Under prevailing circumstances, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's unilateral state-building plan is the best option available for all those truly concerned with advancing a two-state solution that maintains Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Not only must Fayyad succeed in the coming year, but the international community must endorse and recognize his achievement and encourage Israel to follow suit.
I say this with a heavy heart. It is not easy for an Israeli to encourage the world to ratify a unilateral Palestinian solution. But after nearly 20 years of trying, it should be clear that neither the Israeli nor the Palestinian leadership is capable of agreeing on a negotiated two-state solution. The current Netanyahu government in Israel, with its heavy right-wing bias and its focus on creating unilateral Israeli "facts on the ground", is almost certainly not a candidate for working productively with the Palestinians toward an independent Palestinian state. Perhaps most important, in view of growing frustration with the failure of negotiations, the Fayyad plan is the best non-negotiated solution we Israelis could conceivably ask for.
Fayyad's effort is the first Palestinian state-building success since the Oslo process began in 1993. For the first time, Palestinians are delivering on security, the creation of governing institutions and the systematic suppression of corruption. It is now clear that such an effort was impossible under the rule of the late Yasser Arafat, where violence was endemic and billions in aid funds went down the drain. It is also clear that Fayyad's effort is possible, despite the constraint of Israel's ongoing settlement-building, thanks to the cooperation of the Israeli security establishment and broad international financial and technical-professional support.
Fayyad, who has little or no grassroots political support, is clearly dependent on the backing of President Mahmoud Abbas to maintain the momentum of his efforts. We can only hope that the vicissitudes of Palestinian politics do not undermine them in the year-and-a-half remaining for the Fayyad plan to run its course. It is also critical that during this time Fayyad clarify for us what he intends to do with his unilateral state structure. Until recently he declared that, in the absence of Israeli-Palestinian agreement on a two-state solution by August 2011, the Palestinians would ask the United Nations Security Council to recognize the new state. But at the Herzliya Conference in Israel a little over a month ago, he told an Israeli and international audience that the fait accompli of a Palestinian state in the summer of 2011 would serve merely to pressure the parties to reach agreement.
Frankly, I prefer the first option of Security Council recognition. The second option is likely to prove as useless as all previous efforts to persuade the parties to make the necessary negotiating concessions. We saw with Abbas' rejection of PM Ehud Olmert's extraordinary 2008 peace offer that the Palestinian president is incapable of bending on the core issues. As for Netanyahu, his commitment to a two-state solution is belied by the coalition company he keeps and--even when he's more careful about the timing so as not to embarrass visiting American dignitaries--the settlements he builds. Meanwhile, time and international patience are running out.
Here's what the option of Security Council recognition of Fayyad's emerging creation appears to offer Israel: a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, partially occupied by Israel. De facto, the new state does not control most of its territory; it exercises no control at all in the Gaza Strip. Israel is confronted by the entire international community with the demand to negotiate a phased, orderly withdrawal to the 1967 lines or equivalent borders--something recent Israeli governments have in any case agreed to do. It has to make space for a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem--a sine qua non for any viable agreement. It can condition its withdrawal on the implementation of reasonable security arrangements.
But Israel does not have to confront unacceptable Palestinian demands regarding the right of return and the Temple Mount and Holy Basin in Jerusalem in order for this Palestinian state to come into existence. Those issues are no longer preconditions; they will remain in contention--but between Israel and a sovereign Palestinian state that has to behave very differently from a liberation movement. Nor will Israel be held responsible for the divide between the new state in the West Bank and the land it claims from Hamas-ruled Gaza. Whether there are one or two Palestinian states becomes Palestinian business.
Make no mistake: the emergence of an internationally recognized Palestinian state in the West Bank will not officially end the conflict in the sense of resolving all claims. But it could create an entirely new and far more stable two-state reality based on Palestinian efforts, Israeli readiness to negotiate the territorial issue based on the 1967 border--but only the territorial issue--and international recognition.
True, international recognition of the Fayyad plan effectively ends the Oslo accords, which require that neither side take such unilateral measures. A truly irresponsible Israeli government could respond by annexing those areas of the West Bank, some 60 percent, that lie beyond the autonomy borders. That's why it behooves the international community to embrace this issue now and point out to Netanyahu that this is the best deal he will ever get.- Published 15/3/2010 © bitterlemons.org
The program of the 13th Palestinian government, entitled "Ending the Occupation and Establishing the State", might have been similar to the programs of previous governments were it not for its political context.
The two-year program, which has become known as the Fayyad Plan, is meant to prepare the ground for statehood through the necessary developments and improvements in building the institutions of a state. The plan gained political momentum, first on the international level, because it was received as a possible alternative to the decaying peace process.
The announcement of the plan also coincided with a presentation by the EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, who, in a lecture in England, said that if the peace process did not succeed in securing a two-state solution, the international community should encourage and recognize a Palestinian state declared in a UN resolution, in order to realize the international community's vision of peace based on two states.
