Gershon Baskin

The authority of the Authority

04.01.2017

Gershon Baskin. Photo: Otmar Steinbicker

Quite frequently the Israeli press is filled with reports and analyses of the impending crash and collapse of the Palestinian Authority. I often wonder where the authors of these reports get their information. In my experience very few of them, almost none in fact, have any real familiarity with the functioning of the PA on a day-to-day basis.

Let’s start with the basics: it is completely true that the PA has very limited authority. According to the Oslo agreements, the PA has “full control” over Area A – the “big” cities such as Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Nablus, Kalkilya, Tulkarm, Jenin, etc. – which accounts for about 20% of the West Bank. The PA has civil but not security control over the built up areas of the hundreds of villages in the West Bank, known as Area B and accounting for about another 20%. Israel has full control over Area C where all of the Israeli settlements are located and where all of the open “development areas” – land owned by Palestinians – are found, and which accounts for over 60%.

Unlike any other government in the world, the PA has no control over its borders. In reality Israel has full control over everything – even in Area A. The only real control the PA has is what Israel allows it to control.

Water, electricity, currency, labor, imports and exports, movement and access – everything connected to daily life and governance is essentially controlled by Israel, or to be exact the Israeli army. The legal sovereign in the West Bank since June 1967 is the commander of the Israeli forces in Judea and Samaria, not the PA. The PA has no real sovereignty, even though the state of Palestine is recognized by 136 countries in the world.

Nonetheless, with all of the lack of real control detailed above, there is a functioning Palestinian government which enables relatively normal daily life for most Palestinians in the West Bank. There is a functioning (actually quite well functioning) education system. The healthcare system provides decent service in a system which is constantly expanding and improving, despite the lack of financial resources and the inability of the PA to pay all of its healthcare bills. There is a functioning system of law and order with a police force and a civil court system that works quite well. PA government ministries I have had direct contact and interaction with – the National Economy Ministry, Finance Ministry, Planning Ministry, Local Government Ministry, the Energy and Natural Resources Authority, the Water Authority, the Capital Market Authority, the Monetary Authority and more are filled with young, well trained and educated professionals.

The PA lacks money, even though its tax system is working. A big chunk of its finances come from VAT transfers from Israel and duties collected by Israel on its behalf (because it has no external border crossings under its control). There is a real financial crisis in the PA; Palestine, like many other countries, is poor.

However its poverty has little to do with corruption. In the past years I have been working on projects that will bring tens of millions of dollars of private-sector investments into Palestine and have never, not even once, have under-the-table cash payments ever been so much as hinted at. Everyone speaks about corruption and even most Palestinians believe that there is high-level corruption.

There is nepotism, no doubt about that – ministers and people with money and influence hire their relatives and people close to them. There is no doubt that the large companies in the hands of several important and wealthy families make sure most of the wealth in Palestine remains in their hands. But isn’t that the same in most countries? It certainly is in Israel.

There are problems regarding Palestine’s democracy.

It is true that there have not been elections since 2006 and that is a great flaw in Palestinian society, one which almost every Palestinian I know recognizes. They want change, they want reform and they want new officials elected. But they also know that the main challenge before them (outside of the occupation of course) is the internal political divide between the West Bank and Gaza, between Hamas and the PLO. Most Palestinians believe the best way to handle this division is by way of elections, but for that to happen there must be agreement between the sides and that has not happened yet.

Elections will probably be held next when President Abbas can no longer serve for whatever reason.

In terms of personal freedoms within the PA, setting aside those for which Israel and not it is responsible, in my opinion there is far more freedom (press, organization, political, speech, etc.) than in any other Arab country.

That does not mean that it is perfect – far from it.

It is true that the Palestinian government is bureaucratically heavy and inflated, with too many employees on the public dole. Most of the unnecessary paid employees in the public sector are in the security services. This is not by the direct design of the PA alone, but a direct outcome of Oslo and the pressure and money provided by the international community – mostly the United States and Israel. This is also not unusual in many poor countries – labor is created in the public sector to artificially keep unemployment low.

Investment in the private sector and especially direct foreign investment in Palestine is way too low. Part of that comes from the donor mentality that has been created and fostered whereby Palestinians have learned to expect projects to be supported by free money rather than having to risk investing their own money in expanding the economy.

Investment in Palestine is risky business, no doubt, but nonetheless anyone who drives around Palestinian cities and towns, not only Ramallah and Bethlehem, will see large numbers of new businesses opening up. Young Palestinians, increasingly more educated and trained in advanced sectors of the economy – hi-tech, engineering and business development – are starting up businesses, and small-business incubators are appearing, not only in the West Bank but also in Gaza.

