The economic fruits of Mideast peace

Within days this week, Intel Corp. announced it will make the largest foreign investment in Israel yet — $1.6 billion — and Israeli troops began withdrawing from the West Bank town of Jenin.

Israelis and Palestinians already can taste the fruits of peace, and the taste should overpower those who seek to quash the peace process.

Though Intel isn't attributing its expansion to the peace process, it's clear that major investments like this one are no coincidence. The accords and treaties of the past two years must be influencing such business decisions.

Undoubtedly, the Silicon Valley-based company, whose microprocessors are inside three-quarters of the world's personal computers, chose to expand its longtime presence in Israel precisely because of the economic prospects the peace process has borne.

Now Israeli and Arab leaders are meeting in Amman for a Mideast business summit, people are talking about regional economies instead of boycotts, and Intel has acted. Both the Santa Clara firm and Israel will profit.

In the West Bank, meanwhile, Israeli troops began redeploying out of the Samarian city of Jenin, readying for the arrival of Palestinian Authority police. As Israeli troops left, Palestinians cheered and waved pictures of Yasser Arafat.

Soon those same Palestinians will begin feeling the first windfalls of peace — their traffic cops, tax collectors and city leaders will be Palestinians. And hopefully the Palestinians will realize that their economic future lies not on the foundations of the economy of the past — which rested on Palestinians building Israeli homes and roads — but on the construction of joint Israeli-Palestinian hotels, banks and businesses.

Such partnerships can move into the high-tech future as well. Israel, with the help of companies such as Intel, can launch projects that bring Arabs and Jews together in mutually profitable — and irreversible — ventures. The day may not be far off when an Israeli-Palestinian computer rolls off an assembly line and competes with Apples and IBMs around the world.

Intel, it is hoped, will be one branch of an increasingly rich harvest not only for itself and for Israel but for the Palestinians and its Arab neighbors as well. Peace, already, is blooming. The sweet scent of its flowers will linger long after the bitterness of war withers.