Finally, some Palestinian responsibility

For several years, Salam Fayyad has been approaching the building of a Palestinian state with determination.

Salam Fayyad drinks coffee 311 (photo credit: AP )
Salam Fayyad drinks coffee 311
(photo credit: AP )
The Israeli leadership has recently turned its attention – even ifcontemptuously – to the possible threat of a unilateral declaration ofa Palestinian state. Regardless of whether such a move will take placeor not, the real issue is not in the declaration itself but in thepossibility that it points to a deeper cultural change among thePalestinians – a change which was also noted with the participation ofPalestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad Tuesday night in the2010 Herzliya Conference and his subsequent speech.
The Palestinian national movement has been characterized from its earlydays by a maddening culture of irresponsibility. As far as they wereconcerned, their circumstances were never the outcome of theirdecisions, actions or conduct. It was always someone else’s fault – theUK, the United Nations, the Arab countries, and of course above all,the Zionists and their occupation. No matter the issue, the finger waspermanently pointed outward. And so, in a world where everyone else wasto blame, the only path was resistance – the defining word ofPalestinian identity.
The Palestinians conducted themselves as eternal teenagers, incapableof moving past blaming others toward shaping their own lives. This wasbest embodied in Yasser Arafat who was the captive of his image asleader of a resistance movement, never transitioning to builder of astate. If the phrase ‘assumption of responsibility’ was ever mentioned,it was always in the context of a spectacular and bloody terroristattack.
Israel benefited from this Palestinian culture. Zionism, the essence ofwhich was assumption of responsibility and state-building, foundcomfortable symbiosis with the Palestinian culture of irresponsibility.The constantly constructing Israel became adept at blocking thePalestinian resistance and absorbing blame while never ceasing tobuild. Israel was able to thrive and expand against the backdrop ofPalestinian inability to assume responsibility.
BUT IT just might be that recently, below the radar, a revolutionarychange is underway. For several years now, several players under thesound leadership of General Dayton, Tony Blair and PA Prime MinisterSalam Fayyad, were working together to build a Palestinian state fromthe ground up. It is quite probable that when Israel supported thisprocess several years ago, it treated it as no more than a diversionarygame that would keep the well-meaning Europeans and the dour Fayyadplaying in building Lego Palestinian institutions until the end oftime. Israel might have well assumed that the Palestinians wereculturally incapable of breaking free of the crutches of blaming othersto sustain a building process. The scorn towards this project wasfurther enhanced by Fayyad’s gall at graduating from the University ofTexas rather than Israeli jails.
Fayyad, who has no terrorist past, is supposedly therefore incapable ofbeing a Palestinian leader. Even the Israeli leadership tends torespect Palestinian “warriors” and repeatedly revers a new Barghouti.But it seems that, of all people, it is Fayyad and his colleagues whohave taken the matter of municipal taxes and sewage seriously and haveapproached the building of a state – in all its boring details – withdetermination and energy and no trace of blubbering.
The more this process moves forward and succeeds, the more the culturalchange accelerates and deepens. For Fayyad, a unilateral declaration ofa Palestinian state is not an empty gesture such as the one carried outin 1988, but the culmination of a thorough process of building theinstitutions of a Palestinian state on the ground.
The greatest “threat” to Israel’s policy appears to come from  a dourbureaucrat who is steadily leading a revolutionary cultural change offostering responsibility among Palestinians.
This change is leaving Israelis, who have long grown accustomed toPalestinians who do nothing but blame the world for their circumstancesall the while wasting numerous opportunities, wondering, confused andmany – hopeful.

The writer is a Labor MK, a fellowwith the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute and a member of thePresident’s Conference Steering Committee.