מרכז ישראל/פלסטין למחקר ולמידע

مركز إسرائيل فلسطين للأبحاث و المعلومات

Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information






The New Palestinian Challenge – Effective Governance – Toward the Creation of a

New and Independent Palestinian Strategy




June 14, 2005


Executive Summary – Main Points










Introduction and Background


The fundamental Palestinian strategy to achieve statehood and independence has been focused on ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The Oslo peace process was designed as a gradual incremental plan to transfer occupied territories to a Palestinian Authority that would demonstrate its ability to govern – provide services to the public and to develop a new relationship with Israel that would enhance trust and through it lead to further Israeli withdrawals. The Oslo process crashed as a result of a failure of the basic assumptions. Trust between Israel and the PA was not developed. Both sides did not fully implement their obligations. Good governance did not emerge in Palestine, and instead of a mutually beneficial process that would provide more peace and more security for both sides, security and peace dissipated into violence and destruction.


The basic principle was fundamentally correct – building trust is essential to move forward in a process where the main arena is the negotiating table. Today, in the total absence of trust, the likelihood of reaching the negotiations table in the near future is quite remote. Israel has initiated a process of unilateralism which many hoped, including IPCRI, could be leveraged into a bi-lateral, internationally assisted political process.  In light of the reality that has developed in the past months, even real coordination of the Israeli disengagement between Israel and the PA seems very unlikely. It seems evident that the Government of Israel is not going to make any significant efforts to coordinate the disengagement, nor will the PA make a strong enough case in favor of real coordination for there to be a real possibility of creating a bi-lateral political process.


Since his election, President Mahmoud Abbas has been calling on the Government of Israel to get back to the negotiating table.  He has proposed a back channel to Prime Minister Sharon and he has presented his ideas for resuming the final status negotiations to most of the world’s leaders. President Abbas has taken a strong position against Phase II of the Road Map as a rejection of the idea of another interim agreement that in his view is unnecessary. Abbas stresses that the issues are known to the sides and what is required is the political will to reach an agreement.


IPCRI’s Position


In the view of IPCRI, in the current political constellation, there is no political will to reach an agreement.  There is no possibility of reaching the negotiating table in the near future, certainly not a table where the final status issues are under discussion. In the view of IPCRI, it would be a mistake to even try to negotiate the final status issues at this point as those negotiations would surely fail.  We believe that the region cannot afford another round of failed negotiations.


The main challenge facing us today is to ensure that the Israeli disengagement is “successful”. In talking about a “successful” disengagement, we primarily refer to a successful Palestinian take-over of the territories vacated by Israel.  This means first and foremost that the Palestinian Authority will assert itself over the territories that Israel withdraws from and will use the opportunity of the Israeli disengagement to govern Gaza effectively and efficiently. The Palestinian Authority has no choice but to take over Gaza and to succeed.  It cannot allow itself to fail because failure will mean chaos and a loss of control. This would undoubtedly result in a return of the Israeli army to Gaza, if not for long periods, then certainly for sporadic but constant incursions. The failure of the PA to govern in Gaza could also result in the total collapse of the Abbas regime and perhaps the collapse of the entire Palestinian Authority and will ensure that the first disengagement will be the last one for the coming future.


In order to strengthen the chances for success in the “day after” disengagement scenarios, it is essential to conceive of a plan or a strategy that will ensure that Gaza first will not result in Gaza only. Something must be done, on the ground, that is real enough and compelling enough to make new inroads into gaining support for the two-state solution. Successful and effective Palestinian governance and control in Gaza will have a direct impact on the Palestinians in Gaza, but it will also have a direct impact on Israeli public opinion. Likewise, Palestinian success in Gaza will also impact positively on increasing the real support on the international community that will be ready to translate political support into a renewed global concerted effort to support Palestine and to push the political process forward. The PA and the international community will then have to ensure that financial contributions are turned into visible reality changing dynamics on the ground.


What Must Be Done?


