Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Mere State-Building in Palestine

by Elliott Abrams
August 28, 2013


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.


Post a Comment 4 Comments

  • Posted by neville craig

    ‘Independence step by step’ is wonderfully convenient & unlikely.

    The ideas expressed here are behind the ball game: there will be a rearrangement of all the vilayets of the former Ottoman Empire.

    Cheney with his unjustifiable military incursions, and Mrs Bill Clinton with her social networking revolutions by the kiddos may have sought to protect Israel, but have created a maelstrom.

    Rather than weaken Israel’s enemies, there is now confrontation between Muslim factions with nothing better to do with their time.

  • Posted by The Empress

    Norway’s comments shroud an implied “We don’t care about you beyond the point with which can punish, harm, kill the Jews.” This has always been Europe’s implied position for the most part. On the other hand though it’s unclear if Europe will ever conclude it’s hurt the Jews enough so it’s just as likely for them to pay the Arabs to press forever until they get to wipe out all the Jews in Israel. A ‘state’ called ‘palestine’ we will see is merely another launch platform for them to attempt to grab the rest. And Europe will be more than happy to help them. If there ever is such a state, day one there will be screams from Europe and the Arabs that the Arabs were of course cheated and that ‘palestine’ was ‘Jewed out of’ 90 square meters or 10,000 square miles of their beloved home world. This will give Norwary and all the others an excuse to keep fighting shoulder to shoulder with the Arabs until the last Jew is gone.

  • Posted by Gabalong

    Every effort needs to be made to build Palestine in a manner as to provide jobs for people. Israeli companies should be investing in Palestine and teaching the people skills. Cooperative efforts between Jews and Palestinians should be encouraged, and as state building and investments increase, so too can we hope for a growth in friendships, contractual relationships, and close cooperation between Jews and Palestinians.

    If investment, employment, and relationships are fostered, then there may not have to be an independent Palestine at all, but instead, there could be one state for one people, because after all, the Jews and the Palestinians are one and the same people–they just don’t know it yet.

  • Posted by Dan

    Pipe dreams and speculation about a dream state for a nonexistent people. Some day soon the Israeli people will refuse to cooperate with the fantasy and guys like Abrams et al. will have to find a real job.

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