“Palestina” – What Could Have Been – What Can Be

What Could Have Been,
What Can Be

© David Burton 2021


NOTE: I deliberately place the word “Palestinian” in quotation marks. I do this because Palestinian correctly refers to anything and anyone in or from the former British Mandate of Palestine - including Jews, Arabs, Druze, Circassians and all others residing there. “Palestinian” specifically refers to the current Arab population of Gaza, Judea, and Samaria.

     Today Israel is a modern prosperous nation. The so called “Palestinians” could have achieved a similar status had they only accepted Israel as a neighbor and friend some 70 years ago or any time since then. Instead, the “Palestinians” have suffered seven plus decades of self-imposed martyrdom and today they live in isolation and misery. Just imagine what could have been if the so-called “Palestinians” had made peace with Israel in 1949 and joined with them to make the former Mandate of Palestine into a true Land of Milk and Honey for all its residents. Look at what Germany and Japan have become since surrendering to the allies at the end of World War II. Where would the “Palestinians” be today if they had agreed to a similar peace arrangement in 1949? For a more complete analysis of “what could have been”, see Reference 1.

     The Arabs living in Samaria and Judea (the West Bank) and the Gaza Strip have been played for suckers ever since Israel achieved independence in 1948. What’s more, they have no one to blame but themselves! They’ve allowed themselves to be duped, marginalized and used as cannon fodder by their fellow Arab / Muslim co-religionists, who rule over them with an iron and uncaring fist. The Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza could have had their own nation state – “Palestina” as long ago as 1949 when Israel’s War of Independence ended and an armistice between Israel and the Arab nations that attacked it came into being.

     Here in 2021, the door is still open to the formation of a “Palestinian Nation” which I will call “Palestina”. Ordinary “Palestinian” Arabs may want to reconsider what, for decades, could have been, but, more importantly, what can be!

     Between February and July 1949, General Armistice Agreements (GAAs) were signed between the State of Israel and the four Arab states that had a common border with Israel: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. These agreements put an end to the Arab–Israel War of 1948. But these agreements did not bring peace to Israel, its Arab neighbors or to the “Palestinians”.
     The negotiations were mediated on behalf of the United Nations (UN) by Ralph Bunche, whose achievement earned him the 1949 Nobel Peace Prize. The failure of the UN Conciliation Commission for Palestine to achieve more comprehensive peace treaties created a de facto situation that converted the General Armistice Agreements into quasi-permanent arrangements that regulated the relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors until the 1967 war.[2]

     In 1949, with Egypt in total control of the Gaza Strip and Jordan in total control of the West Bank, the nation state of “Palestina” could easily have been created. Egypt and Jordan remained in control of both these areas from 1949 until 1967 – some eighteen years. Over this span of time, neither of these two Muslim-Arab nations did anything to help their Arab and Muslim brethren living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to improve their lives, let alone establish an independent nation! What Jordan and Egypt did do was to force thousands of Arab refugees to live in squalid refugee camps administered by UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Administration - that "permanent tempory agency" which is perhaps better known as "the bottomless money pit". UNRWA has been in existence from 1949 to the present day, some seventy-three years later and which, in 2021, still shows no sign of shutting down.

     Even prior to its establishment as an independent nation in 1948, Israel had indicated its willingness to accept a partition of Palestine into two states – a Jewish Israel and an Arab “Palestinian” State. The Arabs and the “Palestinians” rejected this two-state solution then and most still do – certainly the ”Palestinian” leaders of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip adhere to this position.

