How can a Palestinian state be built? For those who believe that the “two-state outcome” is important, and this includes the governments of Europe and the United States, that’s a critical question. Former prime minister Salam Fayyad had an answer: start building, now, under the Israeli occupation, despite the occupation, against the occupation. Get ready for independence step by step.
We now have an important European view, from the foreign minister of Norway–which chairs the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, the key donors’ organization for the Palestinian efforts. Espen Barth Eide is quoted as follows in the Jerusalem Post:
“The donors will not be ready to keep funding Palestinian state-building much longer if we are not seeing a political horizon,” said Eide. Eide said it was important for both sides to know – as they have just restarted negotiations – that the world was not willing to provide a blank check.
“I think this is important for the Palestinians to know, because if anyone there thought they could sort of just fall back to the comfort of an internationally subsidized state-building endeavor, that may be wrong,” he said in an interview. “And I think that it is important for some people on the Israeli side – living in reasonable comfort [given] that cooperation with the pseudo-state in the West Bank is quite good – to know that this cannot continue forever.”
That is an extraordinary statement, and should not pass without notice. What he derides as “falling back into the comfort of an internationally subsidized state-building effort” is in fact the greatest challenge facing Palestinians now, and one they have not met. Nor have donors– Arab, American, European– met the challenge of providing adequate political and financial support for state-building, focusing instead for decades on repeated failed efforts at leaping to final status agreements. Those efforts have produced little for Palestinians, while state-building efforts can offer them pragmatic gains and real improvement in their lives–and can show Israelis that their security needs can be met in an independent Palestine.
Put another way, Eide continues the failed policy of wanting to create a Palestine whose borders might be known– before we have any idea what will be within those borders: failed state or successful economy? Democracy or terrorist base? This has not worked and will never work. To find that the chairman of the donors’ committee now dismisses mere state-building as an activity not worth supporting in its own right suggests that nothing has been learned from the experience of recent decades.