November 7, 2005, 9:00 am - May 23, 2019, 11:23 pm


1761 N Street NW
Washington, 20036 (Map)

The panel discussion "Building a Successful Palestinian State" took place at the 59th annual conference in November, 2005.


Robert Danin, Steven Simon, Ross Anthony, Laith Arafeh, Shlomo Brom

Robert Danin

Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs - US State Department

Welcome, everybody. I’m Rob, I’m from the Department of State. I’m very honored to be here moderating this panel today.

President Bush has articulated a goal of establishing a democratic Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace and security. In recent years, most people in town have focused on the question, how do we get there? How do Israelis and Palestinians find an arrangement to create such a state? Indeed, there’s a whole cottage industry in this town that focuses on these questions. They’re called peace processors.

Today we’re honored to have a panel that comes at this question from a unique perspective. Instead of asking the question of how do we get there, the question that we’re asking today is, how would an independent Palestinian state be made successful? Recently a team of distinguished scholars and researchers from the RAND Corporation came together to address this question. Many of you, I’m sure, have already read the series of publications that emerged from this study. If you haven’t, then you’re doubly in good luck today because we have two of the key authors here with us.

First we’ll start off with a briefing of the RAND study with Ross Anthony from the RAND Corporation. Ross is a senior economist there, where he’s serving as the acting co-director of the Center for Democratic and International Health Security and director for global health of that center. Hopefully we will soon be joined by Steve Simon, who is also a senior analyst at RAND. Before taking the position at RAND, Steve served in a number of government positions and was a colleague of mine at the State Department. He also served as a senior director at the National Security Council.

Following that presentation, we will have commentary, very brief. Laith Arafeh, Senior Assistant for Policy and Foreign Affairs to the Palestinian National Security Advisor, will then comment on this presentation. Then we’re honored to have Shlomo Brom, a 30-year veteran of the IDF and a senior advisor to former Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Ross Anthony:

It’s a great pleasure to be here today. Steve will be here shortly.

These things that we’re going to talk about today really are two separate studies — the pictures, the books are here. The first, which we like to refer to as PAL-1, actually is a very detailed analysis of seven different sectors. PAL-2, we’ll talk in detail, is really a study of the infrastructure.

As was indicated, these all start from the assumption that there is peace there. As we looked around the world, it was quite clear, particularly in light of the experience in Iraq, that a lot of thought had gone into what a negotiated peace would look like but very little thought had gone into what in fact needed to be done once there was a Palestinian state — if there is a Palestinian state — to make it successful. That is what we set out to do.

The key question is, what will it take for a Palestinian state to succeed? Particularly in light of Iraq, it was clear that new planning and information needed to be brought to the table before in fact there was a state.

As I said before, PAL-1 was an exhaustive study of a number of sectors, including governance, internal security, demography, economic development, water, health and education. PAL-2 dealt with infrastructure.

We took a very traditional RAND analytical approach to looking at these issues. We reviewed the literature. We assembled a team of experts. In general these people had technical knowledge about information about sectors but weren’t necessarily the people you would think of that have done all their work on Palestine and Israel. So we tried to bring new thought and new blood to the equation. We did data analysis and did interviews as best we could. We analyzed results. We identified key policy suggestions and then we costed them.

So what we’d like to do today is look at the criteria for success in a new Palestinian state and then look briefly at a couple of the sectors. As I said earlier, these are very exhaustive studies, so what we will do is give you a 20,000-foot overview. I’m going to tell you right now that in comparison to the Arc study that you’ll see, the work on PAL-1, which is a very thick book, is going to look kind of pale, but that’s because we don’t have time to get into a lot of the details.

The first thing that we had to look at were our criteria for success. If you’re going to create a successful state, what does that mean?

Steve will tell you.

First Panelist
Steven Simon
Senior Analyst, RAND Corporation

We first defined the conditions for success, as Ross Anthony just indicated. On the security side, our concern was multi-tiered, in that at the most basic level the issue for us was, would Palestinians feel safe both in their homes and on the streets? That was a key consideration.

Slightly above that but I would say in the same tier was the question of how secure the constitutional authorities in the new state were going to be.

At a slightly higher level, just thinking spatially not in order of priority, there was the question of how secure circumstances would be for Palestine’s neighbors, but especially Israel.

