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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The only Arab 'country' with economic growth is ... the 'Palestinian Authority'

The New York Times' Tom Friedman has a dismal column in which he summarizes a report that was recently released about human development in the Arab world. The report updates the one released in 2002, which highlighted things like Greece translating five times as many books into Greek as the entire Arab world translated into Arabic, and the GDP of Spain being more than that of all the Arab countries combined. Friedman says the new report presents an even bleaker picture than the one presented in 2002, with highlights including high unemployment (more than double the world average), lack of personal security and a burgeoning population (60% under the age of 25) with no prospect of supporting itself.

There's only one place in the entire Arab world where the picture is bright according to Friedman: The 'Palestinian Authority.' And he attributes that bright picture to something he calls Fayyadism.
Fayyadism is based on the simple but all-too-rare notion that an Arab leader’s legitimacy should be based not on slogans or rejectionism or personality cults or security services, but on delivering transparent, accountable administration and services.

Fayyad, a former finance minister who became prime minister after Hamas seized power in Gaza in June 2007, is unlike any Arab leader today. He is an ardent Palestinian nationalist, but his whole strategy is to say: the more we build our state with quality institutions — finance, police, social services — the sooner we will secure our right to independence. I see this as a challenge to “Arafatism,” which focused on Palestinian rights first, state institutions later, if ever, and produced neither.

Things are truly getting better in the West Bank, thanks to a combination of Fayyadism, improved Palestinian security and a lifting of checkpoints by Israel. In all of 2008, about 1,200 new companies registered for licenses here. In the first six months of this year, almost 900 have registered. According to the I.M.F., the West Bank economy should grow by 7 percent this year.

Fayyad, famous here for his incorruptibility, says his approach is “to tell people who you are, what you are about and what you intend to do and then actually do it.” At a time when all the big ideologies have failed to deliver for Arabs, Fayyad says he wants a government based on “legitimacy by achievement.”

Something quite new is happening here. And given the centrality of the Palestinian cause in Arab eyes, if Fayyadism works, maybe it could start a trend in this part of the world — one that would do the most to improve Arab human security — good, accountable government.
As many of you know, I am currently reading George Gilder's The Israel Question. One of the central themes of Gilder's book is that anti-Semitism is caused by jealousy. The anti-Semites are jealous of the Jews' intellectual, economic, scientific and social achievements. Gilder therefore argues that how you see Israel shows how you look upon human achievement.

It is obvious from what Friedman reports that the Arab world has plenty for which to envy Israel, with its fast-growing western-style economy. The Arab countries would like nothing more than to bring about the end of the Jewish state. But they don't want a 'Palestinian state' either - all their protests to the world to the contrary. Ultimately, if God forbid the Arabs ever succeeded in destroying Israel, the land mass would likely be divided among Egypt, Syria and Jordan (not Lebanon - that would become part of 'Greater Syria').

Similarly, the Arab countries, Hamas, and many people in the 'Palestinian Authority' would like nothing more than to get rid of Fayyad. Fayyad shows that it is possible for an Arab entity to be ruled as something other than a tyranny. Fayyad shows that there is validity to the notion of building the institutions and the economy before you create a state. With Fayyad in charge, a 'Palestinian state' might not be an economic and social basket case like the rest of the Arab world. One of the things Israel fears about the current Fatah conference is that it will weaken Fayyad.
Israel's concern is that the new leadership will not only be more radical but would want to see one of its own - a member of Fatah - as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, a post currently held by Fayad, a world-renowned economist and leader of the Third Way Party, a small centrist faction that won two seats in the 2006 elections.

"Fayad has been instrumental in the recent developments in the West Bank," one senior defense official said. "He has played a key role in Israeli and Palestinian efforts to improve the quality of life in the West Bank, including efforts to revamp the PA security forces."

If Fayad is replaced, an Israeli official said, these efforts could be undermined and face setbacks.
Ultimately, Fayyad or anyone like him won't be in charge. Hamas and most of Fatah will never allow it even if a 'Palestinian state' ever happens. And that's precisely why Israel cannot allow a 'Palestinian state' to happen. Not now and not ever.


At 9:52 PM, Blogger Soccer Dad said...

Part of Gilder's argument also is that the Palestinian economy was a lot better off from 1967 to 1993 than it has been since. The time of the occupation was better for Palestinians than the time under their own rule.

Of course even Fayyadism works, there's one thing that Friedman would never credit: Operation Defensive Shield.

At 10:09 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

Soccer Dad,

Actually, I think Gilder uses 1987 (the start of the 'first intifadeh') as the cutoff point rather than 1993.

But your points are well-taken.

At 10:40 PM, Blogger Andre (Canada) said...

You call Friedman's column "dismal" but then you go on agreeing with what he says about Fayyad being a different sort of leader. Why exactly is it a bad thing that for once, a Palestinian leader is making his mark not based on how much he hates Jews or how many terrorist acts he has committed?

At 11:17 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Salim Fayyad could be the rare Arab who is true moderate. The West and Israel like him for the reason he wants to get things done, improve the life of his people and build the foundations for a responsible state. The monkey wrench is that he does not hold real power and most Palestinians don't want statehood; they want Israel's destruction. In both the short and long term Fayyadism is going nowhere precisely because there is no political constituency for it either in the PA or in the rest of the Arab World.

At 12:00 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

Andre (Canada),

I didn't mean that Friedman's column was dismal. I meant that the situation he described was dismal throughout the Arab world except in the 'Palestinian Authority.' Sorry if that wasn't clear.

At 12:35 AM, Blogger R-MEW Editors said...

Fayyad is one of those "technocrats" I frequently refer to as someone who might be trusted to administer the Pals civil affairs in the event that Hamas and Fatah were dismantled.

What Friedman conveniently forgets however (Friedman is famous for suffering from selective amnesia), is that Fayyad experiences computer glitches.

At 9:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it is dangerous to give a reason for jew hate

the only reason is...eisav soneh es yaakov...thats it

At 10:22 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

Bacci 40,

Gilder is a born-again Christian who loves Jews. He's not a Jew bragging about our accomplishments.


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