Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Palestinian fate rests on strong institutions

The Palestinian statehood effort at the United Nations promises advantages, but the gambit also carries risks. In any case, effective state institutions matter more than recognition right now.

The US and Israel are doing what they can to prevent a United Nations vote to acknowledge Palestinian statehood. This has encouraged many proponents of the plan, which has a good chance of partial success.

The initiative is evidence of how sophisticated Palestinian advocates have become. But the gambit is not without risks for the Palestinian Authority.

Perceived as a way to pressure the US to make Israel negotiate in good faith, the measure took on a life of its own after Washington's ability to cajole Israel broke on Benjamin Netanyahu's intransigent eagerness to keep stalling - and building settlements. In this sense it is Mr Netanyahu who has put at risk the primacy of an agreed two-state solution.

To be sure, formal Palestinian acceptance into the community of states is unlikely now; an already-promised US veto in the Security Council will ensure that.

Still, General Assembly approval, highly likely though not certain, would convey some benefits, principally political: symbolic validation of the cause and increased isolation for Israel and the US. But the change would also bring some legal advantages: by moving from "observer entity" to "non-member observer state" (like the Vatican) the PA would gain access to world bodies including the International Criminal Court.

To set against these gains there are risks to consider. One is the US threat to end its annual $400 million (Dh1.47 billion) subsidy to the PA. But since the same amount could be available to the PA from other donors the US may be slow to actually take this step.

Israel's threat to stop transferring tax revenue it collects on goods coming into the Palestinian territories is more worrisome. But that could well topple the Fatah leadership, the most moderate Israel can hope for. Already the administration of Salam Fayyed, the capable moderate PA prime minister, is slow to pay civil servants' salaries, due to the non-delivery of some promised foreign aid.

The third potential downside to pursuit of UN approval is that the bright new spotlight of "statehood" could expose the persistent disunity of the Palestinian leadership. In fact, Hamas is at best lukewarm to the whole UN recognition project.

If the politics of statehood are in question, so too are the mechanics. This week the World Bank had high praise for Mr Fayyed's just-concluded two-year project to strengthen state institutions. But the World Bank also said aid promised but not delivered, along with Israeli restrictions, could imperil those accomplishments. Recognition as a state is important, but actually building a working state must be the top priority.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Supporters of unseen India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party prime ministerial candidate and Chief Minister of the western Indian state of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, wave as he arrives to file his election nomination papers in Varanasi. Sanjay Kanojia / AFP Photo

Best photography from around the world April 24

The National View's photo editors pick the best of the day from around the world

 Sarah Geronimo. Courtesy: FLASH Entertainment

Sarah Geronimo brings her star power to Abu Dhabi this weekend

Ahead of her Abu Dhabi concert on Thursday night, we take a look at the Filipina singer Sarah Geronimo’s extraordinary career.

 Visitors look at the medieval inventor Al Jazari’s water-powered Elephant Clock. The clock is on show at the 1001 Inventions exhibition at Sharjah Expo Centre. Photos Antonie Robertson / The National

1001 Inventions: in praise of Islam’s gifts to the world

Down the centuries, from camera obscura to designing a sail that allowed early seafarers to tack into the wind, Muslim scientists have made many significant contributions to science. Rym Ghazal and Asmaa Al Hameli visit an exhibition in Sharjah that celebrates those contributions

 Mumbai Indians fans cheer they team on the opening match between Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders in IPL 2014 at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

Earn cash back with the IPL cricket in the UAE

Dunia finance promotion allows cricket lovers to earn up to 6 per cent unlimited cash back on any spending they make on a day when an IPL match is played in the UAE.

 Iranian workers at the Iran Khodro auto plant in Tehran on March 18. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

Iran’s love of cars survives devastating sanctions

Sanctions and energy subsidy reductions might have hurt the Iranian automotive industry. But car makers at one factory are still optimistic, Yeganeh Salehi reports from Tehran

 This comparison image shown on Reddit annotated the objects with vehicles from the movies.

Disney confirms that Star Wars: Episode 7 is filming in Abu Dhabi desert

Disney yesterday confirmed that the filming of Star Wars: Episode 7 is taking place in the desert in Abu Dhabi.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National