Lastly, in what ways would a successful Palestinian state contribute to regional security? The presumption there was that one measure of success would be that there would be a net contribution to regional security on the part of the new state.

Governance was another one. Here I would just flag the importance that we attached to the question of legitimacy. We felt that effective governance, successful governance, would depend on the legitimacy enjoyed by the government of the new state. This was a kind of dual-headed legitimacy. On the one hand, there was the question of how legitimate the government would be in the eyes of its constituents and the eyes of its citizens. On the other hand, there was the question of how legitimate this government would be seen to be by others.

The key concept on the economic side of things was whether or not the state would be self-reliant over time. For us, you couldn’t consider a Palestinian state to be successful if it continued to be a ward of the international community indefinitely.

Finally, the government would have to provide social goods. The people of Palestine would have to be fed well, clothed, educated well, have access to health care and so forth.

In the course of our analysis, we derived or were confronted with three cross-cutting issues. These issues were cross-cutting in the sense that they affected every sector that we looked at, whether it was health or education or the delivery of other services. Essentially we concluded that the greater the degree of security in a new Palestinian state, the more successful the state was going to be, the more success it would enjoy in each of the sectors that we looked at. To the extent that internal territorial contiguity was greater, the same would apply. The state would be more successful. To the extent, especially in its early years, the borders of the state were permeable, especially with respect to Israel but not just with respect to Israel, the more likely the state would succeed economically.

Let me illustrate the practical effect of different degrees of contiguity and permeability.

This represents one of the cases we modeled. It’s the most optimistic case. It’s the one in which there is a high degree of permeability and internal territorial contiguity. What you can see here is a very radical increase by the end of the next decade in gross national income per capita under these circumstances.

But we modeled other contingencies as well. We modeled four in all. The lowest one was one where we postulated a rather minimal degree of permeability and contiguity. There the degree of economic growth was markedly lower. We just didn’t see the kinds of gains in Gross National Income (GNI) per capita in those circumstances as we did in the more optimistic scenario. In fact, the difference between the pessimistic scenario and the optimistic scenario was a 30 percent, about one-third, difference in growth rate. So suffice it to say that there would be severe economic penalties for a Palestinian state that did not enjoy high degrees of permeability and contiguity.

As Ross indicated, we looked at many sectors of Palestinian society and government that we thought would be crucial to state success. We won’t go into all of these. We’ll drill down a bit in water and health and perhaps a bit in education. We’ll just give you a flavor of what we’ve done.

Just as background, we did study the demographics. It’s worth bearing in mind that the demographic situation is very challenging for Palestinians right now. They have among the world’s highest birth rates, the total fertility rate in Gaza and the West Bank — they differ slightly in those two areas but are very high and will generate very significant growth rate. There is also a youth bulge, which is to say that there is a disproportionately large number of youths in the overall population.

In brief, we postulated that there are close to 4 million Palestinians now but by 2015 that number would increase by over a million. That really is not taking into account the extent to which Palestinians from the diaspora would return to Palestine in the context of a negotiated settlement with Israel.

A new Palestinian state, it has to be said, would not be without strengths. We inventoried those strengths. It has a highly motivated population, one that would like to see the state succeed and is certainly willing to work hard toward that end. As I’ll show, the population, at least by regional standards, is healthy and well educated. These are important advantages. The Palestinians also have an existing system, however very flawed systems, for delivering health care and education. That too is quite important. There are many highly qualified professionals. There are also, as we learned, many unqualified professionals. That was something that concerned us and for which we developed some policy recommendations.

The international community, lastly, is very interested in Palestinian state success and is willing to pony up, in our view, significant sums, as the G-8 has recently pledged, towards the goal of a successful Palestine.

On internal security, these issues are pretty well understood. Certainly the terrorism problem has been examined quite closely by governments and others. Crime, however, is a very big problem. We were concerned to look for ways in which a new Palestinian state might get that problem under control and, as I said earlier, ensure that Palestinians were safe in their homes. We looked at ways too in which these security organizations might not just be reorganized but how they would need to be equipped and trained in order to meet the goals that we believe would confront it in a Palestinian state.

