Palestinian State-Building

Posted: July 29, 2010 by Scott Kistler in Politics, The World-Wide World
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Hussein Ibish writes that the Palestinian Authority is making making substantial efforts “to create Palestine as a practical reality.”  A recent economic development conference, the second of its kind, discussed “high-growth sectors, including information and communications technology, housing, and tourism.”

I’ve heard quite a bit about Salaam Fayyad’s program of institution-building, and I was glad to read at least a bit more detailed description of this approach:

The most important of these initiatives is the state- and institution-building program adopted by Fayyad’s cabinet last August. This program marks an attempt to build the administrative, infrastructural, and economic framework for a Palestinian state — not only in spite of the occupation, but as a means of confronting it. The plan calls for every PA ministry to meet a series of administrative and institutional goals, from economic and infrastructural developments to good governance and transparency measures. A budget document released in January added even more details to the program. The idea is that, if you build the state, it will come….

Palestinians have also adopted nonviolent tactics designed to confront the occupation — particularly the PA’s boycott of settlement goods and mass protests against abusive occupation practices, such as the West Bank separation barrier. These tactics are designed to ensure that both Israelis and Palestinians understand that the state-building approach is not, as is sometimes claimed, a form of collaboration or “beautifying” of the occupation, but rather a sophisticated form of resistance to it. This approach also seeks to achieve clarity on the status of the occupied territories and confront Israelis with a simple question: Is this land going to be part of our state, or is it a part of yours?

This strategy is making quiet but significant progress. Last year, the PA completed more than 1,000 community development programs. It has created the nucleus of a Palestinian central bank and developed a transparent and accountable system of public financing. Hundreds of major development and public-private initiatives are under way, including at least two major telecommunications companies and the first planned Palestinian city. With significant international support, the framework of the Palestinian state is starting to take shape before our eyes.

The bedrock of the state-building program is the new security services trained by multinational forces Palestinians have deployed 2,600 officers in five major West Bank cities, ensuring unprecedented levels of law and order and facilitating the removal of a number of Israeli checkpoints. Israelis themselves have commended the effectiveness of the forces and praised their security coordination with Israeli forces. The combination of security improvements, increased access and mobility for Palestinians, and the PA’s economic development projects led to a growth rate of 8.5 percent in the West Bank last year, one of the highest in the recession-plagued world economy. Perhaps even more significantly, about half of the PA’s budget is now provided by Palestinian taxes and not international support.

Ibish also recognizes some of the difficulties.  Hamas is entrenched in Gaza and is a bitter rival of the people who control the PA.  And he is not sure if the current Israeli government is open to talks.  But his optimism about the state-building approach is worth noting, and this will be an interesting development to track.

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