Later, growing segments of the Palestinian public and prominent individuals began to rally behind the plan. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad helped this process on by engaging in extensive field visits to reach the grassroots. The plan, indeed, includes a blueprint for the development, institution-building and reform not only of the urban areas the Oslo accords allow the Palestinian Authority to function in, but also the rest of the occupied territories including area C and marginalized areas particularly affected by Israeli settlement expansion and/or separation wall construction.
In addition, the prime minister and his government ministers took part in demonstrations and the popular resistance and lent moral support to the right of Palestinians to peacefully resist those Israeli measures that only serve to consolidate the occupation, whether through settlement construction or the building of the separation wall.
What has significantly added to Palestinian and international confidence in the plan is that it came after the impressive success of the previous Fayyad government in reforming the law and order sector, both in terms of the security forces themselves and the congruent civilian legal structure. Based on progress in providing due process of law, an improvement in the economy followed that last week allowed Fayyad to present a budget for this year that includes seven percent GDP growth.
The main importance of the Fayyad plan is that it allows Palestinians to move toward achieving the objectives of ending the Israeli occupation and establishing their state on two parallel tracks. The first is in actual developments on the ground where the Palestinian government has been taking positive steps readying Palestinians for statehood, not only in their own eyes but also in the eyes of the international community, which has been financing these efforts.
The second track is the complementary effort on the international level to build support for international recognition of an independent Palestinian state that can be enshrined in a United Nations Security Council resolution at the end of these two years and without Israeli consent if Israel continues to prevent bilateral negotiations from reaching fruition. There have been a number of significant developments in this regard, not least the European Council of Foreign Ministers statement on December 8, which was never objected to or criticized by the US.
In this way the government plan has been an important part of the overall four-pillar strategy of the PA: the reform and/or building of institutions of state; the effort to convince the international community to recognize, in due time, such a state multilaterally; fighting Israel on the international legal arena and supporting the right of popular movements to peacefully resist the Israeli occupation.- Published 15/3/2010 © bitterlemons.org
Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications and director of the Government Media Center. This article represents his personal views.
AN ISRAELI VIEW
Fayyad's toy gun
by Yisrael Harel
With the Oslo wind in his sails guaranteeing his international legitimacy even after he had become a political corpse--and his Israeli partners anxious to prove that Oslo, despite endless murderous terror, was not a fatal mistake--Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat announced that on May 4, 1999 he would unilaterally declare the establishment of a Palestinian state. The political world was in turmoil. Outside of the United States and its European allies, there was a supportive anticipation that Arafat would indeed make good on his vision/threat and realize the dream of generations of Palestinians. Israel was bewildered.
So excited was the international political scene that its most veteran research institute decided to alleviate the tension by holding a simulation exercise: will he or will he not declare independence? Participants arrived from all corners of the globe. All eyes were on the Palestinian delegates, who did not move (even though every participant represented only himself) without consulting Arafat, who attached tremendous importance to the outcome.
Most of the Israelis and non-Arab observers believed Arafat would not dare declare independence. He would fear Israeli military pressure and Israel's withdrawal from the Oslo process, along with American political pressure concerning the violation of one of the fundamental rules of the Oslo agreement: no side would take unilateral measures.
I also believed Arafat would not make the declaration, but for an entirely different reason. Arafat's threat was directed at an objective that I don't fully understand, I said, but it was definitely not the realization of the dream of generations. The Palestinians, I argued at that simulation and believe to this day, do not want a state of their own alongside Israel. Accordingly, Arafat would ostensibly yield to the counsel of the Arab states and avoid declaring independence. And so it was, even though few if any agreed then with my thinking.
Arafat's retreat was at the time considered a triumph of reasoning--so deep was the faith of the media and the left in Israel that he was a true partner for peace (and the need to justify the fatal adventure of Oslo). Yet the truth, then as now, is that had the Palestinians really wanted a two-state solution, their state would now be at least ten years old and would be based on Israeli concessions of the Yossi Beilin variety. In fact, they do not want to divide the land; they want a single Arab state--not a state of all its citizens--between the river and the sea. And they believe they will eventually get there--hence all the delaying tactics, then and now.
If Arafat did not dare divide the land based on an historic Arab concession and agreement to a Jewish state, a national home for the Jewish people, then will Salam Fayyad, a technocrat bereft of charisma and leadership, dare take such an audacious step? He won't dare to defy the vast majority of his people, who reject compromise, territorial or otherwise.
Still, for the sake of argument, let's assume he does declare a state unilaterally and wins the support of his people, and that the international community overwhelmingly recognizes the new state. The territory it comprises, areas A and B, constitutes less than 50 percent of Judea and Samaria, all told some 2,500 square kilometers. In Gaza they'll breathe easy: now the Hamas state can claim parallel legitimacy. And the world? The Arab states? They will get used to a state within these borders--a state that has to worry about education, security, economy and transportation; a state that can no longer complain that all its failures are due to the absence of the instruments of state.
