Ali Jarbawi
Bitterlemons (Opinion)
March 15, 2010 - 12:00am

The program of the 13th Palestinian government, commonly referred to as the Fayyad Plan, called for all Palestinian institutions, and Palestinian society as a whole, to unite behind a state-building effort. The program embodies an authentically Palestinian initiative to work pro-actively and constructively toward establishing the state of Palestine through non-violent means over a two-year timeframe, despite the lack of progress in negotiations and continued military occupation. The program and its ongoing implementation have demonstrated that there is a positive and engaged partner on the Palestinian side who is committed to the two-state solution. The stark contrast with decisions to further expand settlements beyond the green line is beginning to unmask Israel as the unwilling partner.

The program provides a path to independence and sovereignty that can be pursued irrespective of the status and progress of the negotiations track. In specifying a two-year time horizon, however, the program has been viewed by some observers as controversial and ambitious. Yet, after 17 years of negotiations, the formulation of new approaches to realizing the two-state solution by the Palestinian Authority was long overdue. Furthermore, the World Bank reported in September 2009 that the PA is "well-positioned for the establishment of a Palestinian state at any point in the near future", noting that "relative to other countries in the region, the public sector in the West Bank and Gaza is arguably already more effective and efficient".

The PA has quite clearly demonstrated its determination to deliver on commitments made in the program. There is a serious and ongoing effort, backed by the international community, to complete the establishment of efficient and effective state institutions. This is bearing fruit in the West Bank and, if the embargo is lifted, can be replicated in Gaza too. The program is designed to deliver tangible results in spite of the perverse system of geographical demarcations, checkpoints and other movement restrictions that have no place in a modern democratic state.

The overall objective of the program is therefore to realize, through peaceful means, the Palestinian vision of ending the occupation and establishing an independent sovereign state on the 1967 borders. This is in the Palestinian national interest and is in lock-step with the international consensus. At the same time, the PA has not turned its back on negotiations. All we are asking for is that the negotiations be credible, focused on the final status issues and subject to a time limit.

There is no doubt that Israel, on the other hand, has significant political and economic incentives to postpone resolution of the conflict. The settlement enterprise, launched and nurtured by the Israeli government, has yielded substantial gains of land and other natural resources. It has also curried favor with political factions that remain wedded to the vision of "Greater Israel" and sovereignty over both East and West Jerusalem. In this light, it is not surprising that Israel is satisfied with the status quo of open-ended negotiations. Their experience to date encourages Israelis to believe that, with the passage of time, the oppression and suppression they can apply as occupier will reliably elicit acts of violent resistance, reinforcing their stock argument that the Palestinians are not a credible partner for peacemaking.

The fact that the government program has found such favor with the international community, and that the two-year time frame has gained currency and momentum in international political circles, is a major challenge to this status quo. In effect, from the Israeli perspective, the program has poked a stick in the ever-turning wheel of the negotiations process. Israel is now having a hard time casting the PA in the role of "unwilling partner" and is in serious danger of being cast in that role itself. Israel fears that time may no longer be on its side as the international community begins to realize what Palestinians have known for years, namely that resolution of the conflict between two parties, one of which enjoys overwhelming security and economic power relative to the other, is not possible without international political intervention as well as financial support.

The ongoing implementation of the Palestinian government program represents, for the first time in years, visible and tangible progress toward making the two-state solution a reality. This is proving that we Palestinians are a real and engaged partner and are moving forward positively towards realizing a vision shared with the international community. This program is an historic opportunity to resolve the conflict that must not be missed.


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