The PA is far from where it should be and has many shortcomings. There is constantly room for improvement.

But most Israelis have no idea about the realities of Palestinian governance or the achievements that have been made by the Palestinians over the past years. Too many Palestinians, without a great deal of thinking, are in favor of shutting the PA down because of its failure to achieve statehood and freedom. That would be a huge mistake. There have been real achievements that need to be built on and it would be wise for Palestinians and Israelis to realize that.


World Wide Web aixpaix.de

Beiträge von Gershon Baskin
2017

The authority of the Authority

2016

The state of denial

The state of denial

Settlements, annexation and the death of Zionism

It’s not just the economy

Encountering peace?

Building a shared society

Transitional mind-shifts

Excuse me for asking

Israel needs a fully functioning opposition

Putting the end forward

Speaking peace out loud and all over

Secret back channels

Left, Right, Zionist, anti-Zionist

Clear and measurable steps

Russia?

Palestine-Jordan confederation and peace

The waiting game

The apology, democracy and peace

Sisi, the peace broker

Anti-anti-normalization

The republic of Israel-Palestine?

My enemy's leader

De-risking peace - Part 5

De-risking peace - Part 4

De-risking peace - Part 3

De-risking peace - Part 2

De-risking peace - Part 1

The Left is right

The French connection

The United Nations and Israel’s legitimacy

A moment of opportunity

The darkness of our times

Addressing the core

The worst negotiations, the best negotiations

Palestinian turmoil and Israeli interests

This one is for you - the Palestinians

Palestinian suffering makes no sense for Israel

Creating a compelling vision for peace

It is also in our hands

Sooner or later

There is no partner

There is no partner

2015

Yes, it is difficult to make peace

What does he really want?

To those who oppose Israeli-Palestinian peace

Israel – my sad home

Have I got news for you

It is still not too late for peace

Netanyahu, tell us what you really think!

The partnership challenge

The binational reality that we are experiencing

Abbas is still the leader who can make peace

A new intifada?

After Abbas

The distance between here and peace and security

Doing the wrong thing at that wrong time

The one and only solution!

Yeshayahu Leibowitz was right!

The disengagement – 10 years on: What we choose to forget

Needed - a new approach to Gaza

A bad agreement is better than no agreement

Obviously no peace now, so what then?

Ramadan Kareem!

Israel’s strategic choices regarding Gaza

Anti-normalization hypocrites

FIFA, soccer and the Palestinians

Both sides now

It’s time for Palestine

The citizens’ challenge – from despair to hope

We have the chance to do the right thing in Yarmouks

The world is not against us

This is what you voted for, and this is what you will get

The no decision elections

A cautious peace, but peace nevertheless

For the sake of Israel, Netanyahu must be sent home

Going ballistic even prior to an agreement

To the new IDF chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot

The Peace Bridge

The choices we must make

Israeli elections – It’s not about the economy

Threats and security

2014

Returning to negotiations

Our most important elections

The missed opportunities

We want peace, but they don't

Our future is in our hands

Defining who we are

Unlike religious wars, political wars have solutions

Today and tomorrow

If we had a real leader

Jerusalem of peace, Jerusalem of war

No tango going on at all

The Gaza challenge

Is Hamas prepared to end this war with a long-term ceasefire?

The end of the ceasefire, the renewal of war and the end game

The aftermath

Some thoughts this morning

Regional forum for security and stability – Gaza first

After a long phone conversation with a Hamas leader in Gaza

Don’t destroy Gaza, build it!

Framework document for the establishment of permanent peace (part 3 of 3)

Framework document for the establishment of permanent peace (part 2 of 3)

Framework document for the establishment of permanent peace

Palestinian refugees in Syria

Annexing the West Bank – a catastrophic plan for the Jewish people

Mutual and reciprocal recognition

Our Palestinians, their Jews

A very personal statement on peace

2013

Contextual reciprocity

Negotiating atmospherics

My Conversation With Hamas

Ramadan Kareem

Wahrheit, Lügen und Rechtmäßigkeit

Kauft palästinensisch!

Rat für den Präsidenten

Keine Fortsetzung des Unilateralismus!

Diesen Weg müssen wir einschlagen!

Die Kluft im Umgang mit den israelischen Arabern schließen

2012

Eine Ein-Staat-Realität ist nicht durchführbar

Strategische Fehler und Herausforderungen

Mord an der Chance für Ruhe

Das Ende des Raketenbeschusses aus Gaza

Die Aufgabe eines Staatsmannes

Es gibt einen Ausweg

Atomwaffen raus aus dem Arsenal

Was Abbas Israel sagen sollte

Obama, gestatte es uns nicht!

Ist mein zionistischer Traum gestorben?