Gestures to the PA: Upgrading out of the Box

A strong Palestinian Authority is an acute Israeli interest. Therefore, in addition to its current gestures to strengthen the PA within the framework of existing agreements, Israel should consider upgrading its status to bring it closer to that of a sovereign state.
Following the recent meeting between US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority Salam Fayyad and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Israel announced a package of measures designed to consolidate Palestinian 'state building,' strengthen the PA leadership vis-à-vis Hamas and instill confidence in the negotiations currently taking place between Israel and the PLO.

The steps included alleviating restrictions on Palestinian movement such as the removal of roadblocks and the re-opening of checkpoints as well as provisions for new police deployments, security infrastructure, housing construction and economic development.

The Reut Institute has previously identified three different types of concepts related to State Building.

  • Gestures - actions aimed at supporting the status of Abu Mazen and moderate forces within the Palestinian political system without strengthening PA institutions. Examples include releasing prisoners or transferring tax revenue.

  • Institutionalizing the PA - actions aimed at strengthening the powers and authorities of the PA within the framework of existing agreements. Examples include current policies of building housing units and training Palestinian security forces.

  • Upgrading the PA - actions aimed at building the powers and authorities of the PA by 'breaking out' of the framework of existing agreements signed according to the logic of the Oslo Process which restricted the PA's attributes of sovereignty. Examples include Israel lifting its opposition to the issuing of Palestinian currency, creation of a Palestinian tax authority, establishment of foreign embassies in Ramallah, appointment of PA representatives abroad, PA membership in international organizations, among other actions.

The failure of negotiations will increase doubts over the viability of the Two State solution and may lead to the collapse of the PA and the restoration of the full economic and civil burden of 'occupation' onto Israel. (See: Failure of the Political Process: The Danger of Dissolution of the Palestinian Authority)

In this context, the closer the PA's powers and authorities are to a full sovereign state, the greater the chances it will 'survive' such a failure. A strong PA is thus an acute Israeli interest. Therefore, in addition to its current steps to strengthen the PA within the framework of existing agreements, Israel should consider upgrading the PA's status to bring it closer to that of a sovereign state. This could be done by systematically transferring powers and authorities to the PA as unilateral 'confidence building measures' or in coordination with third parties and can be carried out in parallel to the negotiations and independent of their results.

Sources

Roni Sofer, YNET, 3/30/08, full article.