The first condition for creating a new reality on the ground for Palestinians after the Israeli disengagement from Gaza is a Palestinian determination, a decision, and an implementable plan to take over, to govern effectively for the benefit of the people of Gaza.  President Abbas must have the political will that can positively influence the capacity building of what is required to govern and to control.  Since his election, President Abbas has often been perceived as incapable and indecisive. This perception has influenced other forces on the ground, both from within his own Fatah party and of course amongst the other factions. There is no room for indecisiveness in what is required to take on the challenge of building real and effective governance in Gaza.


The natural Palestinian tendency to reject this idea by saying “what about Jerusalem or what about the West Bank” must be put rejected. The adoption of the “all or nothing” strategy will once again result in failure and suffering for the Palestinian people. The entire world will be looking to see if the Palestinians can effectively control Gaza. The world will also be waiting to see if the Palestinians are ready for Statehood meaning if they will create a regime that governs effectively, democratically and provides freedom and dignity for its citizens. The Government of Israel and the Israeli public will also be observing and judging the Palestinian performance.


It is true that this is a kind of a test. Failure to succeed in the test may or may not create a more tragic reality for the Palestinians than the one they are now living.  On the other hand, success is likely to bring about far reaching possibilities for great improvement and more chances of achieving real statehood, independence and viability – in terms that Palestinians speak of – real territorial control and contiguity, East Jerusalem as a capital, real linkages between Gaza and the West Bank and most likely political agreement with Israel. 


A New Palestinian Strategy – Where to Begin?


The question that this paper seeks to address is where to begin? Previous Palestinian strategies have placed the most important key issues at the top of the agenda – Jerusalem, the right of return, borders, sovereignty, etc. This strategy is perhaps still valid in terms of a grand Palestinian strategy – a plan for the “end game”, however, since the second intifada and the emergence of an Israeli strategy of unilateralism, sticking to the old strategy will most likely lead nowhere. It is time to reverse the strategy. It is time to embrace a plan for reaching Jerusalem, sovereignty and full statehood by working from the bottom-up. The foundations for the achievement of the “end-game” goals can be achieved by accepting the Gaza first plan. If the Palestinians can build the first layer of statehood in Gaza, the other layers will follow with greater ease. The most essential element of creating the Palestinian state is effective and good governance of Gaza first.


It is also essential that the Palestinians understand that the Government of Israel will not make it easy.  There has always been a kind dialectic relationship between the Israelis and Palestinians that enforces the rule of mutually hurting actions. That trend does not seem to have ended. After the disengagement from Gaza it is unlikely that a sudden change in behaviors will occur and that the Gaza-Israel border will look like two states in the EU.  There is little reason to assume that after Israel leaves Gaza that life for the Palestinians will suddenly improve by itself. Israel will be out of Gaza, but Israel will still be there for the Palestinians to blame for any lack of progress or improvement in their lives (and the Palestinians will probably have due cause to blame Israel). This is the normal course of events in the Middle East, but it does not have to be the permanent pattern of developments.  It is possible to design a strategy that could turn it around.


The proposed strategy in this paper is based on the idea that the Palestinians will begin to create their state in Gaza first. This is a clear break away from previous Palestinian strategies. The Palestinians can assert their statehood and declare that the State includes the West Bank and Jerusalem. They can assert that the capital of the State is Jerusalem, but the foundations of building the new State are being laid first in Gaza.

There is no doubt that the challenges that must be faced in Gaza are quite significant. Yet if there is a Palestinian political will to move forward in this direction, there will be considerable support available to achieve success. It all begins with determined political will. If this strategy is to be translated into reality it must encompass an immediate Palestinian decision to transfer, for the time being, the full weight of the Palestinian Governance to Gaza.  This must include a massive and significant Palestinian Authority and governmental presence in the Gaza Strip. President Abbas must recognize the importance of the Gaza Strip; that it can not remain the Palestinian state backyard, but must become its front yard.  Accordingly, his efforts to establish an independent Palestinian Sate must start with Gaza. If the State is to be built in Gaza first, the arms of statehood must be seen in Gaza.


The following pages add additional dimensions to the basic strategy laid down above.


