2010: The Year of Institution Building

I mentioned the need for strong Palestinian institutions in my post yesterday.  The basic argument was a call to continue the top-down process (working with Netanyahu and Abbas) while concurrently pushing a bottom-up process (building Palestinian institutions in order to create conditions for a viable state).  In addition to Hussein Ibish, we can now add Jeff Feltman to the list of supporters for this idea.  Note that the bottom-up approach is not new – it is central to the Obama plan.  Indeed, PM Salam Fayyad has already released a comprehensive plan for institution building and work has begun on a new planned Palestinian city.  The bottom-up approach has simply received much less attention and dedication than it deserves.

Feltman spoke at the Hudson Institute earlier this week and underlined the necessity for bottom-up progress as well as progress in security (HT to Laura Rosen):

Second area is security. The Palestinians need security. The Israelis need security. But the Palestinian security performance – should I say, a good Palestinian security performance is absolutely essential to being able to move ahead on the negotiating track toward a peace – toward a peace track. And the Palestinians need to feel secure as well. So I would put security as a second track. There’s been some success – there’s been frankly quite a bit of success on this track when you talk about – when you talk about security in the West Bank.

The third track is exactly what Elliott was talking about, which is the institutional development. You can call it ground-up or whatever, supporting Salam – supporting Prime

Minister Salam Fayyad’s plan to build Palestinian institutions that are worthy of their name, that can take – that can mean that the Palestinian state, when it comes into being, is a functioning, accountable state in which the citizens feel their needs are being met and in which they are participating. [Here are Feltman’s remarks in full]

I completely agree with the need to improve Palestinian institutions, but I am a little wary about his call for security.  Of course, Palestinians and Israeli need to feel (and actually be) secure.  If that were to happen it would represent a massive leap in progress.  Israel’s threats are clear – terrorism.  But Palestine’s threats are more complicated.  Abbas needs to make sure that Palestinians are safe from the abuses of settlers and Israeli forces and he needs to protect his land from the encroaching settlements.

To achieve Israeli security, Israel can simply continue the heavy-handed occupation of Palestine.  But Palestinian security is based on the completion of a viable and fair peace.  It is good that Feltman talks about security, but not all secure situations are the same.  Israeli security is the requisite to peace while Palestinian security might be the result.

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