Nathan Brown on Salam Fayyad's "state-building"

Excerpts (with thanks to Sam Bahour) From Nathan Brown’s new assessment of Salam Fayyad and the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority: “Fayyad has become so indispensible to U.S. diplomacy in particular that there now seems a bizarre knee-jerk reaction to anything bad that happens in Gaza: delivering more money to Ramallah (as happened when the Gaza war concluded in January 2009 or after the Israeli raid on the Gaza flotilla in May 2010)…

“Washington tends to make the same mistake over and over in Palestinian politics—searching for (and sometimes finding) a particular individual who has the virtues needed to lead Palestinians in the path the United States wishes at a particular time. In Washington, Fayyad is the indispensible man of the hour, suggesting that once more the U.S. leadership is confusing a useful individual with a sound policy. Nobody I met in Palestine suffers from the same confusion. Even the most earnest officials are frustrated by the political context of their efforts—they see their effectiveness limited by the absence of sovereignty and feel that they are operating in a punishing holding pattern rather participating in an inexorable march toward statehood.

“[A]fter examining Palestinian institutional development on the ground, I see only spotty signs of progress—and there are also profoundly worrying signs of regression as well. Those who cite Fayyad’s success at building institution rarely cite a single institution that has been built. Instead they refer generally to improvements in ‘security’ and ‘rule of law’. (On security, they tend to concentrate on daily policing—where there has been improvement—and overlook the far more checkered record of the intelligence and security services.)  There is a reason for this vagueness. There simply have been few institutions built in Ramallah since the first Fayyad cabinet was formed in 2007. Instead, the focus has been on breathing life and regularizing institutions that were built in previous periods.

“There is no separation of powers; instead there is an increasing concentration of authority in the executive branch. There is no legislative branch. Court orders have ignored; judges have bowed out of some sensitive political issues; and the independence of the judiciary is hardly guaranteed.

“The fact remains, of course, that a campaign for “security” is often synonymous with the attempt to suppress Hamas. And as a result other problems—political interference, illegal detentions—do not seem to have been addressed. Or, rather, they have been addressed—by a decision at senior levels (the security service heads and perhaps the president himself) that the struggle against Hamas takes priority over the law…

This report and analysis by Nathan Brown can be read in full here.

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