Monday, January 24, 2011

First thoughts about the Palestinian Papers

Of course, it can’t go without saying something about the leak of the Palestine Papers by Al Jazeera and the Guardian yesterday. I must find time to work my way through some of the documents. But what are the implications likely to be in both Palestine and Israel? Like Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian, I’m inclined to think that the fallout will be more significant for the Palestinians at first. The fallout will hit the individuals’ negotiators’ credibility – although it has to be said that the general public’s mood has been largely sceptical of the leadership’s efforts in recent years. I can’t comment on Robert Grenier’s analysis that the negotiators were no quislings and were working for their people – my instinct is to give them the benefit of the doubt, since all politics is about compromise – but I doubt that the man on the Ramallah omnibus will see them in as favourably a light.
Envisioning Palestinian economic policy

There were three papers presented at the MAS conference on Sunday. Two were general, one by Samir Abdullah that examined the development gap and internal distortions between the West Bank and Gaza and the other by Numan Kanafani, which proposed some models to achieve economic integration between the two areas. A final one, by Abd Al Fatah Abu Shokor, dealt with the Jerusalem economy. Of the three, this was perhaps the least useful, since while it useful on the analysis (as many Palestinian papers are), it wasn’t so good on envisaging a future vision for Jerusalem. He provided very general recommendations, including a structural plan (which according to some of the commentators speaking after him, already appears to be in place, the President’s Office having set up a Jerusalem Unit in 2007 with EU money to complete one and which will be launched next month) and promoting religious tourism around the Haram Al Sharif and supporting ‘steadfastness’( i.e. resistance movements).
Fayyad at MAS

I don’t usually find it useful to go to a meeting or conference to listen to a politician; you can usually find what they think or have said elsewhere. Besides, if it’s a public forum they are less likely to be particularly candid, especially if there plenty of cameras and microphones in front of them. That said, they do have a pulling factor, which the most insightful academic in the world can’t match – mainly because the more critical the academic, the more likely they are to be further away from power and thus to implement their vision.

With that in mind, having been in Palestine for nearly a year now, when the opportunity came to listen to the prime minister, Salam Fayyad, speak at the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute’s (MAS) annual conference, I had to go. His shadow has loomed over the course of everything that I’ve worked on over the past year, mainly relating back to his Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State programme, the so-called Fayyad Plan, which has been the government’s main vision for the past 18 months.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Hamsters and peace

Back in August I attended a couple of seminars in Jerusalem on security and border issues between Israel and a future Palestinian state, which I’ve blogged about previously. The central challenge among the (Israeli) presenters was how to ensure security for Israel without any direct form of control.

It’s not a new question. I was struck by this as I was digging through the journal section in the LSE library this week (research for an entirely unrelated paper) and came across the first edition of The Jerusalem Journal of International Relations and an article entitled ‘A Proposal for Peace in the Middle East’ by Morton Kaplan.