     One example of what Jordan and Egypt did to the “Palestinians” under their control or, more properly, what Jordan and Egypt didn’t do for the “Palestinians” under their control is as follows. “During the Jordanian occupation of the West Bank, from 1948 to 1967, the Jordanians forbade and prevented the establishment of any university in the West Bank. So, in 1967, when Israel regained Judea and Samaria, there were no universities in the West Bank. NOT ONE!
      - - -
     “In 1970, soon after Israel took control of Judea and Samaria, Israel’s Deputy Premier, who was then Minister of Education, announced that he had approved the establishment of the first university in Ramallah . . . Paradoxically, the Jordanians still attempted to prevent the establishment of the first university on the West Bank. . . The Jordanians charged that ‘all those who take part in planning the university are traitors and collaborators with the Israelis.’ However, under the Israeli administration, in 1971 the foundation of the Hebron University was laid and forty-three students enrolled from different parts of the West Bank and Gaza.
     “The universities in the West Bank enjoyed the cooperation of the Israeli universities without which they could not have been developed. In 1973, it was reported that, since the Israelis assumed control in Judea and Samaria, Arab education on the West Bank had expanded. . .
     “Thanks to Israel, a second university, Birzeit University, was established in 1975. Under Israeli guidance, by 1993, when the Oslo Agreement establishing the Palestinian Authority was signed, there were 14 universities, 18 colleges and 20 community colleges in the West Bank and Gaza. Remember, that in 1967, there were no universities in the West Bank. NOT ONE!" (Ref. 1)

     What about those Palestinian-Arabs who did not flee to the West Bank or the Gaza Strip during and after Israel’s War of Independence? How badly did they and their descendants suffer under Israeli rule? Are they and their descendants better or worse off today than their fellow Muslim-Arabs now living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip?

     The fact is: Israeli-Arabs have done much better than their “Palestinian” counterparts. They have done so much better that “a firm majority of local Arabs are actually proud to be Israeli. This was reported on in the November 23, 2017 Israeli newspaper, Israel Hayom, which conducted a survey that asked a random sampling of Arab citizens of Israel their attitude toward the State of Israel.
     “An overwhelming 73% majority said that they felt a sense of belonging in Israeli society. 60% went so far as to say they were proud citizens of Israel.” (Ref. 3) Future citizens of “Palestina” could well attain the same benefits as have the Israeli-Arabs.

     So, don't believe the hype pushed by Israel's detractors. And definitely reconsider the notion that Israel is an "apartheid" state. As noted above, far from feeling marginalized or oppressed, a firm majority of local Arabs are actually proud to be Israeli.

     Supporting this are the facts that in 2015, about 1,700 Bedouin soldiers – Muslims - were enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), although there was no obligation on them to do so. In 2016, there were ten times the number of Arabs serving in the IDF than there were in 2013. The numbers have continued to grow since.

     In 2020, an additional indication that Israel’s Jewish and Muslim communities were more united than some media reports would indicate came as both worked closely together in the face of the Coronavirus epidemic.

     “Israel’s Magen David Adom (MDA) national ambulance service is a microcosm of the society, staffed by employees and volunteers who are Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Druze, paid employees and volunteers.
     “When an ambulance got a minute of quiet during a hectic shift earlier this week {3rd week of March 2020}, two crew members, one Muslim one Jewish, took advantage to fulfill their daily prayer obligations and stepped outside the vehicle to pray. {One member faced Mecca and the other faced Jerusalem.}
      - - -
     “The ambulance crew members {said} that they worked together and lived together. Praying together was a normal thing for them.
     “Additional signs that the two communities are more united than divided came after President Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ was announced. Since the unveiling of the plan, thousands of Arabs have been demonstrating to express their rejection of the idea of placing them under the sovereignty of a Palestinian{-Arab} state." [Emphasis mine] (Ref. 4) These Israeli-Arabs, who are mostly Muslims, know all too well that they have much better lives in the State of Israel than in any Muslim country or any make-believe “Palestinian State”, i.e., the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

     As of 2019, more than 5.6 million “Palestinians” were registered with UNRWA as “refugees”, of which more than 1.5 million lived in UNRWA-run camps. The West Bank was home to nearly 775,000 registered refugees, around a quarter of whom lived in 19 UNRWA camps. Almost 600,000 Palestine “refugees” in Gaza lived in the eight recognized UNRWA refugee camps.[5]. So, at the end of 2019, between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, UNRWA was hosting 1.5 million or so “refugees”, most of whom were born after the original refugees of 1948-1949 fled what is now Israel. With UNRWA cooperation, many - if not most - of these “refugees’” have been radicalized by Islamic extremists and are violent Israel haters. The demand that they be allowed “a right of return” to Israel is not only unrealistic but is part of the terrorist dream of destroying the State of Israel. Israel can never accede to such a demand!

