Don’t Try to Reform Palestinian Politics. Instead Focus on the Palestinian Economy

May 3, 2021 | Elliott Abrams
About the author: Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and is the chairman of the Tikvah Fund.

Last week, the Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas announced the cancelation of elections for the Palestinian parliament, which had been scheduled for later this month. Most likely, writes Elliott Abrams, the presidential elections planned for June won’t take place either. This decision, Abrams argues, is likely for the best, even though it undermines the PA’s legitimacy. He considers what can be done:

This situation means that a Biden-administration initiative to implement the “two-state solution” will not succeed, and will only result in a waste of precious time and energy for top administration officials—as well as needless friction with the government of Israel.

There are instead more positive things to do. Ghaith al-Omari suggests working with “Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia—to encourage Abbas to engage in Fatah revitalization and to clarify the succession process.” This seems to me unlikely to work very well. Abbas has never wanted to anoint a successor and will not even at his advanced age—perhaps especially now, at his advanced age—and may well view a fluid and reformed succession process as likely to result in his own removal. As to working with the governments of Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia on Fatah revitalization, none of them has any experience with such a project. None has a successful governing party or movement, or any useful expertise in creating on.

Instead, I’d suggest trying to get the Gulf Arabs interested in helping the West Bank economically, through greatly increased investment. That might be a project on which the United States, Israel, and the Gulf Arab governments plus Jordan could work together for common interests.

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