Monday, June 21, 2010

I'm Looking and I Don't See Any Palestinian State-Building Going On

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By Barry Rubin

I read an article on Foreign Policy blog which, like many things I see on the Middle East, convinces me of the precise opposite conclusion to what the author wants me to think. The article, by Hussein Ibish, a Palestinian activist in the United States, is entitled: "While No One's Looking, the Palestinians Are Building a State: Now it's time for the rest of the world to pitch in. "

Well, I'm looking and I don't see any Palestinian state-building going on. Yes, there is some improvement in the West Bank security forces, including U.S. training, but the changes are not enormous. And at any moment, these forces could launch a war on Israel or start fighting each other. Yes, there is some economic improvement happening but it's based on foreign aid money and much of it is unproductive (i.e., real estate and housing speculation). And again, it could be blown up any moment in a new Palestinian-Israeli or Fatah-Hamas war or just major instability.

A more accurate title for this article would be: The Rest of the World has Pitched in, Paid Lots of Money, and the Palestinians Still Aren't Building a State!" The article provides not a single example of any material action being done to create strong institutions or do anything else that a state requires. Indeed, the only actual action was the passing of a resolution saying that the Palestinian Authority is building a state.

Here's the link but if I were you I wouldn't waste the time on it. Incidentally, his claim that half the PA budget comes from Palestinian taxation is totally ridiculous. But then any nonsense will do to drop on the West. The Western journalistic and intellectual discussion today is all too often like restaurant patrons who will gobble up offal gladly and proclaim it haute cuisine.

What's happening, though, and that's why this article is of some significance, is that the PA is trying to build a foundation for a unilateral declaration of independence in a year or two. That doesn't mean it will ever happen but rather than negotiate with Israel, a process requiring compromises and concessions, the PA prefers to have the world recognize it as a state without having to do anything: end the conflict, agree to resettle Palestinian refugees in Palestine, recognize Israel as a Jewish state, provide Israel with security guarantees, and so on.

Remember that the Palestinian Authority originated about 17 years ago. That means babies born then are now adults and the PA has done remarkably little to prepare for stable and well-governed statehood, not to mention losing the Gaza Strip to Hamas. And how can places like Foreign Policy blog run articles without a single real argument to prove its thesis?

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (PalgraveMacmillan). His new edited books include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; The West and the Middle East (four volumes); and The Muslim Brotherhood. To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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