     Israel can never allow an armed hostile Arab/Muslim nation to exist in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel simply is too small a nation to allow this. The history of hostile Arab/Muslim regimes in these two regions over the past seven decades clearly demonstrates the impossibility of accepting such a situation. Israel has suffered from individual Arab terrorists crossing into Israel proper to attack and murder innocent civilians including women, babies and Americans. Israel has suffered from rockets and incendiary balloons sent into Israel from the Gaza Strip causing death, injury and the wanton destruction of property. Israel has suffered from the building of “terror tunnels” from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel through which terrorists have attempted to infiltrate into Israel.

     Conceivably, Israel can accept an unarmed and friendly Muslim/Arab nation to exist in the West Bank and Gaza Strip – a nation we will call “Palestina”. The citizens of such a nation would do fairly well – certainly much better than the residents of these two territories do today under the not-so-merciful rule of Hamas, Fatah, and the PLA.

     After the 6-day war in 1967, Israel demonstrated that the territories it had conquered could do quite well if given needed resources. It also demonstrated the benefits to be achieved by cooperation between Israel and the former Jordanian and Egyptian controlled territories.

     “After taking possession of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank during the war, Israeli officials were faced with a serious challenge: How to marginalize the fedayeen, or terrorists, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, who, because of their close proximity to Israel and the support they received from Arab countries furious at having lost the war, could wreak havoc on Israeli civilians. Instead of attacking the fedayeen head on, Israeli officials, under the leadership of Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, worked to keep . . . a 'low profile' . . .
     “They kept their armed forces away from occupied areas, allowed the continuation of the existing administration and personnel, supported the existing law and law enforcement agencies, rapidly removed curfews and other security restrictions, restored essential services disrupted by the war, and encouraged the local authorities to redress themselves to public welfare projects. . .
     “In the years after the 1967 War, Israel invested heavily in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, building hospitals, universities, public schools and new roads, improving the water supply and increasing the production of electricity available to the Palestinians. [Emphasis mine]
     “Israeli officials also instituted the ‘Open Bridges policy’ which . . . allowed the ‘free movement of people and goods back and forth across the Jordan River in order to avoid the disruption of previous trade relations and family and personal contacts.’ Israel also allowed Arabs from the West Bank and Gaza Strip to visit Israel proper. Additionally, Israel allowed Arabs from throughout the world to visit relatives in the territories, which . . . ‘quickly brought in over 100,000 visitors annually.’ Moreover, Arabs from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were allowed to work in Israel ‘a step that initiated a revolution in the life of the areas and their inhabitants.’ . . .
     “Although this free movement didn't necessarily endear Israel to Palestinians and made it easier for the Arab world to support Palestinian terrorists, it did allow residents of the West Bank and Gaza strip to generate substantial economic growth. According to the World Bank, the real per capita Gross National Product (GNP) in the occupied territories more than doubled between 1970 and 1980, making it the fourth fastest growing economy in the world. In 1993, the World Bank reported:
     “The economy of the [occupied territories] grew rapidly between 1968 and 1980 (average annual increase of 7% and 9 percent in real per capita GDP and GNP respectively), triggered by a number of factors, including the rapid integration with Israel and the regional economic boom. In the early years of the occupation, there was a sharp expansion in the employment of unskilled Palestinian labor in Israel and a rise in incomes, which in turn spurred domestic economic activity, especially in the construction sector. Earnings of Palestinian workers in Israel rose from negligible levels in 1968 to almost one quarter of GNP in 1975.
[Emphasis mine]
     “According to the World Bank, economic growth in the disputed territories continued even as Israel experienced an economic slowdown in the mid-1970s as many Palestinians were able to find work in other countries in the Middle East:
     “Since unskilled labor played a central role in the growth, the poor shared in this growth, and as a result, in all likelihood, there was a significant reduction in poverty in this period. Household conditions improved substantially, with a several-fold rise in the possession of consumer durables and significant increases in access to municipal water and electricity connections. Life expectancy increased by a decade, and there was significant progress in reducing infant mortality. School enrollments also rose during this time. These advances mirrored substantial improvements in income levels and in living conditions all through the region during the 1970s. [Emphasis mine]
     “Economic decline followed the onset of the Intifada which began in December 1987. The Palestinian economy suffered another blow after the first Gulf War, which disrupted the economies of the Gulf Region, where many Palestinians found work. (Palestinian support for Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait resulted in many Palestinians being forced from that country after the war.)
     "Just as Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip enjoyed substantial increases in well-being under Israeli rule before the Intifada shattered economic relations between Israel and Palestinians, the increase in living standards for Palestinians in the 1990s was set back sharply as a result of the terror war launched against Israel in 2000.” [Emphasis mine] (Ref. 6)