In the realm of internal security, a study has been done for Skip Ward, the US general who is serving in a liaison capacity in Palestine — it’s a very good study. Our conclusions mirror to a large extent the conclusions of that study. We think the internal security system needs to be streamlined and rationalized and so forth, and needs to be responsive to the rule of law and the legislature.

But we focused to a somewhat greater degree on administration of justice. That is to say, what would be required to get that system up and running? Because right now it’s not up and running. So how do you get cops on the beat? How do you get a professional police force? How would you structure and size a professional police force? What kinds of infrastructural and other demands would have to be met for there to be a judicial system worth its salt? We believe that these goals won’t be accomplished without a lot of assistance from the international community and we map out the kind of assistance that would be required. We’re looking at $8 billion over the first ten years of independence for this purpose.

The economy was very badly damaged by the Intifada. As this chart indicates, a very significant drop in gross national income, a highly elevated poverty rate, and very significant unemployment. Nobody knows exactly how much but it’s certainly perhaps half of the employment-age population. The infrastructure is in very bad shape and it’s clearly not a great environment for investment.

Nevertheless, we thought that with the right inputs, per capita GNI could be resuscitated, could reach pre-Intifada levels by the end of this decade and double by the end of the next decade. Those are very ambitious goals. We have specified what it will cost and will explain that in a little bit. Of course no amount of money will work unless the infrastructure is rehabilitated and the government adopts the kinds of policies that favor growth — transparency, accountability and so forth. Thirty-three billion over the first decade of independence. That’s $3.3 billion a year for this purpose. We don’t specify whether it’s private or public investment, we didn’t get down into that detail. But that’s the kind of investment that will be required.

Water is in very bad shape. It’s also disproportionately used for agriculture, which has a very small role in the economy. It’s only seven percent of the economy and employs about 15 percent of the population. This is really something that in our view would have to be recalibrated.

The aquifers, to make matters worse, are being used at an alarming rate. There are four aquifers that we looked at. They are noted by their compass points, except for Gaza. This is what the sustainable yield of these aquifers would be in millions of cubic meters per year. Now look at this. This is the use of these aquifers right now. They are being overdrawn, in the case of the western aquifer, at a very alarming rate, mostly due, in the case of the western aquifer, to very intensive Israeli use of that water resource. The problem here is that as aquifers are drawn down beyond the rate at which they can recharge, the aquifers themselves can become damaged and be beyond redemption, as it were. Never be able to recapture that water again.

We put forward in our study a number of very specific policy recommendations that are designed to make it as inexpensive as possible for a new Palestinian state to have as much water as possible. Right now you can see under current plans the West Bank would require quite a lot of desalinization. Under our proposals, it would require no desalinization at all.

With Gaza, it’s a similar story. Right now it requires quite a lot of desalinization, under current management arrangements. Under our plan, that would be much less. That’s important because Palestine under no circumstances is going to be a rich state, so the more it can save on these kinds of crucial assets, the better. In this case, we calculated the savings to be about $2 billion, which for the Palestinian economy is quite significant.

I said Palestinians were relatively healthy. This just illustrates that. In terms of life expectancy, they’re not in as bad a shape as one might think. For children the same is true, looking at mortality rate. By regional standards the mortality rate is relatively low.

But there are major problems: Chronic diseases, in some instances due to poor health habits; trauma, to some extent due to the combat of the past four years; malnutrition, which is also due to some extent to that factor; infectious disease due in part to the fact that immunization rates have dropped quite considerably during the course of the Intifada.

It needs to be better managed. Just to be very brief and concise about this, it needs to be better managed because it’s right now the product of a crazy quilt, a patchwork, of delivery agencies, public ministries, the United Nations (UN), Non-government Organizations (NGOs) and private. We have a host of recommendations in each of these areas: expanding primary care, food and strengthening immunization. The total cost is $1.3-1.6 billion over ten years.

With education, very similar. They start with some assets but it’s an under-managed and under-funded situation, which is going to get much worse because of the burgeoning population. The more kids you have, the more classroom space you need and the more teachers you need.

So there are clear targets that can be met, clear programs that can be instituted. We welcome questions on those after the next presentation. Thank you.

Second Panelist
Ross Anthony
Senior Economist, RAND Corporation

We kind of refer to these as the vegetables and the dessert, and I get to do the dessert, which is fun.