Nor will or should the settlers shed a tear over this course of events. Israeli public opinion will understand once and for all that if the pragmatic Fayyad, the man hosted in every important Israeli salon and even at the Herzliya conference, pulled off this stunt, then there really is no Palestinian partner. The government of Israel, confronted with this provocation, will annul the roadmap--under the circumstances, the US will be unable to prevent such a step--accelerate the pace of settlement in area C and, under pressure from the settlers, launch preparations to annex it.
The current Israeli response to Fayyad's threat is a counter-threat. But if Israel's rulers were smart and well versed in subterfuge, they would find devious ways to encourage Fayyad's folly. After all today, in the absence of a Palestinian state, the entire world, including an influential minority of Israelis, is pressuring to establish one, more or less along the 1967 lines. But the moment such a state is functioning within areas A and B, both it and the rest of the world will get used to this new reality. Certainly Israel will, with area C in its hands.
Of course Fayyad won't fall into this trap. Hence all those who take his threat seriously or even treat it as an exercise in Middle East bazaar diplomacy, are actually revealing that they don't understand either Fayyad's capabilities or the real Palestinian objective of eliminating the Jewish-Zionist entity.
One way or another, Fayyad's gun is empty. In fact, it's only a toy gun. And like a child playing with a toy gun, he doesn't always know either the purpose of the game or the outcome.- Published 15/3/2010 © bitterlemons.org
Yisrael Harel heads the Institute for Zionist Strategy in Jerusalem and writes a weekly political column in Haaretz. He founded the Yesha Council (Council of Jewish Settlements in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza District) and headed it for 15 years.
A PALESTINIAN VIEW
What is Israel afraid of?
by Ali Jarbawi
The program of the 13th Palestinian government, commonly referred to as the Fayyad Plan, called for all Palestinian institutions, and Palestinian society as a whole, to unite behind a state-building effort. The program embodies an authentically Palestinian initiative to work pro-actively and constructively toward establishing the state of Palestine through non-violent means over a two-year timeframe, despite the lack of progress in negotiations and continued military occupation. The program and its ongoing implementation have demonstrated that there is a positive and engaged partner on the Palestinian side who is committed to the two-state solution. The stark contrast with decisions to further expand settlements beyond the green line is beginning to unmask Israel as the unwilling partner.
The program provides a path to independence and sovereignty that can be pursued irrespective of the status and progress of the negotiations track. In specifying a two-year time horizon, however, the program has been viewed by some observers as controversial and ambitious. Yet, after 17 years of negotiations, the formulation of new approaches to realizing the two-state solution by the Palestinian Authority was long overdue. Furthermore, the World Bank reported in September 2009 that the PA is "well-positioned for the establishment of a Palestinian state at any point in the near future", noting that "relative to other countries in the region, the public sector in the West Bank and Gaza is arguably already more effective and efficient".
The PA has quite clearly demonstrated its determination to deliver on commitments made in the program. There is a serious and ongoing effort, backed by the international community, to complete the establishment of efficient and effective state institutions. This is bearing fruit in the West Bank and, if the embargo is lifted, can be replicated in Gaza too. The program is designed to deliver tangible results in spite of the perverse system of geographical demarcations, checkpoints and other movement restrictions that have no place in a modern democratic state.
The overall objective of the program is therefore to realize, through peaceful means, the Palestinian vision of ending the occupation and establishing an independent sovereign state on the 1967 borders. This is in the Palestinian national interest and is in lock-step with the international consensus. At the same time, the PA has not turned its back on negotiations. All we are asking for is that the negotiations be credible, focused on the final status issues and subject to a time limit.
There is no doubt that Israel, on the other hand, has significant political and economic incentives to postpone resolution of the conflict. The settlement enterprise, launched and nurtured by the Israeli government, has yielded substantial gains of land and other natural resources. It has also curried favor with political factions that remain wedded to the vision of "Greater Israel" and sovereignty over both East and West Jerusalem. In this light, it is not surprising that Israel is satisfied with the status quo of open-ended negotiations. Their experience to date encourages Israelis to believe that, with the passage of time, the oppression and suppression they can apply as occupier will reliably elicit acts of violent resistance, reinforcing their stock argument that the Palestinians are not a credible partner for peacemaking.
The fact that the government program has found such favor with the international community, and that the two-year time frame has gained currency and momentum in international political circles, is a major challenge to this status quo. In effect, from the Israeli perspective, the program has poked a stick in the ever-turning wheel of the negotiations process. Israel is now having a hard time casting the PA in the role of "unwilling partner" and is in serious danger of being cast in that role itself. Israel fears that time may no longer be on its side as the international community begins to realize what Palestinians have known for years, namely that resolution of the conflict between two parties, one of which enjoys overwhelming security and economic power relative to the other, is not possible without international political intervention as well as financial support.
The ongoing implementation of the Palestinian government program represents, for the first time in years, visible and tangible progress toward making the two-state solution a reality. This is proving that we Palestinians are a real and engaged partner and are moving forward positively towards realizing a vision shared with the international community. This program is an historic opportunity to resolve the conflict that must not be missed.- Published 15/3/2010 © bitterlemons.org
Ali Jarbawi is the minister of planning and administrative development.
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