     Today, the “unemployment rate of ‘Palestinians’ in the Gaza Strip, Samaria and Judea, particularly among the young, is unsustainably high. The problem in Gaza is particularly acute. The basic cause of the unemployment crisis is self-inflicted. Continuous terror attacks on Israeli civilians have forced Israel to restrict travel between Israel proper and the territories of Gaza, Samaria and Judea. The border wall is one manifestation. Others are the establishment of check points and the restricted access from the Mediterranean.” (Ref. 1)

     Today, there is no direct road or rail link between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Upon the formation of “Palestina”, such a link could be built. During past negotiations, the parties agreed in principle to create a link between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. (Bill Clinton referred to it as "permanent safe passage" in the 2000 Clinton Parameters.) This transportation link will likely be a combined high-speed rail and superhighway corridor, up to 200 feet wide with utilities such as pipes and cables.[7] The combined rail/road link would be about 25 to 30 miles in length from the northern portion of the Gaza Strip to the southwestern edge of the West Bank – roughly from Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip to Dura near Hebron in the West Bank.

     Besides the obvious long-term benefits to the nation of “Palestina” of a transportation “bridge” between ”Southern Palestina” (now the Gaza Strip) and ”Central Palestina” (now the West Bank), there would be significant short term benefits. There would be construction jobs to help alleviate the chronic unemployment problems of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and, potentially, opportunities for engineering and construction companies to be established. Later, there would be work for transportation and maintenance companies and workers.

     A study conducted in 2015 illustrated the economic value of peace between Israel and the Arabs of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The study concluded that the citizens of “Palestina” could gain billions of dollars from making peace with Israel.
     The RAND Corporation interviewed some 200 officials from the region and elsewhere during more than two years of research into the costs of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Its main finding was that following a peace agreement, ”Palestinians” would gain $50 billion in their annual income. Thus a two-state solution would produce a $1,000 rise in annual income for an average “Palestinian” amounting to a 36% increase.[8] That was in 2015. Here in 2021, the increase would be still greater.

