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Newsman, academic disagree on 'S’pore model' for West Bank (JMD quote)


Newsman, academic disagree on 'S’pore model' for West Bank

by Ansley Ng
inSing.com - 15 hrs 54 mins ago
Newsman, academic disagree on 'S’pore model' for West Bank(Pic / Internet)
One is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has spent a large part of his career writing about the Middle East.
The other is a highly-decorated academic and former senior Israeli diplomat.
Now, the journalist’s suggestion to apply the "Singapore model" on the volatile West Bank to help it become multi-religious, democratic and a bustling free-market has been slammed by the senior academic.
In a part of a commentary in the New York Times that was published on 3 April, Thomas Friedman suggested that - towards a push for peace - Israelis and Palestinians can create a Singapore model in the West Bank “to show that they, together, can give birth to a Palestinian state where Arab Muslims and Christians, men and women, can thrive in a secular, but religiously respectful, free-market, democratic context, next to a Jewish state”.
“This is the best Palestinian leadership with which Israel could hope to partner,” he added.
Mr Friedman also wrote that the reason why Arab countries have not flourished like Asian states was because the former had no “good local models to follow”.
His comments drew the ire of Dr Josef Olmert, an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina in the United States.
In a commentary laced with sarcasm, Dr Olmert accused Mr Friedman of showing “typical Western arrogance” to suggest a “cultural transplant … just bring Singapore to the Middle East, and all will suddenly look so much nicer and better”.
Like Mr Friedman’s articles, Dr Olmert’s comments, published in The Huffington Post, should be taken seriously as well.
He was a senior press relations officer, peace negotiator and policy adviser to several Israeli government administrations. Dr Olmert is also a member of one of the most prominent political families in Israel, and his brother is the former Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Olmert.
While Singapore is a “great model for economic development and internal organisation”, Dr Olmert wrote, it is not exactly a "classic democracy".
While he conceded that Singapore is a state that respects religions, the role of religion in public life in the Republic “is totally different than that which has existed for 14 centuries in the Islamic Middle East”.
“Buddhist and Islamic concepts of religion and state are not exactly compatible, and this is to put it very mildly,” Dr Olmert wrote.
But according to James Dorsey, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, both experts have gotten it wrong.
“Israelis and Palestinians are not looking for a model as a way out of their dispute,” he told inSing News.
“The bottom line is that both parties can live with the status quo, one that serves Israel and Hamas' purpose at the expense of the Palestine Authority,” said Mr Dorsey, who focuses on Middle East and North Africa issues. “Whatever model one opts for will have limitations without a political solution.”
Unlike Mr Friedman, Dr Olmert said that a good local model in the Middle East for co-existence is Kemalist Turkey. The ideology is based on promoting characteristics like republicanism and nationalism.
But Dr Olmert said that ideals of the model, which also champions the separation of religion from politics, was being eroded by the ruling party in Turkey - the AKP Islamic party.
Mr Dorsey suggested both Mr Friedman and Dr Olmert look at the model of Iraqi Kurdistan, an autonomous region in Iraq which he called a “flourishing non-state state”.
This is because it is a territory that is thriving economically but yet is not independent.
“There remains a degree of uncertainty regarding what rights it has as an autonomous but not independent region,” he added.

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