Steve indicated the infrastructure is in terrible disrepair, partly as a result of the Intifada, partly as a result of a lot of it dating back to Ottoman times. So we approached this issue and said, what to do?

The primary author of this work is a guy by the name of Doug Suisman of Suisman Urban Designs, who is a RAND consultant. I want to give him credit because all of the creative work here is really his.

What he did is he looked at this not as a problem but as an opportunity. Not only to look at the infrastructure but also as a way to build a symbol of Palestinian aspirations and as a way to create a model of sustainable growth and development that would be really a model for the world.

Having done that, we started out by looking at the boundaries of the areas we had to deal with, and we know these are contentious. You’ve got to start somewhere. We started at least by the broad outlines of the Green Line.

Then we looked at national density. You find that Palestine is really a quite dense place by world standards — 1,400 per square mile. Then if you look at how it will grow in 20 years as we projected out, it becomes even more dense than Bangladesh. Of course we could have drawn out Bangladesh but we didn’t. The point is it’s a very dense place. If you look at Gaza itself, even today it’s literally off the charts at 9,300 per square mile.

That told us something, and that says if you’re going to look at what we’re going to do with population, and that is in fact what we’re trying to do — our donor, a private donor, came to us and said, There’s going to be a lot of refugees coming back to the West Bank and Gaza. What do we do with them? He wanted to build a mega-city. We said that’s perhaps not the right question. Let’s look and see how we would handle population growth in an infrastructural way to have the maximum effects.

If you take that kind of approach, you look at urban growth and population probably needs to go in the West Bank but other kinds of things need to be done in Gaza, whether it’s tourism, building up airports, seaports, et cetera.

So the next thing we did is we looked at the topography. This is the West Bank and Gaza. You notice something quite quickly. There is a ridgeline that runs right through the center of the country, up through here, up to the Bay of Haifa. Not too surprisingly, the rainfall, much as in California, falls on the west side of that line, and not too surprisingly agriculture usually is located where rain is found. People locate — this is where the major cities and towns are — they locate where they can farm and make a living.

These are the major cities that are listed on the usual almanacs. You can see from Hebron to Jenin in the north. They are more or less aligned along that arc to some extent.

Having said that, we looked at the next key aspect and that is what we’re talking about here is not a huge country. We’re talking about a metropolitan region. If you compare the size of the West Bank in particular and look at the San Francisco Bay Area, you notice it’s about the same distances. So as we’re going to start to think about what to do, we’re going to approach this from a metropolitan, regional area development, not from a huge mega-country kind of approach.

The next thing we looked at is urban density. You find that Los Angeles is at 3,000 people per square mile. If I go up these things quickly, Jericho is six, Chicago, 13. Tel Aviv is about 18,000 per square mile, Jenin, 20, Nablus, 28. Brooklyn’s at 35,000 per square mile and then you get up into the really denser cities — Paris at 52, Gaza City at 58, and Istanbul, Manhattan and Cairo are really way up there.

If you read the literature, you find that generally people believe that the more dense, up to a point, the more sustainable the city is. Phoenix is often thought of as urban sprawl and not where you want to be.

With that in mind, we had to pick a target and we picked a target of 30,000 per square mile to guide our analysis. You’re going to see how that becomes relevant as we go forward.

Right now in the urban areas there’s two million people per square mile and they’re located where those black squares are. Our challenge is to take the projected three million new people and somehow locate them in that map at 30,000 per square mile. That gives us 100 square miles, or those red squares, we’re going to try to put somewhere into that space.

We do want to check ourselves so we said, let’s take a different approach. Let’s take the density of Phoenix and see what that would result in. Instead of that many red squares, that results in that many red squares. The conclusion is you’d have to build every single part of arable land in the West Bank to succeed and obviously that’s not really a realistic approach. So we thought we were at least on the right track.

So where are we going to put those squares? Our donor wanted us to build a mega-city. We looked at lots of approaches. I don’t have time to go into detail here but I’ll go through them very quickly.

A mega-city is fine in one sense and disastrous in another. You locate all the people, all the resources in one place. You have all the problems of a mega-city and all the political problems of not having provided resources throughout the country.