     The Abraham Accords - brought about by President Donald Trump - offer substantial potential benefits to the people of “Palestina” - assuming they can and will rid themselves of the tyrants that now control them. The United Arab Emirates recently announced plans to invest $10 billion in Israel, targeting key sectors such as energy, water, and healthcare, a reminder of the exceptionally enthusiastic and wide-ranging normalization occurring between Israel and the Emirates. Three other Arab states—Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan—forged ties with Israel after the UAE led the way.
     While Israel’s normalization with these countries is mutually beneficial, “Palestinians” may be the unexpected beneficiaries of Israel’s improving relations with the Arab world. Though the “Palestinian” dictators were vociferous critics of Israel’s normalization deals, Israeli-Gulf business cooperation could potentially boost the “Palestinian” economy - should the “Palestinian” rulers allow it or should the “Palestinian” people rid themselves of their tyrannical dictators and take advantage of the opportunities afforded them by the Abraham Accords.
     There are several ways in which “Palestina” entrepreneurs and workers could play a valuable role in Israeli-Gulf business cooperation. For example, trilateral partnerships might bring together Gulf Arab capital, cutting-edge Israeli technology, and “Palestinian” entrepreneurs, workers, and researchers. Many “Palestinians” have a working proficiency in Hebrew, in addition to speaking Arabic and being a part of Arab culture, so they could facilitate partnerships between Israelis and Gulf Arabs.
     The Middle East Regional Cooperation Program (MERC) was established in 1981 to promote research cooperation between Egyptian and Israeli scientists after their two countries signed the Camp David Accords. The US-funded program expanded in 1993 to include cooperation between scientists from Israel and Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. MERC projects focus on agriculture, water conservation, the environment and health.
     Partnerships with “Palestinian” researchers have been among the largest recipients of MERC funds. Several of the most successful projects have involved cooperation between researchers from Israel, the West Bank, and one or more Arab states. In the wake of Israel’s peace agreements with the UAE and Bahrain, efforts could be made to encourage and facilitate UAE and Bahraini funding of such cooperative trilateral research and its potential commercial spinoffs.
     Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZs) are another existing example of how “Palestina” could benefit from Israel’s improving relations with the broader Arab world. QIZs were established by Congress in 1996 to foster regional economic integration. This initiative allows Egypt and Jordan, Israel’s first peace partners, to export products to the US duty-free so long as the products contain Israeli inputs. As of 2019, Egypt had fifteen QIZs and Jordan had thirteen, which together accounted for over $1 billion in exports per year and provided a livelihood for some three hundred thousand people.
     Creating meaningful jobs in “Palestina” would be a winning proposition with stabilizing effects for the whole region. Today, “Palestinian” unemployment is 26.6 percent according to World Bank estimates, with the West Bank at 18.2 percent and Gaza at 48.5 percent. The Palestinian Authority’s obstructionism has been a major contributor, with the PA refusing for most of last year to accept monthly tax transfers from Israel as a protest against Israel’s now-suspended plans to annex West Bank territory.
     Ultimately, any successful plan for Gulf-Israeli-“Palestinian” economic cooperation will hinge on the people of “Palestina” ridding themselves of their current terrorist leadership. The opportunity is there and it would be in the interest of the Gulf, the American, and the ordinary “Palestinian” people to support the subsequent economic development of “Palestina”.[9]

     The opportunities for economic growth in “Southern Palestina” (the Gaza Strip) are enormous. Under Israeli control, there were burgeoning flower-growing and vegetable-growing industries that exported the goods grown there. The Mediterranean Sea and its beaches, which form one border of the Gaza Strip, offer prospects for a highly profitable fishing industry and inviting seaside resorts. Also, a seaport could be established on the coast of the Gaza Strip, providing “Palestina” with a means of importing/exporting goods and attracting cruise ships and tourists.

     One plan for the economic development of “Southern Palestina” proposes the establishment of a joint Egypt / “Palestina” “Free Industrial Zone” at the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, located at or near the site of the former Israeli town of Yamit in the northern Sinai. This zone would be expanded inland and offshore onto a large artificial island with a connecting causeway, which would also serve as a jet aircraft runway and with a deep-water port. The island located at the southern end of the coast of the Gaza Strip would be used by both Egypt and “Palestina” and would serve as the principal port for “Palestina”. It would be expected to attract significant investments in productive assets such as factories, logistic centers, power plants, communications facilities, assembly and warehousing centers, and financial services. Here again, there would be enormous short-term benefits in terms of employment and the formation of businesses to plan, oversee and control the Zone’s development.[10]

     If and when the nation of “Palestina” were to come into being, could the “Palestinian” people there receive aid and cooperation from the State of Israel? The answer to this question may be seen in what Israel did for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip immediately after its takeover of these territories in the 1967 Six-Day War. A peaceful and prosperous “Palestina” on it borders would be greatly to Israel’s benefit.

