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Friday, July 02, 2010

"Fayyad is not building a state" - Nathan Brown vs. Thomas Friedman

Right on the heels of my post about how the vaunted Palestinian Arab state building is really an illusion comes a much more authoritative article saying the same thing.

Nathan Brown, writing in Foreign Policy magazine a shortened version of a paper he wrote for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, shows in detail what is happening on the ground in the PA. He analyzes both the successes and failures of the PA in building a state - and the failures outnumber the successes. To be sure, most of the failures are due to the difficult political environment in which Fayyad is working - often against Fatah.

A quote from the paper:
A dispassionate analysis reveals that rather than building institutions, Fayyad’s cabinet is reviving some of them and attempting to inject elements of greater competence and efficiency in selected bureaucratic locations. This is then a program of improved public administration rather than a statebuilding effort.
But is there any harm in the boosterism about “Fayyadism?”
Yes. The international infatuation with the effort obscures two extremely unhealthy developments, both of them tied to the schism in Palestinian politics—the effort is predicated on the denial of democracy and human rights, and it is bypassing (and perhaps even enabling) the further deterioration in Palestinian institutions that lie outside of the realm of government. The Palestinian political system is deeply troubled; Fayyadism does not address the crisis. At best it manages administration in the face of crisis; at worst it allows international and domestic actors to ignore it—for now.

His conclusion from the FP article:
Fayyad is not building a state, he's holding down the fort until the next crisis. And when that crisis comes, Fayyad's cabinet has no democratic legitimacy or even an organized constituency to fall back on. What he does have -- contrary to those who laud him for not relying on outsiders -- is an irreplaceable reservoir of international respectability. The message of "Fayyadism" is clear, and it is personal: if Salam Fayyad is prime minister, wealthy international donors will keep the PA solvent, pay salaries to its employees, fund its infrastructural development, and even put gentle pressure on Israel to ease up its tight restrictions on movement and access.

Fayyad may be a good person, but finding a good person is not a policy. If he is making mild administrative and fiscal improvements in some areas, this cannot obscure the deeper problem that most Palestinian political institutions are actually in deep trouble and the most important ones are in a state of advanced decay.
This is real research, of someone spending significant time on the ground in the West Bank and talking to a wide variety of people about the details of the PA's performance.

This is in stark contrast to the the facile cheerleading of NYT's Thomas Friedman who wrote this week:
Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the former World Bank economist ...has unleashed a real Palestinian “revolution.” It is a revolution based on building Palestinian capacity and institutions not just resisting Israeli occupation, on the theory that if the Palestinians can build a real economy, a professional security force and an effective, transparent government bureaucracy it will eventually become impossible for Israel to deny the Palestinians a state in the West Bank and Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.
Brown's analysis is methodical, Friedman's is wishful. It is a shame that so many in the West rely on Friedman for their facts - oblivious to the danger of making policy decisions on the basis of his vaunted expertise.