Both sides setting stage for agreement?

Both sides setting stage for agreement?

There is ample reason for skepticism on this new round of negotiations begun this week, but we are presenting our own and other views exploring both doubts and hopes. Today, I open with NY Times Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner writing of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s potential for delivering peace, even or perhaps because of his right-wing credentials (my thanks to Lilly Rivlin for flagging this article):

…. “I intend to confound the critics and the skeptics,” Mr. Netanyahu said in July at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. …. Even more than his own aides, Mr. Netanyahu seems to believe that a deal can be reached under his guidance. He does not want to hand the negotiations over to committees of experts but to meet personally with Mr. Abbas every two weeks. …

One sign of that readiness is that it was Mr. Netanyahu who suggested that the talks be kept to a relatively short, one-year time frame, according to American and Israeli officials. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is from the left-leaning Labor Party, told the newspaper Haaretz, “If Netanyahu leads a process, a significant number of rightist ministers will stand with him.”

But it may also be, as critics on the left maintain, that Mr. Netanyahu is focused assiduously on projecting an image of peacemaker in order to keep the Obama administration on his side for the issue he cares about most — combating Iran. It remains unclear whether the terms of any two-state agreement he seeks can be made acceptable to the Palestinians.

Mr. Netanyahu has often said that he has three requirements for a deal. The potential for mass smuggling of rockets and other weapons into the Palestinian state must be avoided, Israel must be recognized as the state of the Jewish people by the Palestinian leadership, and the accord must declare a complete end to the conflict. After Tuesday night’s murder by Hamas of four Israeli settlers, Mr. Netanyahu’s focus on the need for security may carry more weight. …

In the meantime, our friend from the American Task Force on Palestine, Hussein Ibish, has co-authored an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, “The Future Palestinian State Takes Root”:

… The state-building program launched last year by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has made measurable progress. While the terrorist group Hamas rules in the Gaza Strip, Palestinians in the West Bank are trying to build the framework of a future state.

The West Bank economy grew by 8.5% last year (according to the International Monetary Fund), despite the global recession and regional factors inhospitable to foreign investment. Palestinian GDP for the third quarter of 2009 was $1.24 billion, up from $1.18 billion a year before. …

The sine qua non for economic expansion has been the creation of the new Palestinian security services, which are a model for the state-building program in general. Palestinian forces have restored law and order in now-thriving towns like Jenin and Nablus and have coordinated effectively with Israeli forces, allowing Israel to remove a significant number of roadblocks and checkpoints.

Palestinian state-building also includes institutional and civil society reforms. The most recent was an intervention in the field of education announced on Aug. 8. Mr. Fayyad identified three key goals for reforming the curriculum: improving language skills, including Arabic; promoting analytical and critical thinking; and combating fundamentalism and extremism. The aim is not only to create future generations of entrepreneurs and thinkers, but to ensure that they’re accustomed to notions of peaceful coexistence with their Israeli neighbors.

The state-building program has qualities of perestroika—efforts to separate party from government and to replace a patronage-based government designed to satisfy political constituencies with a technocratic meritocracy. As part of this, the Justice Ministry recently announced that it will seek increased separation of powers and protection from political interference in legal cases, which has been a persistent problem in recent years.

Mr. Fayyad’s efforts have generated significant opposition from within the ranks of Fatah, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority. As an independent, Mr. Fayyad is held in suspicion by some of the Arafat-era old guard. He is, however, supported by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

In other quarters—including in a recent report by Washington’s Carnegie Endowment—Mr. Fayyad has been criticized for running his state-building program outside the context of Palestinian democracy, since the terms of all elected officials have expired and no new elections have been held. (Hamas adamantly opposes any new national elections, as they have every reason to fear the results, and Fatah has proven unable to organize more limited municipal elections.)

This criticism misses the fact that Mr. Fayyad and his program are neither causes nor symptoms of the lack of elections, and the state-building efforts go on in spite, rather than because, of the electoral impasse. … Mr. Fayyad’s state-building program is creating the institutional framework that is essential to a functioning democracy. …

The full article is also accessible at the ATFP website.

By | 2010-09-02T17:19:00-04:00 September 2nd, 2010|Blog|0 Comments

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