Middle East

While No One’s Looking, the Palestinians Are Building a State

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By Hussein Ibish | 16 June 2010


In the world of Palestinian politics, the recent weeks have been a study in contrasts. The international media has trained its focus off the shores of Gaza, where the flotilla fiasco has generated dramatic images of dead civilians and battered Israeli soldiers. The politics of this incident reflect the traditional sturm und drang of the Palestinian national movement: full of grand gestures and transformative ambitions that might result in bloodshed and embarrassment for Israel, but make no substantive contribution to Palestinian liberation.

 

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But in Bethlehem, far away from the television cameras and breathless news reports, 2,000 Palestinian financiers also gathered recently at the second Palestine Investment Conference to quietly go about the business of building the economy of a viable Palestinian state. They discussed almost $1 billion in new projects targeting high-growth sectors, including information and communications technology, housing, and tourism. The politics of the conference represent a paradigm shift quietly taking place in the West Bank under the leadership of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, in which Palestinians are increasingly turning to the mundane, workaday tools of governance and development as their principal strategy for ending the occupation.

 

This strategic transformation is the result of a conundrum facing the Palestinian leadership, which has gambled its political future on a two-state agreement with Israel. If they fail, it is likely that both the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) will permanently fade from history and the national movement will be captured by Islamists led by Hamas. Even PLO leaders, however, are still extremely skeptical about the ability of diplomacy to yield significant short-term progress, given the hard-line attitude of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. Therefore, Palestinians have gravitated toward solutions that avoid exclusive reliance on diplomacy, which depends on American determination and Israeli seriousness, or slipping back into counterproductive, self-defeating violence.

 

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Excerpt reproduced with permission from Foreign Policy, www.foreignpolicy.com. Copyright 2009 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive LLC. Read the full article at [http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/06/16/while_no_ones_looking_

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