There is a saying in the medical world that an x-ray is only as good as the doctor reading it. The interpretation of information differs according to pre-existing factors such as knowledge and experience, with mistakes in diagnosis having the potential to be tragic. It is true even when the given information is accurate and unquestionable, but when its reliability is not assured, precise interpretation and analysis become nearly impossible.
In December 2010, the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council stated that it would recognize a Palestinian Arab state “when appropriate” on the basis of assessments made by the World Bank, that the Palestinian Authority “is well positioned for the establishment of a State at any point in the near future.”
In order to determine whether this assessment is correct, and therefore potentially justified and actionable, it is important to understand exactly how it came about.
The source of this assessment regarding Palestinian readiness for statehood is the September 2010 World Bank report to the Quartet’s Ad Hoc Liaison Committee which apprises on the subject of the Palestinian Authority’s progress in implementing the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan initiated in 2007. It is also known as the “Fayyad Plan” after the Palestinian caretaker Prime Minister by whom it was authored.
The international community, as represented by Quartet Members, the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia, has been monitoring the progress of the three year Fayyad Plan through the reports of its representative on the ground, the World Bank, which runs a “country team” in the region.
Three basic problems emerged from the study of the regularly issued World Bank reports. The first involves methodology – the information upon which the reports are based is gathered mostly from politically biased NGOs working in the region, some of which are actually funded by countries from Quartet members. These include organizations such as B’Tselem, UN OCHA, Peace Now, HaMoked, Amnesty International, Gisha, Yesh Din and IPCRI. The World Bank uses consulting services from Ben-Or Consulting, a company associated with several of the above organizations and with connections to politically motivated groups both in Israel and abroad.
The second basic problem is that the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan is limited largely to reforms which may be termed financial, economic and administrative. Components of civil society within a functioning state such as the rights and protection of women, children and minorities, labour rights and trade unions, freedom of the press or prevention of torture are not within its scope.
Thirdly, in the approach taken towards Palestinian reform by both the Palestinian Authority and the Quartet, the subject of dealing with the ideological and religious causes of continuous Palestinian terror, is clearly absent.
Under such circumstances, the European Union’s haste in declaring itself ready to recognize a Palestinian state contrasts dramatically with its cautious approach to the accession of Turkey to its own ranks. In that case, a country already deemed sufficiently trustworthy to be a veteran member of NATO has been obliged to engage in a 10 to 15 year process of reform and overhaul of all its systems and institutions – economic, financial, judicial, political, civil and social. The process is overseen by the European Union itself and is both strictly performance-based and will have an iron-clad reversibility clause if Turkey fails to live up to its promises.Only when all criteria have been met will the subject of Turkey joining the European Union actually be brought up for vote by the existing members.
Soon after its foundation, the Quartet initiated the Roadmap which was also intended to be a performance-based process leading to Palestinian statehood and an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Unfortunately, even the first clause of the Roadmap has not been fulfilled and yet it now appears that the European Union, relying upon questionable assessments, is ready to abandon its own blueprint for the peace process in favour of a Palestinian Arab state which comes nowhere near the criteria it demands for its own members.