Menachem Klein
August 4, 2010 - 12:00am

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad are darlings of Israel and the international community. For a long time now, they have been seen as brand names, not as officeholders dependent on circumstances of time and place. Abbas represents building the state in stages from the top down by negotiations. Fayyad represents building the state in stages from the bottom up. To Israel and the international community, they seem eternal.

No matter how we define this view - a mistake, wishful thinking or an incorrect perception - we have to plan for the day after Abbas and Fayyad, because that day is visible on the horizon. The negotiations Abbas is clinging so hard to are producing not results but only disappointment among the Palestinians. The Abbas administration has neither democratic backing nor political legitimization. Parliament is not functioning, the president has completed his term and elections are not on the horizon. The green light for negotiations with Israel was given by the Arab League and not by elected representatives of the Palestinian public.

The Palestinians' independence in decision-making - the cornerstone upon which Fatah was established and for which the Palestine Liberation Organization fought - has been abandoned. As in the period from 1937 to 1948, Palestinian policy is an outcome of a pan-Arab decision. Lacking institutionalized democratic legitimacy, the PA is relying on the security forces, which are relying on Israeli bayonets, American training and financial aid from the West. Even the little that Yasser Arafat achieved regarding liberation from the Israeli occupation and dependence on foreign elements has been lost.

Control of Area C is the key to the success of Fayyad's path. With the help of international pressure, Fayyad has paved several more roads and has put up some public buildings. But Israel's control of Area C remains undisturbed. Fayyad is serving Israel in that he is improving the functioning of the Palestinian institutions in areas A and B. He is thus reinforcing Israel's claim that the Palestinians are the masters of their own fate.

Even if Israel allows Fayyad to increase his range of action to Area C, this will not lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state in most of the West Bank. For that to happen, Israel would have to allow hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to settle in Area C. But actually, this territory has been reserved for Jewish settlers. Moreover, according to a recent report by the American expert Prof. Nathan Brown, Fayyad's success in building institutions in areas A and B is far less than what it appears to be in Washington and Jerusalem.

The improvement in Palestinian income as a result of the freer movement and the lifting of roadblocks is deceptive. It does not reflect more freedom and progress toward Palestinian independence. On the contrary, this improvement was achieved by the sharpening of Palestinian bayonets and the increased cooperation with Israel. It is also worth remembering that the intifadas of 1987 and 2000 erupted after a year or more of increases in income and employment.

Abbas' assumption that U.S. President Barack Obama will give him the Palestinian state on a silver platter without the Palestinians having to fight for their liberation has not been proved and is on the verge of collapse. Israelis on the left who believe that Fayyad has learned the lessons of practical Zionism are in fact seeing themselves. Zionism enjoyed British protection and the possibility of establishing a society parallel to the Palestinian society of the time. Fayyad does not have similar freedom of action, nor is he backed up by the Palestinian diaspora, which is sending in immigrants and money. The Israeli system of control, which looks so stable and perhaps eternal, is in fact a system living on borrowed time.

The writer teaches political science at Bar-Ilan University and is a research fellow at the European University Institute in Florence.


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