The concept of failed states has been around for a while, and has recently been morphed into the notion of fragile states. Perhaps the change is an expression of what is deemed politically correct in the halls of organizations that worry about such things, and claim to provide ranked lists of what a political simpleton would label the bad and the good.
The Fund for Peace has produced an annual index of states ranged from "Very High Alert" on the bad side of the Fragility Index to "Very Sustainable" on the good side.
South Sudan, Somalia and a cluster of other African states are on the bottom of the Very High Alert and High Alert clusters, along with Afghanistan, Yemen, Haiti, Pakistan, Iraq and Syria.
Finland is the sole occupant of the Very Sustainable.
The Fund's methodology page claims highly sophisticated programs to crunch numbers under the headings of
- Demographic Pressures
- Refugees and IDPs (Internally displaced persons)
- Group Grievance
- Human Flight
- Uneven Economic Development
- Economic Decline
- State Legitimacy
- Public Services
- Human Rights and Rule of Law
- Security Apparatus
- Factionalized Elites and
- External Intervention
Nowhere in the methodology did I find sources of what was claimed to be analyzed. On at least some of those categories, e.g., Group Grievance, State Legitimacy, Human Rights, and Factionalized Elites, one can guess that there is an element of estimation based on someone's judgement of media reports and conventional wisdom.
Countries of western Europe, Australia, and Canada monopolize the most desirable categories of the Fragility Index. The United States doesn't do all that badly, but is in the third from the most desirable category ("Very Stable) along with Uruguay and Slovenia.
Israel does not get its own ranking, but is grouped with Palestine/West Bank in the category called "High Warning" along with China, India, Fiji and a number of less savory places.
One can analyze Israel's linkage to Palestine until the cows come home. It may be a sleazy way to punish a decent place by cleaving to the politically correct notion of illegitimate conquest and occupation, or it may be a reflection of Palestine's shaky status on something close to life support.
Other indicators, such as the rankings of universities, the incidence of scientific papers, Nobel Prizes, technological innovations, health and longevity, plus the quality of its military and judiciary suggest that Israel is something other than marginal with respect to its fragility, but political correctness being what it is . . .
Prominent indications of Palestine's dependence on Israel appear in connection with electricity and water, management of all the borders of the West Bank and what are sometimes the only partially-open borders with Gaza.
While it is conventional to assign blame to Israel for whatever Palestinians claim as their misery, the reality is far more complex. The failure of sufficient construction supplies to reach Gaza for the purpose of reconstruction owes at least as much to Fatah vs Hamas quarrels over management as it does to Israel's reluctance to provide the concrete and other materials. The issue of Israel failing to provide water to the partially constructed West Bank city of Rawabi resulted at least partly from Palestinians' reluctance to join with Israel in deciding about issues concerning sewage and water for Jewish settlements as well as Palestinian areas of the West Bank.
Involved in the disputes--now said to be resolved--were various Israeli governmental organizations and political figures. Looking beyond the details in open dispute, it is not hard to find political hardball. If the Palestinian leadership persists in its campaigns to delegitimize Israel and turn back history to 1967 or earlier, then Israel (perhaps more likely under Likud leadership than something softer) will minimize Palestinian opportunities.
Israeli security forces have contributed to the survival of the Fatah regime on the West Bank by dealing with the mutual enemies Hamas and other Jihadist organizations. Also involved are Palestinian security forces, trained and equipped by the US and Jordan, with Israeli cooperation.
The periodic threats coming from the peak of Fatah include warnings that the Palestinians will stop the security cooperation with Israel.
Realities here are hard to judge, given the lack of full information provided about who does what with respect to uncovering and acting against those who threaten Palestinians and/or Israelis. Yet it is fair to doubt that the Palestinians of the West Bank could, by themselves, act successfully against the Palestinians of Gaza who threw Fatah activists from the roofs of tall buildings.
Commentators see Israel playing a highly nuanced game of national self interest. Despite what many others, including current occupants of the White House have expressed, an Israeli perspective is that negotiations should start from now and not from a half-century ago. That means recognizing the movement of some 600,000 Jews over the 1967 lines, about half of them in neighborhoods of Jerusalem created since that date.
Such neighborhoods might be labeled "new" in a city with a history of 3,000 years, but in other places they would already be called well established, or even middle aged. Our own neighborhood of French Hill is well into its second or third generation, with many of the original residents gone elsewhere to senior housing, closer to the grandchildren, or their eternal reward.
The delicacy of Israel's actions appear in their concern to push Palestinian perceptions away from dreams and toward reality, without pushing so hard as to produce a collapse.
Latest news is that Israelis and Palestinians have agreed on water for Rawabi, and paying the Palestinians' electric bill from the taxes Israel collects for Palestine at the ports. Not yet clear if this means that other funds that Israel collects will again flow to Palestine, if Palestine will modify its campaign against Israel, and when the water will actually flow to Rawabi.
The last thing Israel wants is a return to pre-Oslo responsibility for day to day policing, education, and general administration of who knows how many Palestinians.
The unreliable numbers of Palestinians said to be living in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as those overseas, are part of the fuzzy nature of what is Palestine, who are the Palestinians, and how far is Palestine from life support.
Among the issues are claims that many said to be Palestinian are Arabs, Turks, Greeks, and who knows what else who moved into the region when Jews began its economic development, and counter charges that such allegations are nothing more than Zionist fiction.
Involved in the issue of Palestinian life support are the heavy dependence of Palestinians and their institutions on international aid, the concept of refugees extending unto the nth generation, the notorious shortfalls of promises and actual delivery of aid, as well as how much of the aid ends up in the pockets of well-placed Palestinians, or provides the wherewithal for the relatives of well-placed Palestinians to find places in the public workforce or as concessionaires for profitable lines of cell phones and other consumer imports.
Among the great open questions are the future of Palestine, how many other states, organizations, and individuals will recognize its claims to statehood, and how far down on a politically correct ranking of fragility it deserves to be placed if not linked with Israel by the Fund for Peace.