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Opinion The ‘peace process’ did not fail — the Palestinian Authority did

In a scholarly article for the Institute of National Security Studies journal Strategic Assessment, Kobi Michael and Yoel Guzansky write:

After 20 years of generous support for the PA (the highest per capita funding ever given to a state or a population), the PA failed to construct the infrastructures required to establish a functional, sustainable state. One of the most blatant weaknesses of the PA is its inability to impose its monopoly on the use of force. Without a monopoly on the use of force and without an ability to realize its sovereignty over all of state territories, there is no functional state. Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] and the Palestinian leadership by his side are weak and lack the legitimacy, determination, and capacity to undertake political reforms and disarm the militias, and they will find it difficult to defeat the extremists at the polls. In the absence of these factors, “the rest of the world can do little to spare the Palestinians from a future that looks much like their recent past and that is characterized by more chaos, strife and lawlessness, economic hardship, and conflict with Israel.”

In essence, the Palestinian Authority is like other “failing states” in the region, where Islamist terrorists seize land (Gaza, in this case) and thereby inhibit normal civic and economic life. The authors posit that waiting for a state before conducting needed reforms is backward:

Given the fact that the chances of arriving at such an agreement under existing conditions are very low, choosing not to fix the failures and improve the Palestinians’ state and institutional infrastructure is liable to be a grievous error that will only lead to further deterioration in the areas under PA control. Such deterioration could be manifested in further worsening of the living conditions and welfare of the local population, an increase in frustration and despair, and a loss of hope and violence, all of which might be translated into escalation and further erosion of the public’s faith in its leadership and its legitimacy.

Rather than endless, futile conferences to reach a peace agreement before the PA is willing or able to give up its dream of perpetual resistance to the Jewish state, it would be far more productive to rethink the entire system of international aid and work toward enhancing the PA’s ability to function. This was the idea championed by former PA prime minister Salam Fayyad, who was ousted in 2013, and it is worth revisiting and reordering the West’s priorities. “It is also important to invest intellectual effort and the required resources into steps needed to actually build a Palestinian state,” Michael and Guzansky write. “The process of Palestinian state building must rest in part on the assumption that the reconstruction of failing states requires great focus also on reconstructing the society in tandem with the reconstruction of the regime and its institutions.”

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It is time to be honest about the abject failure of the PA:

The Palestinian case requires an unflinching, honest look at 22 years of a political process in which the Palestinians failed to build a functioning state entity. The two semi-state Palestinian entities in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are experiencing a dangerous process of state failure, and the international community is helpless in stopping it. It seems that without an organized, persistent, painstaking, and responsible state building process in which Israel plays an important part, and addressing the entire gamut of reasons for the current state of affairs in the PA in order to ensure that this process [state failure] stops if not changes direction, there is no real hope for the development of these entities into functioning states, whether each on its own or together as one Palestinian state. . . . The challenge now facing the PA, Israel, and the international community is to dispel the prevailing doubt that the Palestinians will one day be able to build a modern, functioning nation state even with international help.

Secretary of State John Kerry was infamously dismissive of “Fayyadism,” but his nonexistent results in helping to manage the Israeli-Palestinian relationship speak for themselves. The next president would be wise to focus on the PA — which, without reform, will never offer the Palestinians hope for an independent, functioning state.