsaw ghetto: "Liberate all ghettos" (in Hebrew) and "Free Gaza and Palestine" (in English). He did it openly, in the full light of day, and he also explained it:

"The Holocaust has been appropriated for years now by the Israeli government and the Israeli education system. The Israeli establishment would rather have Jews and Israelis in a state of frightened victims who worship militarism.....In our act we tried to separate between the actions of the Israeli Government and Jews. The lesson that should be learned from the Holocaust is resistance to any form of racism. Resistance to ethnic cleansing and forced expulsion of people. Resistance to the starvation of human beings and their confinement into ghettos. These are issues that the Israeli policy makers would like us to ignore and forget."

At the top of the hill I find my colleague Tamar. "How's the revolution going up here?" I ask her, a little sadly. "Just look at these people," she says. "They've planted some strong seeds. Some day they will bear fruit."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The End Of A Two-State Solution?

Over the past six months, a number of influential articles have raised the question of whether a two-state solution is, or was ever, feasible. Consider this nuanced article by Meron Benvenisti in Haaretz, or this overtly skeptical article by John Mearsheimer, a version of which was published in Foreign Policy. The Forward's opinion page has been running a series of commentaries on the question, and my contribution, "The Israeli-Palestinian Confluence" (reproduced below), was published today.

Is the two-state solution passé? Serious people, with democratic instincts, are asking this now, but it is hard to think of a more frivolous question.

The alternative to a two-state solution is not a one-state solution. It is war, Bosnia-style. It is one thing to become exasperated by the occupation and to start throwing around the term “apartheid.” It is quite another to start believing that this little hyperbole is all you need to know about the situation, or that a democratic solution for Israel and Palestine must ultimately conform to South Africa’s — one state, “one-person, one-vote.” The idea that the occupation is producing a single country — or that an eventual Arab majority will be able to vote Israel out of existence — is about as realistic as expecting to drive in Jerusalem without being cut off in traffic.

There are two nations here — distinct from each other in their languages, religious cultures and historical grievances. Israelis and Palestinians are at very different levels of economic development, but neither will surrender the dream of a political border around its cultural facts — and even in the best of all possible worlds, it’s not clear why either should.

But then what, after 40 years of occupation, can a two-state solution possibly look like? Aren’t skeptics right to imply that returning to pre-1967 realities will be impossible, even if returning to, in effect, the pre-1967 border will be mandatory? For that matter, is a democratic solution of any kind still feasible? These are better questions.

In any peaceful resolution, Israel and Palestine will constitute one commercial ecosystem. At present, some 90% of Palestinian imports come from Israel, and 80% of Palestinian exports go to Israel.

The two states would interlock into one large urban landscape (excluding the Negev, comparable in size to greater Los Angeles), connected to global and regional networks, but with two distinct cultural nodes — a Hebrew north-south megalopolis along the coastal plain, anchored by Tel Aviv, and an Arab megalopolis along the highlands of the West Bank, anchored by East Jerusalem/Ramallah.

What jurisdictions could either state exercise in peace without the institutional cooperation of the other? The answer is not many. Think of security, water, bandwidth, transportation, airspace, electricity, tourism, labor mobility and currency policy — you name it.

The destinies of the two states would be profoundly intertwined. Think of Israel deepening its free trade ties to the European Union and the United States, and how this would have an impact on Palestinian goods, or how international forces will help enforce the peace of Jerusalem. Ideally, there would be a common market for entrepreneurs (including for Jordanian Palestinians, whose investments in the young Palestinian state will be crucial). It all makes the phrase “self-determination” sound a little pretentious, doesn’t it? The result may not amount to an actual federation, but the application of federal principles would be unavoidable.

Israel’s own Arab citizens, in this context, could well become a kind of bridging population between Israeli and Arab businesses, their towns nested between the two states, their elites moving increasingly into one megalopolis or the other, and requiring the possibility of dual citizenship or extraterritorial citizenship. (Eventually, some solution like this may also be negotiated for Jewish residents of Palestine.)

Of course, the status of Israel’s Arab citizens now figures prominently in one of the main arguments made by proponents of a so-called “one-state solution.” The two-state solution’s detractors note that Israel discriminates against its non-Jewish citizens, and therefore conclude that a Jewish state has no place in the modern world.

