Z STREET Conference: Rethinking the End Game – May 4th, 2011
Thank you Lori and Asaf for putting together this conference, a wonderful initiative.
I think when you guys planned this conference you couldn’t have guessed that it would have taken place on such a dramatic day we are meeting two hours after this agreement that was signed in Cairo that is a real potential game changer I think you organized this conference because we are only a few months a way from this train wreck at the United Nations where Palestinians intend to press for an international endorsement of an independent Palestinian State and admission to the United Nations. They are going to try first with the Security Council and if the Obama administration vetoes there which I think they will they will turn to the General Assembly under the so called uniting for peace formula it’s a whole story in its own right not out subject today.
This morning this signed this agreement and afternoon Cairo Time and Mahmoud Abbas said that we have turned forever the black page of division after this Hamas only conflict is with Israel not with Fatah pretty hopeful words. A short time after Yuval Diskin who was until recently was ad of the GSS in the West Bank and certainly knows Palestinian politics gave a more skeptical assessment saying that he doubted this agreement will hold.
Well I want to pick up where Gal left off. Gal did a brilliant job in my judgment of assessing the economic viability of Palestinian State and I would share all his conclusions I would like to say a few words about the political viability and also about Political readiness issues people talk about capacity for governess the recent World Bank report used that phrase a great deal and argued that the Palestinians greatly improved their capacity for governance and that really reflects confidence in Salam Fayyad as Gal also said the Palestinian Prime Minister but to put this in some perspective.
HISTORY OF ARAB PALESTINIAN GOVERNANCE
Permit me to take you back and look at the past decade of Palestinian governance and bring it up to date and ask about the capacity for governance today. Let’s start with the collapse of the Camp David talks on June 3, 2001,when Arafat said no to President Clinton and the Oslo process came to a great pause if not an end, and there was a great international sturm und drang about what do we do now almost immediately after the collapse of the Camp David Talks the Europeans became restless and we started hearing demands from European leaders for deadlines as to when we would see a Palestinian State that it should be created. This was kind of a repudiation of negotiations, as you can’t dictate the outcome of a negotiation that hasn’t occurred. The implication of the concept of deadline is that somehow the international community would somehow impose a deadline of a Palestinian State.
And progressively we have seen a buying-in in Europe of the concept of a deadline or some people call it a date certain for the creation a Palestinian State. President Bush was presented with this challenge in 2002, the original idea for a road map, people forget, was a European demand for a road map that would lead to the creation of a Palestinian State by a date certain: that was the whole the idea. The Bush administration, which is often criticized by Democrats for not having a very sophisticated diplomacy, actually handled this very adroitly and got very little credit for what they did. What they did was to completely co-opt the European position by agreeing to a target of three years negotiations for the creation of a Palestinian State, but not a deadline. And they got the Europeans to sign on the to the idea of something called the Quartet - that was an instrument to harmonize the policies of the US, the EU, Russia and the Secretary of the United Nations. And in this harmonization they wrote into the roadmap was a series of stages or phases in which progression from each phase or stage depended on things the Palestinians had to do - most importantly, come to an agreement with Israel. While conducting internal political reform, ending corruption, cracking down on terror, putting an end to poor governance, and establishing instruments of statehood. President Bush was very explicit that Yasir Arafat had to go and there had to be political reform.
Well Arafat died in 2004, and there was degree of political change, but then came a series of events about which we have to remind ourselves when we are assessing their readiness for statehood. In September, 2005 the prime minister of Israel surprised the world by withdrawing unilaterally from half of the Palestinian areas - the Gaza Strip he pulled out eight thousand settlers, shut down 23 settlements he pulled out against the wishes of the IDF. He gave up not only the main area of Gaza, but he lso gave up the Philadelphi corridor. And Israel had been told all of this time that doing so should lead to the reductions of tensions with the Palestinians, because settlements are supposedly the irritant that causes their radicalism. Well the exact opposite happened, Gaza got radicalized. A short time later Hamas gained strength in Gaza and rockets started coming into Gaza in huge numbers. In January, 2006, the Palestinians held their first serious election, first competitive elections and the results were catastrophic. The results were Fatah was thrown out and Hamas won the election not so much because Palestinians turned to fundamentalism, but more because Hamas was seen as clean and Fatah completely corrupt.
Hamas got an absolute majority of the seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council: 74 seats out of 132 seats, even though they got a much more smaller margin of the popular vote. And on February 19, 2006, Hamas appoints a prime minister. People forget that from February 2006 to June 2007, almost a year and a half, Palestine was ruled by Hamas not only in Gaza, but the West Bank too. Hamas was satisfied with this arrangement and there was a coup in Gaza in June, 2007. Hamas seized Gaza outright in a military coup. Abbas fired his Hamas prime minister and appointed his own PM and we have a situation of two prime ministers which is actually the case today. Hanyiah, the head of Hamas, considers at this moment himself to be the prime minister of Palestine as he was appointed by the PLC not Fayyad. Fayyad was appointed by Abbas but Abbas’s own term has expired.
My time is up but the bottom line is that if I went on reciting this sorry tale you would see progressively that to see that these are political institutions that have any substantial roots that this is any evidence for capacity for governance that they even have the beginning of a political system is a complete invention, wishful thinking so much of our policy in the Middle East is driven by wishful thinking and this is very much a case in point.
[See the paper upon which this talk was based for a full fleshing out of Rosen's analysis.]
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