Joel Greenberg
The Washington Post
April 12, 2011 - 12:00am

The Palestinian Authority is ready for statehood, according to six key criteria, although urgent action is needed to bolster its progress in state-building, the United Nations said Tuesday.

The declaration, contained in a report prepared for a meeting Wednesday in Brussels of donors to the authority, is an important boost to Palestinian efforts to obtain international recognition of a Palestinian state in September.

The U.N. study echoed findings by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, who in separate reports prepared for the donors conference said last week that the authority was well-positioned to run an independent state.

“In six areas where the U.N. is most engaged, governmental functions are now sufficient for a functioning government of a state,” said the report from the Office of the U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. It defined those areas as: governance, rule of law and human rights; livelihoods and productive sectors; education and culture; health; social protection; and infrastructure and water.

The Palestinian Authority has improved its ability to plan and budget effectively and has upheld transparency, media freedom and mitigation of corruption, while drafting laws to ensure compliance with international human rights norms, the report said.

The report noted improvements in security and the economy in the West Bank, with an estimated 8 percent growth in gross domestic product in 2010. It said that the area’s health-care system was well-developed and that government spending on social services had created a “comprehensive social safety net.”

But the report cautioned that the continuing Israeli occupation, the unresolved conflict with Israel and the persistent divide between the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and the West Bank means that “the institutional achievements of the Palestinian state-building agenda are approaching their limits within the political and physical space currently available.”

Robert Serry, the U.N. special coordinator for Mideast peace, said that “further steps on the ground” are urgently needed. Israel has to “roll back measures of occupation” to match Palestinian progress in state-building, he said, and stalled peace negotiations should resume “if the state-building and political tracks are to come together by September.”

Israeli-Palestinian talks were relaunched last September with the aim of reaching a framework agreement for a Palestinian state within a year. The talks later broke off in a dispute over continued Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.

In a government plan initiated in August 2009, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad set a two-year target date for Palestinian institutional readiness for statehood. In his report for Wednesday’s donors meeting, Fayyad asserts that the Palestinian Authority is now prepared “to assume all the responsibilities that will come with full sovereignty on the entire Palestinian occupied territory.”

Palestinian leaders say that if there is no progress in peace efforts, they will ask the U.N. General Assembly in September to grant membership to a Palestinian state whose territory would include all of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has argued that unilateral moves cannot be a substitute for peace talks. “Palestinians seek to go to an international forum and avoid peace negotiations,” he told European Union diplomats Monday. “It pushes peace farther back.”


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