The case for temporary outside imposition of government on the Palestinians

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The belief in the need to impose a temporary government on the Palestinians is based on the following judgments about underlying facts.

The existing regime by its nature–and as demonstrated by its record–will never be interested in making a real peace with Israel based on an acceptance of the legitimacy of two peoples with valid claims to this land.

The existing regime is less concerned with the interests or wishes of the Palestinian people than with its effort to destroy Israel, and will resist with force any internal opposition or efforts at fundamental reform.

The deep corruption of the regime makes economic development virtually impossible.

The regime’s commitment to inciting hatred of Israel and Jews, through lies and other deception, which is part of its strategy for staying in power, is incompatible with movement to peace.

The regime is steeped in terrorism, which is criminal and unacceptable. There is little room for separating internal terrorism from external terrorism. The Palestinians must have a government that is not involved in terrorism. There needs to be a clean break with terrorism.

Particularly because of the intensity of the conflict with Israel, and the outside support that has been given the current regime, it is essentially impossible for Palestinians to remove the current regime. Potential opponents, or alternative leadership, will not come forward until after Yassir Arafat and the current regime are removed.

What is needed is an outside group to organize a temporary government to handle the day to day affairs of the Palestinians for an interim period of something like three years, by analogy to the experience of Germany and Japan after World War II. During this interim period the Palestinian people could gradually develop civil and political institutions that could begin a democratic political process to create a Palestinian government that could negotiate with Israel. Meanwhile security requirements will only permit arrangements that are much more burdensome for Palestinians.

This discussion is based on the proposal made by Minister Natan Sharansky summarized in his article, “Where Do We Go From Here” in The Jerusalem Post on May 3, 2002. But other forms of this approach might be as good or better.

Sharansky proposes that something like an Interim Palestinian Administration (IPA) be created by a commission composed of the United States and the Arab states that recognize Israel, excluding individuals who have been involved in terrorist activities. The IPA will be committed to freedom of expression and organization, to ending the teaching of hatred and falsehood, and to ending the maintenance of refugee camps designed to perpetuate grievances. While the responsibilities of this interim administration would include normal police functions, Israel would retain security responsibility and would be expected to take whatever reasonable measures are necessary to prevent attacks on Israelis. This enables the foreign governments to avoid having to take responsibility for controlling Palestinian terrorism.

Today it is clear that the great majority of Palestinians support the Palestine Liberation Organization/Palestinian Authority program of terrorism against Israel, and its preference for a continuation of the war over a two-state solution that fully accepts Israel. Palestinians support Arafat against Israel–even though many have doubts about various aspects of his regime. The idea of an interim administration is that these popular Palestinian positions may also be partly the result of the suppression of contrary opinion, frustration with a corrupt (and partly “foreign”) leadership, large scale incitement and teaching of false information by official agencies and the controlled press, as well as in the schools, and thus the absence of an open debate.

Also the current high level of hatred and desire to continue the struggle to defeat Israel may be in part the result of natural anger and resentment at the measures Israel is forced to take to prevent terrorist attacks organized by the government, and the result of the hopes that have been raised that Arab and European governments will prevent Israel from protecting itself, and/or that division and weakness within Israel will produce an Arab victory. Therefore it is thought that a clear end of the current warfare, with the removal of the regime that initiated it, and a period of open discussion, combined with an opportunity to begin to build the Palestinian economy and civil society, free from governmental domination, might lead to a different balance of opinions among Palestinians and perhaps a greater chance for peace–as well as more justice and hope for Palestinians and better living conditions.

Desirable peace agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, which provide as justly as possible for the interests of both groups, can only be implemented if there is a reasonable relationship between the two populations and an important degree of mutual respect and trust. Most Israelis believe that such a relationship can only be established if there is a much greater degree of pluralism and open discussion among Palestinians, and a Palestinian leadership that does not incite and teach hatred of Israel. Such a relationship would also become much more likely if there were a healthy Palestinian economy, which can only be created if freed from political domination and corruption.

The approach presented here is only feasible if it becomes the policy of the United States, and it will only become the policy of the United States if there is a major change in official American thinking, a change for which there already exists a good deal of support within the US government.

Max Singer is a Senior Fellow of the Hudson Institute and of the BESA Center at Bar Ilan University. He is the author of The REAL World Order: Zones of Peace/Zones of Turmoil (with Aaron Wildavsky).

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