Jul 20th 2010

The Fayyad Difference

by Alon Ben-Meir

A noted journalist and author, Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is professor of international relations and Middle East studies at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University. Ben-Meir holds a masters degree in philosophy and a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University. His exceptional knowledge and insight, the result of more than 20 years of direct involvement in foreign affairs, with a focus on the Middle East, has allowed Dr. Ben-Meir to offer a uniquely invaluable perspective on the nature of world terrorism, conflict resolution and international negotiations. Fluent in Arabic and Hebrew, Ben-Meir's frequent travels to the Middle East and meetings with highly placed officials and academics in many Middle Eastern countries including Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Syria and Turkey provide him with an exceptionally nuanced level of awareness and insight into the developments surrounding breaking news. Ben-Meir often articulates

The following article represents the first in a series of articles and position papers that I will be sending out following my recent travels in the Middle East. I welcome and appreciate all comments and thoughts on my work.

When the Palestinian Authority's Prime Minster Salam Fayyad first introduced his plans to build the infrastructure for a future Palestinian state, many Israelis and Palestinians thought of it as nothing more than another Middle Eastern mirage that will leave no lasting impression. A little more than a year later, the plan is showing not only tremendous promise, but has become indispensable to the emergence of a democratic Palestinian state--one living side-by-side with Israel in peace and security. Israel, the United States and the European community in particular must do everything in their power to support Fayyad's plan and insure that the difference he has already made becomes irreversible and leads to the only viable option to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict-the two-state solution.

Having just returned from a visit to the West Bank where I met with Prime Minister Fayyad, I was struck by the remarkable socioeconomic progress in many parts of the West Bank, especially in Ramallah. Even more impressive was Dr. Fayyad's determination to continue in his path with total conviction that the prospect of establishing a Palestinian state rests in the Palestinians' hands, provided they focus on building the tenets of statehood which, from his perspective, rest on four pillars.

First, he stressed that militant resistance and violence have run their course. Committing acts of violence against the Israelis simply plays into their hands, offering justification for continued occupation and enabling Israel to link national security with occupation. The Palestinians must disabuse the Israeli public of this notion. The only way this can be done is by insisting on a non-violent approach to resolving differences with Israel, especially now that the international community supports the establishment of a Palestinian state. For this reason, the preparation for statehood will be peaceful, and as Dr. Fayyad proposes, "the state of Palestine will be a peace-loving state that rejects violence, commits to co-existence with its neighbors, and builds bridges of cooperation with the international community." Although the Palestinians, especially Hamas, he cautioned, are still not united in this regard, it is up to the Palestinian Authority to demonstrate that a non-violent policy provides significant gains for a public that develops vested interests and demands to maintain it. He strongly suggested that if Israel is seeking peaceful coexistence, it must support his efforts not only by further easing the burden of occupation but also by investing in the Palestinian enterprise, from which both sides can greatly benefit economically and develop mutual trust-critical for good neighborly relations.

The second point that Dr. Fayyad emphasized was the importance of building the infrastructure of the state, including industrial zones, electricity networks, roads, crossing points, and other critical services such as schools and hospitals. He noted that no state can be established if it lacks the basic infrastructure or the bureaucracy that can respond to public needs. Interestingly, he chose Israel as an exemplary model, not only of developing the infrastructure prior to statehood, but also for its political system and the need for unity to maintain national identity. Israel, he said, was not created in 1948; this was only the official declaration. The foundation of the state, for all intents and purposes, was established several decades before. For example, the Histadrut, Israel's trade union, was created in the beginning of the British mandate in 1920, and was responsible for all social services for workers, including healthcare, education, banking and housing, forming the building-blocks of the state and remaining influential to this day. Another critical institution during this time was the Jewish Agency, which was recognized by the British mandate as the governing organization that oversaw political, economic, and cultural relations. After Israel's declaration of statehood, the Jewish Agency remained the primary organization for facilitating immigration to Israel. For Dr. Fayyad, providing such infrastructure offers not only a sense of belonging but also a strong sense of accomplishment that makes the goal of political independence look increasingly realistic. In the end, he observed, only visible and sustainable progress changes the negative political narrative of the past, which made virtues of hatred and misery in the name of defiance of occupation.

The third pillar in Fayyad's plan is a vibrant and dynamic political system. "Palestine," he said, "will be a stable democratic state with a multi-party political system founded on political pluralism, guarantee of equality, and protection of all its citizens' rights and freedoms as safeguarded by the law and within its limits." The Palestinians, he continued, will not settle for anything less. They have lived alongside the Israelis for more than six decades, and regardless of the long and often bloody conflict, the Palestinian people witnessed firsthand the working of democracy in Israel, appreciating its values and the advantages it offers. "The formation of a democratically-elected leadership that enjoys popular and factional support, as well as regional and international recognition, is an essential step towards realizing the supreme national goal of establishing the State of Palestine." In this regard, Dr. Fayyad is ruling no one and no faction out because, from his perspective, only a true democracy in which every Palestinian has the right to participate will provide Palestinians with a political system that can sustain their independence as well as their socioeconomic progress.