Another approach would be locate in the three largest cities. Again, mostly the same problems you have with a mega-city.

A third option would be what we called a network or just spread everyone everywhere. The problem with that is of course you’ve got to connect those red dots with transportation, communication, everything else, and that’s by far the most expensive options.

So to us, we thought the most sensible thing was a line of cities. Spread the people out in the major areas, in a way that you’re going to see here, in a constructive way.

The next thing we looked at is the road system and this is what it looks like today. Those of you who have been there know that Route 60, which is the primary north-south route, is really not where you want to be most of the time. The travel just from Tel Aviv to Ramallah is basically very difficult. These are the corridors that have been planned in the negotiations between Gaza and the West Bank.

What we then proposed is something very simple. It is an arc, a national infrastructure. It goes through the West Bank along that arc, that ridgeline, and connects into Gaza. At a micro level, it’s a multiuse corridor. It has lots of parts involved in it. It’s an inter-city rail system that connects an airport and the ports in Gaza with all the cities in the West Bank. So you might think of flying into the airport in Rafah and then taking the train, in 33 minutes you’re going to see the first town in the West Bank and in less than 90 minutes you can be the whole distance, all the way up throughout the West Bank. Those are the ties between the stations.

We envisioned it not just as an infrastructure for rail, however. We envisioned it as something more important. These red dots here represent the traditional cities as they presently are and you see the black circles, where the rail station heads are, are not in the traditional city centers. There’s a reason for that. We didn’t want to destroy the cities. We wanted to create an infrastructure that promoted reasonable growth in a way that promoted the national aspirations of the Palestinian people, not just destroy the cities.

The next approach is, what do you do? From the stations to the inner cities, we would build transit boulevards, high-speed, basically dedicated bus lines. Once you have those dedicated areas in place, you would very natural private investment and lots of other economic investment would take place. Very reasonably, people would locate along those transit boulevards in a rational pattern that would promote growth and prosperity.

This next slide is really the hub of the presentation in some sense. What we’re proposing is a ladder of linear cities. There are those 100 red squares, superimposed back on those transit boulevards.

Along this corridor — if you’re going to build a rail line, you might as well co-locate a lot of other things, like telecommunications. We’d put the national electric carrier down that route. Our architect is from California so he wants to promote wind power, but in any case it would somehow be taken care of. When we talked to the Palestinians they said, hey, we need a gas line there. We have that in our plans. So we stuck that in. You need water and waste — a critical issue, both water and waste. Waste, we were told often how important it was to deal with that better.

But also you want to think about what you’re not going to build. You want open spaces, you want parks. So along with this Doug put in a national linear park system that connects in with the present wildlife refuges, which are in those other green spaces there.

You wanted international linkages, as I mentioned before, but we see over time this could be linked into the rest of the region. And, as the political situation hopefully improves, with Tel Aviv and other parts of Israel.

So if we look through this, let me take one quick city and show you how this would work in a little bit more detail, in the case of Nablus. Here’s the old traditional city. Here’s the arc running there, the high-speed rail line, the transit boulevard from the city runs out to the hub. The water carrier comes in, the electric carrier. We have a toll road along there for freight and other things of course. And then the city naturally builds out along the transit boulevard, communities develop, and then eventually the linear park also develops.

We view this as creating not only an infrastructure but a symbol of national aspirations. You see them all over, like the fast rail trains in Paris for instance. We see this as an opportunity to globalize the economy. It’s the only thing I know of that actually links the West Bank with Gaza in an economic model that makes sense, that can promote development and prosperity, and hopefully, as Steve indicated, in the long run economic independence.

It creates attractive sites for private investment. We think it would add to the cultural value and promote tourism without destroying it. And it would build a foundation upon which tourism can exist.

As you see, all of this eventually, in our opinion, improves the quality of the lives of Palestinian people. If you think back for a second, pieces of this and a lot of what Steve said can begin and should begin now if you want to create a successful state. Steve already indicated we estimated the cost of these things about $33 billion or $3 billion a year, which we note with interest the G-8 recently pledged exactly that amount to produce and use.

