Are Palestinians Ready for Statehood?

Can a UN vote erase this?

With the September UN vote quickly approaching, there has been an abundance of articles written about what the vote means, what comes next, what the legal consequences would be and about every other possible tangent – including a series by Chris; spoiler, he thinks it is a political ploy. Without getting to far into the issue (if that is possible) I want to bring back an article that I wrote a while ago about the concept of Fayyadism. Considering that the UN vote is the culmination of a two-year effort by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to prepare the Palestinian territories for statehood, many are viewing the upcoming UN vote as a referendum on whether the PA is ready to govern an independent state – thus contradicting the popular Israeli claim that the PA is unable to effectively govern. In this way, the UN vote is little more than a symbolic vote that ignores the realities on the ground – realities that prove that the PA is quite unable to govern Palestine.

In my previous article I wrote: “Israeli restrictions on movement and the continued adherence to the antiquated Oslo era designations of Area A, B and C have created pockets of economic success within the greater fabric of near economic collapse.” Put in other terms, the economic markers that have led both the UN, the World Bank and the IMF to declare that the PA is capable of governing Palestine, are dependent on the few successes that are clustered in the small urban Bantustans under Palestinian control. The areas that are under Israeli control (Area C) see no evidence of the grand plan at the base of Fayyadism. The UN report, the IMF report, the World Bank report and the soon-to-be UN recognition of the Palestinian state will be based not on reality, but what these states and organizations believe could be possible were Israel to end the occupation of the West Bank and Palestine.

This is often overlooked and it is assumed that if Israel left the West Bank and Gaza, the Palestinian Authority would be able to step in immediately and capably. From Time:

Last spring, a French diplomat claimed that “to have such results in such a short time [was] unprecedented, particularly for a nonstate. The Israelis’ arguments according to which Palestinian people are either terrorists or corrupt or incompetent are not valid anymore. Fayyad has laid the foundations for a real state.”

In Ramallah, Jericho, Nablus, Hebron and other PA controlled areas, Fayyad has done a commendable job preparing for statehood. Unfortunately, these areas represent only 17% of the West Bank; the remaining 83% of the West Bank is either severely under-developed or effectively annexed by Israeli settlers. Moreover, the progress that has been made has been completely donor-driven and donor-dependent. Again, from Time:

Such [international] assistance exceeded $7 billion between 2008 and ’10, which corresponds to the world’s highest allocation per inhabitant after the one granted to the tiny republics of the Pacific Ocean such as Palau and the Marshall Islands. “In a country that nearly has no control over its economic resources, whether it’s earth, air, water or borders, it is complete nonsense to talk about development,” admits Sam Bahour, a management consultant.

When it comes to the country’s institutions, despite visible progress in terms of transparency, Fayyad’s efforts were never truly made a reality. Even if the European Union invested tens of millions of dollars in the creation of Palestinian custom officers, Israel still refuses them to be deployed to the Allenby Bridge border between the West Bank and Jordan, like they did in the 1990s.

“On paper, we’ve achieved many things, and we’ve trained ourselves to be as perfectly operational as any other state, but the problem is that Israel won’t give us the space to put our skills into practice,” says Hatem Yousef, the Palestinian Prime Minister’s economic adviser.

“Building a state in Palestine is a virtual experiment,” adds a foreign expert. “No matter how hard you try, reality always threatens to crush your efforts.”

Regardless of what happens as a result of the UN vote, reality will likely crush the efforts of the Palestinian politicians. Certainly, a successful vote in the UN will lead to more interesting discussions about the need to end the occupation and the real or imagined capabilities of the Palestinian Authority, but it will do nothing to push Palestine any closer to statehood. With Israeli checkpoints and guns preventing the Palestinian Authority from developing in most of the West Bank (not to mention the internal divides preventing a PA presence in Gaza) Fayyad and the PA will be unable to really build a state. In this sense, the billions of dollars in international aid that has been pouring into PA coffers over the years has led to few real successes, but very large hypothetical advances.

Should the UN vote favor the Palestinians it will be yet another theoretical victory for Palestine.

Photo from Desert Peace

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2 thoughts on “Are Palestinians Ready for Statehood?

  1. The Palestinians need to have some movement regarding statehood. The status of a Palestinian state has to be resolved outside of the context of Israeli annexation re-population of Arab lands by settlers.

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