State-building and Political Change: Options for Palestine 2011
Across the Middle East, the year 2011 already appears destined to be a period of upheaval. It is not yet clear how the dramatic events of January and February will influence the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but three factors suggest that this year will also be one of change for Palestinians and Israelis.
First, Palestinian expectations have been moved by the powerful, popular movements that have wrought political change in their immediate neighborhood. The fact that popular action has opened the way for change elsewhere in the region is likely to energize Palestinians and may hasten, at least, a shift in Palestinian strategy. It could elicit more substantial transformation.
Second, the government of Israel has been shaken out of its relative comfort by regional events. With the fall of the Mubarak regime, Israel may lose a reliable regional ally in the peace process. Its relationship with Turkey has already shifted. Israel is consequently facing the possibility of acute isolation in the region, accompanied by a strengthening de-legitimization campaign. Pressure on Israel to tackle the Palestinian issue actively has intensified, though it is not clear in what policy direction regional developments will push the Netanyahu government.
Third, Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad has created an expectation that something will move Palestinians closer to statehood in August/September 2011. In August 2009, Fayyad launched a finite, two-year institution-building program through which he sought to demonstrate that Palestinians were ready to take on the responsibilities of statehood. The technical achievements of this program are already considerable. Fayyad’s deadline-setting strategy has worked: Palestinians expect some kind of political change in August/September 2011, though no one knows exactly what will happen.