By Arab News
When Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told donor nations in Brussels that the building blocks of a modern Palestine state were now in place, he was not exaggerating but simply echoing what the donors themselves had said, and more. Their view was that the institutions developed by the Palestinian Authority were now “above the threshold for a functioning state.”
The donors were citing reports prepared by the World Bank, the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund. They were endorsing a UN report which says that in six key areas in the West Bank — rule of law, the economy, education, health, social protection and infrastructure — “government functions are now sufficient for a functioning government of a state.” In particular, the IMF noted decreased dependence on aid and increased budgetary transparency.
This is a hugely important. That Palestinians have been praised as ready for independent rule accelerates their drive toward statehood recognition. With peace talks with Israel dead, Palestinians have been pursuing a UN vote on statehood in September — a goal that seems more likely after this upbeat assessment of the PA’s ability to govern a sovereign state.
The Palestinians chose September 2011 as their day of judgment, and did not do so haphazardly; the date is a pointed rebuff to the United States. Five months from now, statehood could be announced on the very date President Barack Obama chose as his finishing line for a peace agreement. The Palestinians might get there, but upon their own initiative, and after having taken an entirely different route. They are bypassing Washington and Tel Aviv and directly seeking the blessings of the international community.
This unprecedented potential unilateral declaration of independence has Israel in anxious mood and mode. As such, whether out of desperation or in line with its usual policy to grab land, Israel continues to perform the one major act that stopped the peace talks in the first place: It has continued its settlement building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The UN report issued in Brussels noted that since September 2010 Israel has given the green light to 1,700 Jewish settlement units while continuing demolitions of Palestinian homes and evictions of Palestinian families, especially in east Jerusalem. Fearing the worst, fearing the Palestinian side will unilaterally declare independence, and win its case, Israel is going flat out trying to turn as much Palestinian land into Israeli territory, so that come September, a possible state will be that much smaller.
Naturally, what Israel opposes, so does the United States. Thus, the US blocked a meeting of the Quartet that had been tentatively scheduled to take place Friday in Berlin to discuss, and hopefully endorse, the outlines of a peace settlement proposed by Britain, France and Germany. And in February, the US vetoed the Security Council resolution that would have condemned illegal Israeli settlements and demanded an immediate halt to all settlement building.
Fortunately, the Palestinians are not going it alone. The veto spurred Britain, France and Germany, who supported the measure, to issue a joint statement expressing serious concern about the stalemate in the Middle East peace process. And now the EU’s glowing report card is reflective of growing support for Palestinian independence.
Ahead of the possible UN vote on statehood, the Palestinians have gained a crucial boost from the IMF and World Bank. They are calling the endorsement a “birth certificate” for statehood.
Perhaps sooner than anyone expected, the nascent state shall indeed be born.