     Following the 1967 war, even though “it was more than likely that the greater part of these territories would not remain permanently under Israeli rule, large sums were invested in their development. Roads were built, the educational system extended {see earlier remarks about Israel initiating the development of the West Bank and Gaza Strip colleges and universities}, modern methods of agriculture introduced, elections held for city and village councils, the export and import of goods encouraged, homes built for formerly nomadic Bedouin tribes.” . . . “there was also an unexpected economic effect.” . . . The under-employment which had sapped the morale of the West Bank under the Jordanian occupation ended abruptly.” . . . “Scores of cars from Gaza {could} be seen daily in Tel Aviv, and hundreds from all over ‘the territories’ on every Israeli highway. The Israeli market buys up furniture . . . as fast as Samarian carpenters can turn it out. West Bank shops are stocked in the main, with Israeli-made goods.” . . . “The economies of Israel and the formerly Arab-administered territories are in fact quite largely complementary, and trade, which normally moves along the channels of least resistance now flows strongly between them.” (Ref. 11; Pgs 402-403)

     Some six years after the 1967 War, on the 25th anniversary of Israel’s independence, the situation in the West Bank and the Gaza strip was described as follows:

     “. . . the Arab population ‘is more prosperous, and probably freer, than at any time before, bound by increasingly close economic and personal ties with Israel. Something like 40,000 of these Palestinians work each day in Israel.’ The situation of Gaza had been transformed. ‘Where formerly unemployment was endemic and terrorism rife, today every able-bodied person can find work either in Israel or in the Gaza Strip itself . . . Every Palestinian Arab has been able to see for himself the benefits of normal, constructive co-existence with Israel, and it is daily experience of good neighborly relations in practice that is more likely than all the resolutions of the United Nations or the best-intentioned mediation of outsiders to bring about peace between Israel and the Arab world.' ” (Ref. 11; Pgs 421-422)

     And then came Hamas and the Abbas led Palestinian Authority! In 1992, Yitzhak Rabin stated what was becoming all-too obvious: “We have been fated to live together on the same patch of land . . . you {the Arabs of Gaza and the West Bank} have been living under a delusion. Your leaders have led you through lies and deceit. They have missed every opportunity, rejected all the proposals for a settlement, and have taken you from one tragedy to another” (Ref. 11; Pge 453)

     All of what’s been written plainly describes ”what could have been” and, more importantly, points to “what can be” in a “Palestina” freed from anti-Israel and anti-Semitic tyranny. What is needed is an Arab/Muslim leadership that will place the welfare of the people in “Palestina” ahead of a hatred of Jews and Israel; and a leadership that will work with Israel to develop a joint economy that would benefit both nations.

     This nation of “Palestina” would have the enormous benefit of not having to maintain a standing army – that would have to remain the sole responsibility of Israel for some time to come. The massive amount of money spent on arms, military salaries and associated benefits would all have to be borne by Israel. But Israel is already doing this. Furthermore, the cost to Israel of providing for the defense of “Palestina” would be far less than the current cost of having to defend Israel from terrorism originating in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The result: a win – win situation for both Israel and “Palestina”!
  1. If the “Palestinians” Had Made Peace With Israel 70 Years Ago, David Burton, Son of Eliyahu: Article 357,
    10 May 2019.
  2. Arab–Israeli General Armistice Agreements (1949), ENCYCLOPEDIA.com, Accessed 15 April 2021.
  3. Israeli-Arabs Don’t Want to Live in a Palestinian-Arab State, David Burton, Son of Eliyahu: Article 411,
    30 April 2020.
  4. Analysis: The real reason Arabs in Israel do not want to live in ‘Palestine’, Khaled Abu Toameh,
    World Israel News, 4 February 2020.
  5. Palestinian refugees, Wikipedia, Accessed 16 April 2021.
  6. Post-War Economic Growth in the West Bank and Gaza, http://sixdaywar.org/content/growth.asp, 2007.
  7. How to Connect the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Dan Rothem, The Atlantic, 27 October 2011.
  8. How much money is a Mideast peace deal worth?, CBS News, 8 June 2015.
  9. Gulf-Israeli economic cooperation can benefit the Palestinians, Orde Kittrie & Varsha Koduvayur,
    The Frontier Post, March 2021.
  10. A Plan for the Economic Development for the Gaza Strip: Free Industrial Zone on Land and on Artificial Islands, Ernst Frankel, Roger Williams University, 15 April 2004.
  11. Israel – A History, Martin Gilbert, Harper Perennial; ISBN 978-0-688-12363, 2008.

  28 October 2021 {Article 499; Islam_45}    
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