Finally, Fayyad's fourth pillar is the creation of a single, independent state for all Palestinians. Whereas the people may differ in their political or ideological views, they must remain united in their aspiration to maintain national unity. "The Government bears considerable responsibility for facilitating the national dialogue aimed at ending the state of political fragmentation and restoring national unity," Fayyad says, referring to Hamas and other Palestinians factions that still reject Israel's existence. But he feels sanguine about the prospect of Palestinian unity as long as the principle of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, with some limited land swap, is maintained and the Palestinians enjoy the freedoms accorded to the citizens of other developed nations. Fayyad believes that under these conditions all Palestinians will eventually support the emerging Palestinian state, living side-by-side Israel in peace.

The picture, of course, is not completely rosy. Dr. Fayyad faces a number of serious obstacles that he must overcome, and to do so he needs both internal and external help. Other than being rejected by Hamas and other extremist groups, he still experiences major difficulties from within the Fatah organization. He is generally viewed as an outsider and even detached from the day-to-day reality of the Palestinian people. His plans need far more public exposure, especially outside the Palestinian territories, and his state building effort must be bolstered by tangible progress in the political process. The United States, in particular, should do everything possible to enable him to show increasingly more progress on these fronts in order to strengthen his public support. Israel must also make far greater and more visible concessions to ease the bondage of occupation, particularly because of the demonstrable and consistent ability of the Palestinians' internal security to keep the peace by preventing acts of violence against Israeli targets.

One can only imagine what a difference the Fayyad plan would have made had it been introduced immediately after the Oslo accords, which were signed in 1993. A Palestinian state may have been already created, thousands of lives on both sides may have been spared, and the entire Middle East may have flourished beyond present recognition. The question is: will the rejectionists among both Israelis and Palestinians grasp the historic significance of what Dr. Fayyad has advanced, which represents the only sane exit from an otherwise terrifying race toward the abyss? The Fayyad plan offers a noble and exquisite option.

