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Monday, September 20, 2010

Fayyadism is not the answer

Nathan Brown of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace follows up on an earlier paper and explains why Fayyadism is not the long-term answer to resolving the problems of the 'Palestinians.' Here is an excerpt.
If Fayyadism is not building a state, what is the alternative?

My earlier paper was long on diagnosis and short on cure. And there is no easy alternative to the current policy. Indeed, I would not present any policy suggestions as an alternative in a literal sense: there is no reason to abandon current policies. But there is a desperate need to supplement them and stop the unpersuasive charade that they are sufficient in themselves to move toward a solution.

More specifically, I do not suggest that Fayyadism be abandoned (though the most obvious authoritarian practices such as illegal arrests and political purges pursued in the West Bank should probably be rethought immediately because of their high political costs). Nor do I suggest that Western support for Palestinian institution building be abandoned. Indeed, the sudden high-level U.S. attention to the details of Palestinian institutional development is a welcome departure from the Clinton years (when there was a marked indifference at top levels) and the Bush years (when senior leaders gave strong verbal but virtually no practical support outside of the security sector).

A variety of approaches are available. My Carnegie colleague Michele Dunne has sketched out one that integrates Israeli–Palestinian diplomacy with attention to Palestinian politics. A year and a half ago, I offered a more radical proposal that involved postponing conflict-ending diplomacy but also called for far greater attention to Palestinian political realities. What we share is a belief that reviving Palestinian political life is vital to any attempt to resolve or even to manage the conflict. The existing approach, based on an assumption that a comprehensive Israeli–Palestinian agreement can be negotiated and then used as a device for ousting Hamas from control of Gaza is implausible. Yet it has been the basis of United States policy since 2007 and has been endorsed by Fayyad.

No mechanism has been publicly offered for reuniting the Palestinian Authority other than elections—which, given the current circumstances, are highly unlikely. Supporters of Fayyadism who decry the undemocratic actions of Hamas (on the plausible grounds that it seized power in Gaza and has blocked the work of the electoral commission) do not explain why they think Hamas could be convinced or coerced into allowing a referendum or national elections. And the actions of the Ramallah government (which showed little respect for the results of the 2006 elections, claimed constitutional authorities they clearly did not possess, decreed an electoral law that bars Hamas from running, and cancelled local elections for specious reasons) hardly give it the democratic high ground.

But if the present approach is unworkable, it is not clear that any quick fix will work. It must be frankly acknowledged that attention to Palestinian reconciliation would probably make progress on Israel–Palestinian negotiations impossible for the present. An approach that takes Palestinian politics seriously and prioritizes rather than postpones the issues of Gaza and Hamas would be difficult in its design, uncertain in its effectiveness, distasteful in its implications, and necessarily slow in its progress. But at least it would be grounded in the realities of today rather than pretending that the conditions of the 1990s—a viable peace process and a slowly emerging Palestinian polity—still obtain.

If Fayyadism is limited in what it can accomplish, why has it generated so much support? Do international backers have a solid appreciation of the realities on the ground?

Most observers close to the ground—even those who are, like me, respectful of Fayyad personally—note the limitations of what his program has done and can accomplish. While I focused on law and education, those whose expertise lies in other areas report findings analogous to mine.

For instance, in the economic sphere, many observers note that the Fayyad cabinet has presided over impressive rates of growth but note deep structural problems (a reliance on foreign assistance, continued restrictions on mobility, general political fragility) that collectively suggest we are witnessing a partial recovery rather than the flourishing of sustainable long-term economic development. For instance, a recent report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development noted:
The economy of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) continued to perform well below potential in 2009. There were signs of improvement in GDP growth and other indicators, but these need to be interpreted cautiously in view of the wider context. Territorial fragmentation, inequalities and welfare divergence continued to grow, aid dependence deepened, and access to natural and economic resources shrank. Private investment continued to be hampered by mobility restrictions and the risk of introducing new restrictions at any moment.
Similarly, the International Crisis Group focuses on the security sector and advances a respectful warning:
The undeniable success of the reform agenda has been built in part on popular fatigue and despair—the sense that the situation had so deteriorated that Palestinians are prepared to swallow quite a bit for the sake of stability, including deepened security cooperation with their foe. Yet, as the situation normalizes over time, they could show less indulgence. Should Israeli–Palestinian negotiations collapse—and, with them, any remaining hope for an agreement—Palestinian security forces might find it difficult to keep up their existing posture.
The reform agenda also was built on the intra-Palestinian split which, in the short term, has helped foster greater PA–IDF cooperation. Still, the intensity and scope of the anti-Hamas campaign carry many important consequences. They have undercut the PA’s claim to be the true national authority, weakened President Abbas’s mandate to speak in the name of all Palestinians and diminished prospects for reconciliation, thereby both complicating Israeli–Palestinian negotiations and enhancing Hamas’s incentive to disrupt them. In the longer run, the split with Hamas and disregard for democratic norms are thus deeply at odds with the emergence of a strong, representative, legitimate national movement upon which Palestinians, but also Israelis, depend to achieve and sustain a historic peace agreement.

Yet if analysts and those on the ground recognize the limits of Fayyadism, there are many who are so invested in its success (and many as well who are invested in its failure) that they tend to read reality only through the lenses of their wishes. Those who warmly greeted my paper for their own political reasons ranged from settler blogs in the West Bank to the pro-Hamas Palestinian daily in Gaza—though the latter found no room in its summary for my description of Hamas as a “bloody-minded” movement. On the other hand, Fayyad himself dismissed it as “childish.”1
As I understand Brown's argument, he is trying to call attention to some of the elephants in the room, particularly Hamas. He is saying that for a democratic 'Palestinian state' to emerge, they have to stop negotiating on its emergence altogether, and instead focus on reconciling Fatah and Hamas so that some form of democracy can be restored and democratic institutions can be built.

Of course, Israel - and possibly the United States - would object to a Fatah - Hamas reconciliation at this time, because Hamas has not accepted Israel's right to exist and still hopes to destroy the Jewish state through terrorism. And the truth that Brown and others do not acknowledge - because it would mean the end of the 'peace process' - is that Hamas is not likely to accept Israel's existence in your lifetime or mine. Then again, for that matter, neither is Fatah likely to accept Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.

That leaves us with two alternatives: Stop the negotiations and run the risk that the 'Palestinians' embark on another violent uprising, or continue the negotiations under the current charade and wait for a larger blowup later. While neither alternative is palatable, I'd rather the first alternative than the second - especially when the second alternative could come against the backdrop of a nuclear Iran.

What is unsaid but clear is that the Obama administration's obsession with the creation of a 'Palestinian state' is bound to meet with disappointment and has made violence more likely.

Read the whole thing.


At 8:20 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

A Palestinian state is not likely to happen.

Imagine 2 million Arabs being forced to settle for less than what they would like to really have - a state from the River to the Sea - all to placate the dhimmi Jews with whom they don't want to share it with.

That's not a prescription for a lasting peace. I see the current status quo, punctuated by periodic outbreaks of Arab violence, to last for a very long time.

And no - in the long run Fayyadism is the not the answer to the problems that bedevil the Palestinian Arabs.


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