UN assessment: PA is ready to govern a state of its own

Israeli officials say inability to control Gaza biggest impediment to sovereignty; energy policy, tax collection abilities lag.

Palestinian Flag 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Flag 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinian Authority could function as a state but has been held back by the “occupation” and the Israeli- Palestinian conflict from fully achieving this goal, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
“The key constraints to the existence and successful functioning of the institutions of a potential state of Palestine arise primarily from the persistence of occupation and the unresolved issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the report said.
Fayyad says Palestinian institutions ready for statehood
Editor's Notes: Playing poker over ‘Palestine’
Still, the report said, “In six areas where the UN is most engaged, government functions are now sufficient for a functioning government of a state.”
The six areas were: “governance, rule of law and human rights; livelihoods; education and culture; health; social protection; and infrastructure and water.” The UN intends to deliver the report on Wednesday at a 12- nation donor conference in Brussels.
Robert Serry, the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, called on Israel to “roll back measures of the occupation to match the Palestinian Authority’s achievements.”
His statement and the report come as the Palestinians are preparing to ask the United Nations in September for unilateral recognition of statehood, a move that would need the support of the Security Council.
It follows recent reports from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund that also lauded Palestinian state-building measures.
The UN said its report reaffirmed a World Bank assessment from September 2010 that the PA was well-positioned to establish a state at any point in the near future.
A Foreign Ministry official, however, told The Jerusalem Post that despite the PA’s achievements, it still fell short of necessary criteria for statehood, including in its energy policy and tax-collection abilities.
But the “elephant in the room” is its inability to control the Gaza Strip, the official said.
“One of the key elements for sovereignty is its ability to control territory,” he said.
A government official added that he appreciated the progress the PA had made in its economy and state-building efforts.
Israel has been a partner in these reforms, the official said, “but there is still much work that needs to be done.”
Palestinian statehood “can only be achieved as a result of direct negotiations with Israel,” the official warned.
Palestinian refusal to negotiate with Israel has “delayed the process of Palestinian statehood,” he said.
In statements he released to the press, Serry also underscored the need for renewed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, which the PA has refused to participate in since last September.
“I also stress the urgent need for Israeli- Palestinian peace negotiations on a two-state solution to resume, if the state-building and political tracks are to come together by September,” said Serry, whose office prepared the report for the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting in Brussels on Wednesday. It is chaired by Norway and co-sponsored by the EU and the US.
It’s the last meeting of the committee before September 11. Serry said in a statement that September should remain the target date both for a negotiated settlement and for the Palestinians to complete their statebuilding process.
“The PA is clearly on track and I know it is committed to continuing its hard work. However, the institutional achievements of the Palestinian state-building agenda are approaching their limits within the political and physical space currently available, precisely at the time when it is approaching its target date for completion,” Serry said.
He expressed concern about the continued split between the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza, and urged Fatah and Hamas to reconcile.
“The UN will continue to look for real progress towards reunification of Gaza and the West Bank within the framework of the Palestinian Authority and the commitments of the Palestine Liberation Organization,” the report stated.
Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza into Israel must stop, and Israel, in turn, must show maximum restraint, Serry said.
“Recent escalations have been very worrying, and I appeal once again for all to observe calm so that civilians are protected,” he said.
Serry lauded Israeli steps to ease restrictions on goods entering Gaza, but his office’s report said the flow of goods still fell short of 2007’s levels.
“The volume of non-food imports, including raw materials, increased during the second half of 2010, as compared to the first half; however, the share of non-food items continued to range between 40 and 50 percent, compared to more than 80 percent before the imposition of the closure,” the report read.
There were approximately 2,500 truckloads of agricultural produce exported from Gaza in 2006; in 2010 there were only 215 truckloads, according to the report.
It noted that the PA had drafted a National Plan for 2011-2013 to continue state building.
“A donors’ conference at the appropriate time in 2011 will be an important opportunity to reaffirm support for the PA’s plans,” the report said.
It urged donor countries to continue to support humanitarian needs in Gaza and the West Bank.