Disengagement Opportunities


As the Israeli disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank approaches implementation, the time left for coordinating this move between Israel and the Palestinians is running out. Implementing and concluding the disengagement as a unilateral Israeli move may provoke violence and reinforce the argument that Israel has no Palestinian partner. Disengagement “under fire” may be a pretext for suspending the political process. This scenario would distance the Palestinians from the prospect of establishing an independent state.   


We believe that it is in the Palestinians' interest to regard the disengagement as an opportunity to leverage their goal of establishing an independent state. In order to attain Statehood there is a need for a new Palestinian strategy based on taking initiative and responsibility. The new strategy should restructure the Palestinian reality by developing state infrastructures now. The emphasis must be placed on ensuring effective governance in order to provide the Palestinian citizens both the welfare and the personal and public security.


Effective governance is an essential precondition for a viable state and no one but the Palestinians themselves can guarantee it. The international community may assist the Palestinians but it can never do their work for them.


The Palestinian strategy should be based on four fundamental principles:


1. Independent Palestinian planning initiatives based on taking responsibility, developed simultaneously but separately from the Israeli unilateral actions (thus avoiding being dependent on this unilateralism as much as possible). This strategy should be launched on the basis of a broad public legitimacy evoked by Palestinian public awareness.


2. Rejection and prevention of violence. 


3. Developing and strengthening the cooperation with the US Administration and the international community.


4. Making a systematic effort to mobilize Israeli public opinion.  


Basing a Palestinian strategy on these principles could impact positively on Israeli and international public opinion that could leverage a change in the Israeli government’s strategy. Consequently this may bring about further moves that would enhance coordination with the Palestinians and accelerate the political process.


Current Chaos and a Possible Third Intifada


Assessments on both the Israeli and the Palestinian sides regarding the feasibility of another violent outbreak, a third Intifada, following the unilateral Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank,- are alarming.  Such an outbreak would be harmful to both sides, and it is clear that the Palestinians would suffer greatly.


It is time to reformulate a structured and thorough Palestinian strategy aimed at materializing the Palestinian national vision. The purpose of the strategy is to shape an operational environment through a rational and inventive use of the means that the PA has at its disposal in order to realize the basic Palestinian national strategy.



A Palestinian Strategy? An Israeli Strategy? A Joint Israeli-Palestinian Strategy?


The attempt to formulate a common denominator for both the Israeli and the Palestinian strategies did not succeed during the period of the Oslo process and finally crumbled in the subsequent years of violent conflict. In spite of what initially seemed like encouraging signs regarding possible coordination of the disengagement, it now seems that the parties will be unable to reach sufficiently broad agreements to allow for real and effective cooperation. 


Israel opted for a unilateral strategy and perhaps it is time the PA had their own simultaneous but independent strategy directed at ensuring Palestinian capacity for effective governance. The Palestinian strategy should be aimed at providing for the welfare and the security, both personal and public, of the Palestinian population. 


The Palestinian strategy should place the foundations necessary for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Even if the establishment of the Palestinian state is being delayed, it will nevertheless take place at some point and it is, therefore; expedient to act deliberately and attentively to accelerate its establishment and its ability to function as a viable and substantial state. 


In our assessment, the new Palestinian strategy based on the above mentioned principles and should be reinforced by creating a political atmosphere that encourages constructive and creative thinking and non-violent protest.  Through this there is great potential for exerting pressure on the Israeli government to change its own unilateral agenda.  



The Rationale


The proposed strategy aims to operate in two main operational environments: the Palestinian and the Israeli-Palestinian, the latter being the arena of the conflict. The two environments influence each other and although they employ different patterns of activity, it is important to guarantee the compatibility of these two sets of activities so that they serve the same political end.


The main Palestinian effort should be directed towards the establishment of effective Palestinian governance. Creating the Palestinian State through the comprehensive developmental of governance and state institutions will assist in reducing the a-symmetrical dimension in the conflict arena by substituting its present organizing rationale with an inter-state rationale.