But I’d like to come back to one final point. To make a successful state or have Palestine have a chance to succeed, you’re going to have to do planning ahead of time. You really must do this if you plan to be successful. We don’t say we have all of the right ideas by any means but we do say that you need real proposals that are costed and are realistic and can be done. We would say that many of these areas, whether it’s in health or education or even a lot of the parts of the arc, do not need a political settlement to be concluded before they can begin. To the degree that many of these things are achieved presently, all of them will make the likelihood of a state more successful. Thank you.

Robert Danin: Steve and Ross, thank you very much for a highly provocative and stimulating presentation. Laith, if you’ll now give us an instant Palestinian reaction and then we’ll go to Shlomo for the Israeli reaction.

Third Panelist
Laith Arafeh
Senior Assistant, Palestinian Liberation Organization

Thank you so much. I think I cannot agree less with you — we need to plan ahead. I think it is time for us right now to start considering post-conflict nation-building projects. I think RAND has been doing a great job in that regard. I agree with you, we need to plan ahead. We need to really start thinking about the day after the end of the occupation and the establishment of the Palestinian state.

All of these plans are really dependent on the creation of the Palestinian state. At this point, I’m not so sure if we are near that or if that is going to happen anytime soon.

There are a number of points I would like to comment on. For instance, the constitution. The Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Legislative Council has been working on creating a constitution and having a new constitution, which has to be consistent with the Roadmap. Next January we are having our new elections of the Palestinian Legislative Council. That will work on ratifying the current work that we have.

As for the issue of security, the security of Israel and international security, I think that there is no magical — I don’t think either side has a magical stick that can actually resolve the issues of security. The only solution for security is peace. Once we get peace, I think everyone will have security. I think that this should be clear.

One more thing, I think most of the Israeli security concerns intercept with our security concerns. International security — it is a Palestinian interest in integrating with the international community and becoming part of the international security equation, to confront all threats that are threatening international stability.

As for the two-state solution, I don’t see it happening anytime soon. I think the current imposition, the incessant imposition of new facts on the ground is really threatening the two-state solution and the viability of the two-state solution. Gaza, as we know now, the hot potato in town is the Gaza disengagement. However, I don’t see the Gaza disengagement in its current fashion contributing to the two-state solution unless it becomes part of an integrated political solution. Otherwise, I don’t see that happening.

In order to build the arc, in order to forge ahead with these plans, we need to address the core issues of the conflict. For instance, settlements. How are we going to build the arc if settlements will stay there? I think the issue of settlements should be resolved only through a political process and not through unilateral steps made by either steps. Only a bilateral process would resolve all of these outstanding issues, through a political horizon through which each party would know where we’re heading to.

As for now, I think that RAND and other organizations and research facilities should actually help us and try to think with us on these studies. Thank you so much.

Fourth Panelist
Shlomo Brom
Guest Scholar, US Institute of Peace

I must start with a confession. I never liked the term “viable Palestinian state.” Not because of the Palestinian state part of it, because I think for quite a long time that the two-state solution is in Israel’s interest, but because I don’t know what is a viable state. What are the criteria? You can find in documents that were recently published of the State Department that in discussions that took place in the State Department during the beginning of the 1950s, the common view was that Israel was not a viable state. That shows how serious is this issue.

Secondly, I didn’t like it because my impression was that it is misused and manipulated for political purposes. So on the Palestinian side, it is used to say Israel has to do certain concessions because otherwise the Palestinian state will not be viable. On the Israeli side, it is misused by people that say we can never have peace with a Palestinian state because it will never be a viable state and the troubles in the state will always overflow to Israel.

My observations allowed me that there are different kinds of states all over the world and there is no recipe for a model of a successful state or a viable state. The versatility of the different models is enormous. There are successful city-states, like Singapore, and there are successful huge states, like the USA.

The other conclusion that is a result of my own modest observations is that the success of states does not result from abundance of natural resources, size of territory, et cetera, but from other parameters that are less visible, like social cohesion, like the values that are held by its society, like a functioning political system, level of education, quality of leadership. Things that are very important but it’s very difficult to find, once again, recipes how you make them happen.

What I liked in the RAND Corporation project is the fact that the team that was involved in this project brought us down from the level of high politics to the ground. They have shown very graphically that built on the territorial constraints of a possible Palestinian state and the demographic realities and the existing infrastructure, one can claim something that can be perceived as a successful Palestinian state. This claim is echoed in reality. It’s viable.

