Mideast 'free trade' accord signed

Hidden away in Shuneh, a tiny winter resort, 1,300 feet below sea level, with summer heat of at least 110 degrees, on the Jordanian Dead Sea shore – far from any anti-globalization crowds – about 1,200 government officials and big capitalist industrial and trade tycoons from around the globe met for a three-day World Economic Forum in a huge air-conditioned tent. Among them were 12 heads of state and more than 20 foreign and economic cabinet ministers.

At the same event, the Quartet authors (U.S.-EU-Russia-UN) of the Israel-Palestine “road map” also met. Only two weeks had passed since George W. Bush’s peace show at the Red Sea. During these two weeks, a horrifying escalated bloodshed interrupted this idyllic dream, with 28 Israelis and at least 52 Palestinians killed, and more than 200 wounded, most of them unarmed civilians.

Yet, there, drunk with a war “victory,” Bush spoke of a Middle East free trade zone.

As a step in that direction, a free trade zone treaty between Jordan and Israel was signed in Shuneh. It is a pilot accord for a future one in the whole region, as projected by the U.S. administration. “Free trade zones,” however, do not offer peace and stability and will not play a positive role in bringing peace and democracy to the Middle East.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org