The Palestinian strategy should serve as a compass, maximizing Palestinian political creativity and operational capacity in a tense and paradox-ridden environment. This environment is characterized, on the one hand, by the intensive effort to create a state infrastructure and on the other hand, by managing an acute and unsolved conflict with Israel. This strategy should at the same time maximize the realization of Palestinian interests and minimize and control potential damages to these very interests (in the conflict arena). It also requires political pragmatism seizing upon opportunities and using them in order to advance Palestinian goals, albeit gradually and independently of the Israeli strategy.


A possible expression of the paradoxical optimization of this operational environment could be coordination between two independent strategies: the Israeli and the Palestinian. It may prove that the chances for such coordination increase in a reality where the two entities are separated. In the process of fostering the Palestinian nation and its collective identity, new ideas and mechanisms could be created unilaterally that would ultimately lead to cooperation after separation.


What is Effective and Qualitative Governance and what are the Prerequisites for a Viable State?


Effective governance is an essential prerequisite for a viable and substantive state. The rule of law and the State monopoly over military and police forces are what will determine the success of this strategy. Effective governance should rely on public legitimacy which reflects the public's support of the state institutions, as well as on the separation of the three governmental authorities with a system of checks and balances, and on the principle of accountability of the civil service to the political institutions and of the latter to the public.


In order to ensure effective governance, a high level of coordination is required between the state institutions, acting on the authority of a clear directive formulated and expressing a Grand Strategy and vision.


Essential conditions for effective governance include:

1. A single source of authority, elected democratically and based on broad public legitimacy.  

2. A monopoly by the Government over the means of enforcement;

3. Social cohesion; commitment; responsibility and accountability; and

4. The rule of law. 


The Palestinian unilateral strategy and actions should be directed to the development of infrastructure, institutions, economy and employment. The strategy must also address issues concerning religion, education, culture, social welfare and personal and public security.


Infrastructure – a concentrated Palestinian effort, in cooperation with the international community, should focus massive investments in physical infrastructure. In the eyes of the Palestinian citizen, effective governance will be expressed in the design and construction of urban and agricultural spaces and in ensuring the accessibility and proper functioning of the Palestinian economy, transport and everyday requirements. To this end it will be necessary to invest in wide-scale development of the transportation and communication infrastructure, the accelerated and qualitative construction of urban centers for housing and commerce, thorough treatment of the water systems, sewage and energy infrastructures, and the construction of a sea port and renovation of the airport in Gaza.


Investments in infrastructure are long-term and will supply immediately badly needed jobs as well as for developing the economy and improving the quality of life (especially in the refugee camps). Accelerated and intensive process of construction and development will forge a new atmosphere and a sense of purpose. Such an atmosphere will inevitably lead to the focusing of the efforts, resources and attention of the general public on the project of state- building, thus substituting despair with hope.


Institutions – The various state institutions (government offices, governmental and municipal organizations) must be transparent to the citizens and demonstrate both efficiency and integrity. They must conduct themselves in the spirit of the national vision, strategy and goals. It would be wise to invest effort and resources in setting up governmental seats in every district, where government offices and public institutions will be located. This has a symbolic value in that it projects to the citizens an image of order, power, efficiency and accessibility. Since those institutions and their employees are in fact "the government" in the eyes of the citizen seeking their services, it is only appropriate that they should project such an image of respectability.


Religion and worship - The authority of the Palestinian government depends, among other things, on the widespread recognition of its legitimacy over the means maintaining law and order and accountability to its citizens. Substitutes for state institutions might turn into a challenge of the authority of the government and threaten its legitimacy, and uncontrolled management of religious institutions might allow extra-governmental bodies to leverage religion and religious worship into a political alternative for the Palestinian government and thus erode the foundations of effective governance.


Precisely because Islam and religious worship are so central to Palestinian culture and ethos, the Palestinian government must assume the responsibility for the management of religious affairs in all the territories under its jurisdiction. This, however, does not entail nationalizing religion itself. Effective management of religious services should guarantee for each citizen the freedom of worship and accessibility to the religious establishment but at the same time it must ensure that religion and worship do not become a threat for the Palestinian government and for its capacity to rule effectively.


