Strong piece by Natan Sharansky and Bassem Eid in the WSJ op-ed pages today. The title (unfortunately) is “No Peace without Democracy”, when Democracy really means rule of law and government that exists to support people not people exist to support militias/warlords/cronies/gangs that use government to extract wealth from the people. But democracy is one word so that’s easier. But in the context of the Palestinian issue, democracy (i.e. pure rule by ballot) gave us Hamas and illiberal (in many regards) organization.
That said, the central argument of the piece is spot on:
Last November’s Annapolis “peace” conference continued this misguided approach. Once again the focus is primarily on who is ruling and not on how they rule. Mr. Abbas has replaced Arafat as the recipient of international largess, but the emphasis remains on empowering a particular leader, rather than empowering Palestinian civil society and creating democratic institutions.
That is, since even Oslo and PM Rabin the Israelis have always hand picked who they would negotiate with. One of the central failures of Oslo was a number of other Palestinian political groups who were shut out by of the process by the combination of Arafat’s desire to be a dictator and the Israeli’s lack of trust and negative interference in the Territories (and still seeing them as Israeli territory and not say illegally occupied land with its own sovereign voice/integrity).
They call for shifting aid going to Fatah but rather to civil society build up. As Thomas Barnett likes to say, foreign aid dependency is like oil/diamonds, the countries that get it have no reason to be responsible to its citizenry, can buy off security forces (mostly to control internal affairs), and control the people. It also creates a dependency on the outside source of income which forestalls native human efforts to better one’s life and one’s family life.
It is high time that Palestinian civil society be fully recognized by the international community as a prerequisite to peace, not as an obstacle to it. If Palestinian civil society is not empowered, the Fatah-controlled West Bank may soon be ruled by Hamas, and Fatah leaders there may find themselves one day having to rely on Israel’s Supreme Court to save them.