Recipe for Disaster

To see the future of Palestine, the first country in history that would be almost entirely dependent on foreign aid, one should look to the history of Pakistan.

Palestinian flag Abbas speech_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Palestinian flag Abbas speech_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
Will a Palestinian state be a healthy plant growing roots and branches or a noxious weed? To see the future of Palestine, one should look to the history of Pakistan.
Like the Pakistanis, the Palestinians will begin their independence with a divided territory. In 1947, Pakistan was created with eastern and western halves. By 1971, the Bengalis of East Pakistan revolted and with Indian support, split and created Bangladesh. Three hundred thousand to 2,000,000 people died in the nine-month Bangladesh Liberation War.
The West Bank is currently controlled by Fatah and the Gaza Strip by Hamas. Two sides of the Palestinian state will be held by rival factions. This does not bode well for a newly independent state.
The Pakistanis and the Palestinians also have irredentist claims. Since 1947, Pakistan has attempted to gain control of the Indian state of Kashmir. It occupies one-third of the disputed territory. The conflict over Kashmir persists between India and Pakistan. The Palestinians also retain a longing for pre-1948 Palestine. In a recent poll taken by the American pollster Stanley Greenberg and the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion of Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, only 31 percent of the respondents accepted the concept of two states for two peoples. Sixty-six percent of the respondents stated that two states should be created with an eventual aim of creating one Palestinian state. A claim for lost territory is hardly a basis for peaceful coexistence. A viable country cannot be created out of a grievance.
Like the Pakistanis, the Palestinians also suffer from a lack of sovereignty in their territories. They both have failed to create governments, which have a monopoly on the use of force. The Pakistanis host a number of terrorist groups, including Lashkare-Taiba, the Taliban faction led by Mullah Omar and the Haqqani network. Lashkar has been held responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks. To regain control of its territory, the Pakistani army launched an offensive against the Taliban in South Waziristan in October 2009.
In the summer of 2007, Fatah lost control of the Gaza Strip to Hamas in a brief civil war. It has only held onto the West Bank due to the Israel security presence in and around the cities. Hamas’s presence in the territories remains strong. Recently, Israeli security forces arrested over 100 suspected Hamas agents in the West Bank and foiled attempted bombings and kidnappings.
If the IDF withdraws from the West Bank, will the Palestinian Authority be able to control these areas? Or will Fatah suffer Pakistan’s fate and leave large sections of the country under the control of jihadists? How will Fatah prevent a Hamas takeover? It also needs to be asked if a country dependent on foreign donations can survive. The World Bank announced in September that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is facing a financial crisis due to a decline in foreign donations. Based on its projected budget, the PA required $1.4 billion in donations to fund its operations. Primarily due to a drop in funding from the Arab states, it has received only a fraction of that amount.
The Palestinian state would be the first country in history that would be almost entirely dependent on foreign aid. A nation so reliant on other countries for financial assistance is no longer independent or sovereign. The Palestinian state would be little more than a pawn of its donors.
The PA also suffers from a massive corruption problem. In a January 2010 interview with “The Jerusalem Post,” Fahmi Shabaneh, an anti-corruption official appointed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, stated that the graft within the PA would lead to Hamas’s eventual takeover of the West Bank. He said that only the IDF’s presence within the area had prevented it.
Shabaneh cited the theft of most of $3.2 million given by the United States to Fatah prior to the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary election. In another example of potential graft, the former PA official Muhammad Dahlan has charged that $1.3 billion is missing from the Palestine Investment Fund, a fund created to manage the money and commercial interests owned by the PA.
The fund is controlled by Abbas and he has resisted outside auditing.
Despite referrals to the Palestinian prosecutor general, there are no records of corruption cases being prosecuted.
Can a peaceful, democratic state be created when many of its officials use the state purse to enrich themselves? These facts are not meant to delegitimize the Palestinians’ claim to the land. Israel’s War of Independence and the Arab states’ subsequent unwillingness to absorb the Palestinian refugees have created a separate people.
Nevertheless, a Palestinian state should not be created under these circumstances. Progress must be made on anti-corruption efforts and incitement. Aid to the PA should be conditioned on these improvements. The Gaza Strip and the West Bank must be united under one government.
Otherwise, the creation of a Palestinian state would be an unmitigated disaster. •
Naim Peress is a lawyer and writer based in New York.