Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"Key" To Stability In The Middle East Was Not Mentioned During Debate -- With Good Reason

Foreign Policy asks: Which country was mentioned most at the foreign-policy debate?

It then goes on to answer it's own question -- but see if you can spot the omission from the debate: who used to be touted as central to stability in the Middle East, but was not mentioned even once:
  • Iran: 47
  • China: 35
  • Israel: 34
  • Afghanistan: 29
  • Syria: 28
  • Pakistan: 25
  • Iraq: 22
  • Libya: 12
  • Egypt: 11
  • Russia: 10
  • Mali: 4
  • Turkey: 3
  • Great Britain/United Kingdom: 2
  • Greece: 2
  • Lebanon: 2
  • Saudi Arabia: 2
  • Cuba: 1
  • France: 1
  • North Korea: 1
  • Qatar: 1
  • Somalia: 1
  • Yemen: 1
The answer of course is the Palestinians -- neither the Palestinian Authority and Abbas nor Hamas came up for discussion.

Usually, when talking about prospects for a Palestinian state, people look towards Abbas. These days, however, Abbas and Fatah may be an endangered species.

It is for that reason that the Washington Institute asks the question: The Future of the Palestinian Authority: Is Collapse an Option?

But these days, the collapse of the PA may not be so much an option as an inevitability.

On October 10, 2012, Ehud Yaari and Nathan Brown addressed a Policy Forum at The Washington Institute, and their comments were summarized on the site.

According to Yaari:
After almost twenty years of operating, the Palestinian Authority (PA) increasingly appears to be in existential jeopardy. More than three years after the inauguration of Prime Minister Salam Fayad's state-building plan, the PA is nearly bankrupt. Arab donors have failed to fulfill their financial pledges, private banks will no longer extend loans to the government, employee salaries have been deferred, and the deficit is effectively over $1.5 billion...

...Originally, the PA was conceived as the vehicle for state building, the administrative nucleus of a future Palestinian state. Without evidence of substantial progress toward this goal, however, many have begun to question the need for the PA's existence. Indeed, Palestinians' views of the PA are increasingly negative, and many have sought to distance themselves from government involvement in local affairs.

...However bleak the portents, the preservation of the PA is indispensable to a two-state solution, and Israel must help prevent its collapse.
Putting aside the feasibility of a two-state solution, the prospect of Hamas in power on both sides of Israel is not appealing.

Brown makes similar points about the problems with the PA, and notes:
One of the most striking aspects of the current debate among the Palestinians is not a rejection of the two-state solution but a shift in mentality from the active to the passive, whereby people wonder what will happen to them rather than what they can do to implement change. Such a mindset is reflected in the lack of a long-term strategy in the West Bank. A similar mentality exists in Gaza, where Hamas has opted to hunker down and wait until a better opportunity presents itself. Ironically, this means that both movements, founded explicitly to provide options to the Palestinian people, have chosen to wait for an external actor to alter the status quo.
Ultimately both the Palestinian Authority are reactive rather than pro-active, but time does appear to be on the side of Hamas, where they are more blatant about its terrorist war against Israel.

Ironically, it may be that the only thing worse than the West exaggerating the importance of Abbas and Hamas to the stability of the Middle East is the danger of underestimating the threat of Hamas succeeding in replacing the Palestinian Authority.

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