One-staters — but not only one-staters — are right to resist a Jewish state that derides as “anti-Zionist” demands for the equal treatment of all its citizens. Indeed, even if a peace with Palestine materializes, should Israel continue to treat its Arab minority as it currently does, its next intifada will be within the Green Line.

But instead of doing away with Israel, as the one-staters demand, we should seek to define its identity as a “Jewish state” according to the original Zionist aspiration of building a modern, Hebrew republic for free citizens. Indeed, Israel’s own Declaration of Independence stipulated that the newborn state would “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex” and “guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.”

An Israel that lives up to its founding creed would remain a sovereign Jewish state while reconciling national claims with ordinary human rights. Its first official language would be Hebrew, and its cultural commitments — its festivals, history, historical literatures — will be (mostly) Jewish, much as Palestine will be Arab and (mostly) Muslim.

But Israel would also have to guarantee what a majority of Israelis already want, namely secular protections for individual consciences and hybridized identities. Israel cannot expect to be embedded within a global, democratic system yet, at the same time, fail to enforce individual civil rights.

Israel, in other words, will have to retire the residual institutions of the old Zionist settler state that is still encased within — and seriously threatens — the democratic country that aspires to be joined to the world. Currently, a state within a state empowers an ultra-Orthodox rabbinate to impose halachic norms, uses national land and outdated Zionist institutions to “Judaize” Arab regions, segregates primary and secondary education by religion, fetishizes Jerusalem, maintains a population registry that refuses to recognize “Israeli” as a nationality, and so forth.

None of this means Israelis would somehow be forced to lose their identities as Jews. Rather, it means that no state should be in the business of legislating what “Jew” means any more than it would legislate the meaning of God, beauty or love. A Jewish state can only give its citizens — by privileging Hebrew and deepening democratic norms — the means to innovate a Jewish civilization.

Funny, when you sketch the two-state vision out in this way, the most striking thing about it is how unoriginal it is. Does any Western democracy not conform to its norms — the interconnectedness, the secularism, the pluralism? But, not so funny, this vision seems utterly fanciful in the context of Israel’s current political universe. Israel’s cosmopolitan business elites are building global connections, but are mainly subordinating themselves to hard-line politicians, even though perpetual war will ultimately destroy their work. As for current Israeli political leaders, talk about bringing Israeli democracy up to code, and they accuse you of anti-Semitism or self-hatred. Their Zionism, pathetically, has become a psychological show of “strength.”

Perhaps one may take encouragement from the very smallness of Israel and Palestine, which makes the influence of American and European diplomacy that much more decisive here. Big changes seem imminent. Sooner or later, the danger of political and economic isolation will force Israeli elites to choose between greater Israel and global Israel; even Jewish settlers and Palestinian insurgents, faced with a new reality (a negotiated border, a world mobilized behind a peace deal, a time-limited compensation package) will, over time, accommodate to it. The key is to keep one’s eye on generational shifts and the requirements of a fair deal for both Israelis and Palestinians, not on the depressing daily headlines.

There are many foreseeable ways to war, but only one way to peace. And things that “cannot go on” eventually don’t.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Economic Peace Redux

Bassim Khoury, the former Economics Minister of the Palestinian Authority, and the CEO of Pharmacare (whose generic drugs meet German import standards), answers in the current Foreign Policy those who would have us believe that economic development in the West Bank is either impressively robust or can continue irrespective of political change. In fact, as Salaam Fayyad insisted in his meeting with Ehud Barak today, the crimping of Palestine's economy, owing to the occupation of East Jerusalem and Area C, is among the status quo's most dangerous realities. (Check out, as Khoury did, this sobering report by the IMF team in East Jerusalem, led by the indomitable Oussama Kanaan.)

Incidentally, I once invited Bassim Khoury to participate in a panel at the Van Leer Institute, and when it was over, and we were walking out onto Jabotinsky Street, he looked across the way, to the house at the far corner, and said: "You know, my grandfather planted that tree." Khoury is making no claims to his family's old house in Talbiyeh, which is more than we can expect from the disturbed settlers in Sheikh Jarrah. If living well is really the best revenge, would not helping the Palestinians live well be our own best therapy?