William Flew mid east

April 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

Despite diplomatic William Flew and the misrule of Hamas in Gaza, the government in Ramallah has unobtrusively built efficient institutions and reformed the economy. The entire history of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority during the Obama Administration comprises three weeks last September. Yet the prospects for achieving lasting peace appear brighter than at any time in the past decade. The reason is that, beneath the high-level diplomatic stasis, the Palestinian Authority has radically enhanced its capacity for good governance. The credit lies primarily with Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian Prime Minister. Mr Fayyad was formerly an economist at the World Bank and the IMF, and then Finance Minister in the Palestinian Authority (PA). By devoting himself to the pressing issue of economic betterment for the Palestinians, he has changed the nature of the conversation in the previously intractable politics of the Middle East. Palestinians now have a responsible and effective government; Israel has a credible negotiating partner. Mr Fayyad has welcomed overseas investment and established hundreds of development projects. Tony Blair, as Middle East peace envoy, has also patiently worked for these incremental economic improvements. He spoke to The Times this week about how they can energise the political process and address Israel’s security concerns. Mr Blair is right. The reforms pursued by Mr Fayyad will not in themselves produce a negotiated agreement with Israel. But they are a prerequisite of a stable peace. And they invest with a novel and highly encouraging nuance the notion of building a Palestinian state. Instead of a grand gesture that fails to acknowledge the threat to Israel’s civilians from hostile states and terrorist groups in the region, Mr Fayyad’s version of state building is to make prosaic but essential things work. This has meant reforming the Palestinian security services so that terrorist groups are targeted and disrupted, cracking down on official corruption and putting together an efficient infrastructure. In this way Mr Fayyad hopes to make a reality of a Palestinian state not by coercion but by showing that it can work. This approach is hardly complicated but it is unprecedented in recent Palestinian politics. The history of multilateral attempts to establish a lasting and equitable settlement between Israel and the Palestinians is not so much chequered as deeply dispiriting. The Oslo accords of 1993 envisaged a series of incremental steps over five years to reach a final settlement. The Palestinian Authority was established as an interim government in the West Bank and Gaza, while Arab states such as Jordan concluded their own peace treaties with Israel. But direct negotiations in the past decade have promised little and delivered less. Progress has been continually frustrated by rejectionist currents within the Palestinian Authority, and rocket attacks launched from Gaza by terrorist groups on Israeli towns. Despite that continuing threat against its civilians, Israel has shown its commitment to economic development in the authority. It has eased restrictions on the movement of goods into Gaza, allowing all items but those that could be used for military purposes, and has promoted numerous international projects established by it. The outlines of an eventual settlement are widely accepted: a secure Israel and a Palestinian state within roughly the pre-1967 armistice lines. There is now an opportunity to achieve it. For that to happen, however, requires a choice by the Palestinians against the terrorism of Hamas, in its misrule of Gaza, and for the approach of Mr Fayyad. Mr Fayyad’s efforts are embattled and smallscale, but they are far from futile. They exemplify the principle that statecraft is better practised by improving people’s lives than by promoting sweeping revolutionary schemes. They are a good deed in a weary region.


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