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Jun 19th 2021
EXTRACT: "Xi Jinping’s call for friendship gives us an opportunity to examine Chinese politics on both the domestic and international stage. On the face of it, it suggests the possibility of rapprochement between the rich liberal democracies represented by the G7 and the authoritarian Chinese state. However, despite appearances of a call for a closer relationship, there is more than one way of being friends – and Xi’s idea might be somewhat different to what many in countries attending the G7 might expect."
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "China’s recently published census, showing that its population has almost stopped growing, brought warnings of severe problems for the country. “Such numbers make grim reading for the party,” reported The Economist. This “could have a disastrous impact on the country,” wrote Huang Wenzheng, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, in the Financial Times. But a comment posted on China’s Weibo was more insightful. “The declining fertility rate actually reflects the progress in the thinking of Chinese people – women are no longer a fertility tool.” "
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: " I remember recounting fellow leaders of the story of a Rwanda schoolboy caught up in the genocide of the 1990s and now immortalized in the Kigali Genocide Memorial museum, where, in a section devoted to children, one can find his photograph and a plaque that reads: ----- David, age 11 ...... Ambition: to be a doctor ...... Favorite sport: football ...... Favorite hobby: making people laugh ...... Death: by mutilation ...... Last words: the UN are coming to save us ----- In his idealism and innocence, David believed the international community would save him and his mother. We didn’t. "
Jun 8th 2021
EXTRACT: " While many conservative Republicans opposed Trump and saw that he posed a danger to their party and democracy itself, they were hesitant to buck the mass movement they had created, fearing that it would turn against them. Some of these same conservatives assumed that with Trump's defeat, the horror of January 6th, and the former president's banishment from social media, the time had come to restore sanity to their party. But the GOP leadership’s continued cowering in the face of what they now call "Trump's base" has caused them to circle the wagons and purge their ranks of those who call for sanity. "
May 26th 2021
Editor's Note: This article is about the Federal Reserve, inflation in the 1970's, and possible similarities to today.
May 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "Netanyahu claims to be acting in the name of the Jewish people. He certainly is not. Many Jews around the world, including me, despise Netanyahu’s racist politics. As an American, I am also deeply troubled by the US government’s knee-jerk support of Israel. Fortunately, I am not alone in this view. A growing number of Democratic Congressmen, Jews and non-Jews alike, have called on the United States to stop supporting Israel’s lawlessness. The truth is that the US government’s uncritical support for Israel has come to depend more on evangelical Christians, such as former US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, than on American Jews, who are deeply divided by Netanyahu’s actions. And the evangelicals’ real interest in Zionism is not Jews’ security, but Armageddon, the end of the world, which they believe will come only when all Jews are in Israel."
May 18th 2021
EXTRACT: "This period in US history could go down as the moment when America’s democratic system for electing a president – the most consequential duty of US citizens – was broken, perhaps for good."
May 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "While reading Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) monumental report “A Threshold Crossed,” I felt a range of emotions. It also left me with one big question. I was deeply impressed by the report’s rigorous scholarship. At the same time, it brought to the surface feelings of anger and profound sadness. It’s an extraordinarily complete study detailing not only the many ways Israel has violated a broad range of Palestinian human rights, but the ideology of racial superiority and entitlement that Israel has used to justify its repression." ..... "My advice to both Israel’s defenders and weak-kneed liberals is​, “Read the damn report.” "
May 16th 2021
EXTRACTS: .... "He transformed a transitioning market economy into a stable statist project that rests on an alliance of his inner circle," ..... "He transformed Russia from a respected member of the international community into a rogue state" .... ". He energized NATO by providing it with the adversary it lacked after the end of the cold war," ..... "He befriended hopelessly corrupt, dysfunctional, and unstable dictatorships..." ..... "He forged a quasi-alliance with China, thereby enhancing Russia’s dependence on the one country that might have reason to appropriate those Russian territories inhabited by Chinese."
May 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "On the face of it, the latest escalation of violence is following the template of all inter-ethnic wars. Muslims observing Ramadan shouted nationalist slogans and clashed with Israeli right-wing groups chanting “Death to the Arabs.” The Israelis haughtily marched with their national flag on Jerusalem Day, marking Israel’s capture in 1967 of East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, the site of the biblical Second Temple, and of Al-Aqsa, completed in the year 705. Battles in and around the Al-Aqsa compound erupted, with worshipers inside throwing stones at the Israeli police, who responded by firing rubber-tipped bullets and other projectiles, wounding hundreds."
May 13th 2021
"Regardless of how the current and future violent conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians in Jerusalem will end, there will be no Israeli-Palestinian peace unless East Jerusalem becomes the capital of a Palestinian state while the city remains united."
May 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " Would the United States be prepared to risk a catastrophic war with the People’s Republic of China to protect the Republic of China, better known as Taiwan? "
May 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human history, ancient and contemporary, is replete with instances of genocide – that is, the effort to eradicate a people, erase their history, denigrate their culture, and destroy their physical presence. Many of these atrocities have been recognized by the victims and other nations who support them. But, with the notable exception of the German acknowledgment of the Holocaust, rarely have the perpetrators of these crimes accepted responsibility and offer recompense "
May 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "The best way to defend liberal democracy is to practice it at home and abroad with the “courage and self-confidence” that Kennan touted at the dawn of the Cold War. This is also the best way to ensure the survival of our own conception of human freedom. And survive it will."
May 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Sammy Roth at the LA Times/ Boiling Point Newsletter reports that California’s main power grid was powered for several hours last Saturday by 90% renewables. For just four seconds that day, the grid, which covers 4/5s of the state, reached 94.5% generation by green energy. California is the world’s fifth largest economy. The main grid does not cover Los Angeles County. On the other hand, these figures do not include the electricity generated by the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which is not counted as renewable but which is also very low-carbon."
Apr 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "It is no accident that there has been an economic divergence in Central and Eastern Europe. Those countries that have joined the European Union have improved their economic governance, and GDP has begun to converge with Western Europe. Between 2014 and 2019, Hungary, Poland, and Romania grew at an annual average rate of 3.9%, 4.1%, and 4.7%, respectively. Meanwhile, Belarus and Ukraine experienced minimal growth during this period, and Russia’s economy expanded at an average annual rate of just 0.7%. Though Russia had a higher per capita GDP (in terms of purchasing power parity) than Croatia, Poland, Romania, and Turkey as recently as 2009, all of these countries have since overtaken it. Russians today are shocked to learn that they are worse off than Romanians and Turks. Among EU member states, only Bulgaria is still poorer than Russia. With its close proximity to the EU single market, Russia could have had higher growth if it had pursued sound economic policies. Instead,..... "
Apr 22nd 2021
EXTRACT: "As far as anyone can tell, the US military is not on the verge of an internal breakdown, let alone primed to stage a coup d’état. But few predicted anything like the US Capitol riot before protesters equipped with body armor, stun guns, and zip-ties breached the building. Before the US is blindsided again, its leaders must act resolutely to root out extremism in the military."
Apr 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "The new report on 2020 by the International Renewable Energy Agency reveals that the world’s renewable energy generation capacity increased by an astonishing 10.3% in 2020 despite the global economic slowdown during the coronavirus pandemic." .... "In 2020, the global net increase in renewables was 261 gigawatts (GW). That is the nameplate capacity of some 300 nuclear power plants! There are actually only 440 nuclear power plants in the whole world, with a generation capacity of 390 gigwatts. So let’s just underline this point. The world put in 2/3s as much renewable energy in one year as is produced by all the existing nuclear plants!"
Apr 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "When we examined the development of nations worldwide since 1820, we found that among rich Western countries like the United States, the Netherlands and France, improvements in income, education, safety and health tracked or even outpaced rising gross domestic product for over a century. But in the 1950s, even as economic growth accelerated after World War II, well-being in these countries lagged.
Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."