Education and Culture -   The educational system is the most important agent of socialization available to the state. It is also a tool for providing education and skills which are required for personal and professional development as well as for producing the human capital which can then foster economical and scientific progress as well as social cohesion. The state educational system is rich in resources and strong in influence and any alternatives to it are in most cases inappropriate or irrelevant for most citizens due to being both costly and scarce. Therefore the Palestinian government must invest effort, thought and resources in developing the educational system on all levels: infrastructure, manpower, management and most importantly, content, which is the heritage transmitted to future generations. The educational system should become the pedagogical basis for democracy and for governmental integrity as well as for the training of future generations in the spirit of the regenerated Palestinian vision. The educational system is entrusted with the most valuable state asset - the human capital. This underlines the importance of a meticulous and proper structuring of the system and of demonstrating the state’s responsibility for its quality and proper functioning which is one of the most important expressions of effective governance. 


Welfare Services – The Palestinian government must act to secure the future and welfare of its citizens and therefore it is highly important to engage in social legislation (especially labor legislation) and to set up support mechanisms such as the national insurance program, pension funds, job centers and centers for job allocation and career change, and offices that cater for youth, economically disadvantaged families and the physically and mentally handicapped.  


Personal and Public Security – One of the primary and basic duties of a government towards its citizens is to guarantee personal and public security. This cannot be done without a legislative and normative framework which solidifies the state’s monopoly over the means of enforcing law and order.


In undertaking determined policy actions to consolidate the State’s monopoly over the control of force, legislation must be enacted and policies adopted to enable existing militia to voluntarily submit to the law. The opposition, mainly Hamas can be fully legalized as a political party without a military arm, which would become illegal and not tolerated by the authority. The PA must implement its decision that there is one authority and one gun. Any attempt to avoid such enforcement, including seizing illegally possessed firearms and neutralizing the capacity of various militias to implement their political and social agendas through the use of force, may turn against the Palestinian government and endanger the interests of the Palestinian society as a whole.  In such circumstances, the very survival of the Palestinian government would be imperiled and, needless to say, effective governance would become impossible. 


Personal and Public security are a necessary condition for the smooth running of a society and an economy. They are the cornerstones of social stability, of public legitimacy for the elected government and for securing the state raison d'etre. In their absence the Palestinian government would be doomed, whatever strategy it may choose to employ. 




The twelve years of the Oslo process have led the parties into a mutual stalemate. This stalemate has worsened its quality of life of Palestinian society and has severely delayed the realization of its political aspirations. It is doubtful whether would be possible to extricate the parties from this stalemate due to the lack of political will on the part of the Sharon government, on the one hand, and the lack of determination of the US Administration for more active involvement in the process on the other hand. 


From the Palestinian perspective, this reality obliges their leadership to re-examine the relevance of its present conceptual framework. It would seem that this framework is no longer capable of providing the intellectual basis for the development of an effective strategy that would advance and realize the Palestinian interests.


In this paper we endeavored to present an alternative rationale for a Palestinian grand-strategy based on an up-to-date conceptual framework capable reshaping the Palestinian arena from within as well as interacting with the continuous Israeli-Palestinian conflict arena.


This reshaping of the Palestinian arena as well as the laying down of the foundations for a viable and substantial Palestinian state requires effective governance. Focusing the strategic effort on creating the conditions for an independent Palestinian State while cooperating with the US Administration and with the international community, and engaging in an effort to mobilize Israeli public opinion, may contribute to creating the necessary conditions for leveraging the Palestinian effort towards the realization of an updated Palestinian vision.


The new Palestinian strategy must enable its society and government to maximize their performance in a tense and paradoxical environment, and to improve their patterns of activity in order to ensure effective governance as a necessary condition and an essential and safe avenue for the creation of the much longed-for state.   









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IPCRI Co-CEO’s:  Gershon Baskin and Hanna Siniora

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IPCRI SAU Co-Directors: Kobi Michael and Khaled Duzdar

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