The big question of course is, is it feasible in the present political realities? Trying to answer this question, one has to go back to the parameters that I mentioned, like social cohesion, quality of leadership, et cetera. One examines these parameters and the way they were functioning in the last years in the Palestinian side, it is very difficult to be optimistic concerning the feasibility of concluding such a plan and implementing it. The Palestinian society is too fragmented and too politicized. Decisions are not taken because of solid economic or planning considerations but because of political considerations. There is a high level of suspicion and paranoia.

By the way, when the arc idea was first presented to the Palestinians, I remember the initial reaction was highly suspicious. The RAND Corporation was attacked by some Palestinians who accused that the real purpose of the plan is to present a solution that will manifest that there is no real need to dismantle settlements. That is only one indication of the politicization of every subject.

The fragmentation of the Palestinians makes it difficult for the Palestinians to reach national consensus on anything. It makes it very difficult if not impossible to achieve the first determinants of a successful state, according to the RAND report, which are security and governance.

That’s my first problem.

My second problem: I doubt whether the international community will be eventually willing to continue the necessary resources when there are so many other needs in the world. It’s true that there are pledges for $3 billion a year but the experience since the establishment of the Palestinian territory is that there is quite a large difference between pledges and what actually is happening on the ground.

I will end by referring to the Israeli role. Israel certainly has a major role in making such plans feasible. The permeability of borders is much dependent on Israel as well as contiguity of territory. Moreover the RAND report indicates that the economic development of the Palestinian state is dependent to great extent on cooperation with Israel.

The problem is that as they indicated in their report, the different issues are cross-cutting. Without more security and better Palestinian governance, there is little chance that Israel will do what is necessary other than what it has done in Gaza, namely evacuate the territory and leave the Palestinians for their own fate.

Robert Danin: Thank you very much. There you have it, American idealism comes up against Middle East realism.

Question & Answer:

Questions & Answers

(Moderator presents written questions provided by the audience ) Question: The first set of questions that have come up center around the question of the arc itself, which is a very novel and fascinating topic. If I can ask Ross to react to this set of questions very briefly. Regarding the arc, the questions are along the lines of, what assumptions have you made about Israel’s willingness to cede territory in order to make the arc viable? Have steps been taken to support the vision of the arc or undermine its possibility? Doesn’t the arc leave Palestine vulnerable to terrorism, natural disaster, and do you envisage or anticipate a secondary backup? Finally, with the route of the arc, you come south through Rafah and then north up through Gaza. Why was that route taken rather than coming down north through Gaza?

Ross Anthony: I’ll try to do them in reverse order.

The reason the arc was drawn through the south — first of all, this is a conceptual arc. Obviously we have not done the kinds of studies that are necessary to decide where it’s really going to go and it’s not going to be a smooth line because there are things like mountains in the way. The reason it was drawn the way it was is because most of the discussions up to the point when this was done was locating the international airport at Rafah, so that became the locus from which it went. There’s no reason at all it couldn’t — in fact, even in one of the slides if you noticed, it could feed back up through the north. Note the Israeli rail system actually is only a few kilometers from the northern part of Gaza presently so in fact linking it up would not be extremely difficult.

We drew the arc by really starting with the land and leaving aside the politics. The comment that was made about some of the initial reactions from the Palestinians is correct. That was one. There were a number of others that were interesting. One person said, it’s so simple, how come we didn’t think of it?

But it has changed the national perception of what in fact transportation ought to look like in Gaza and the West Bank — West Bank in particular. Looking at north-south kind of linkages in ways that we don’t think were really looked at in detail before. Certainly other people had lots of plans.

It is true that one carrier, one linkage, one place, is susceptible to terrorism because it’s a location. We postulated our study on the basis of peace having been achieved between the Palestinians and Israelis and we’ve heard some reasons from this podium as to why that’s going to be a difficult place to get to. I guess I would only say you’ve got to start somewhere, at some time. All of these issues are interlinked with each other. It’s not just that they’re cross-cutting, they’re dependent on each other. If you want to have a viable economy, you’re going to have to have health and education and it’s going to have to go on hand and foot. It’s not by accident that a lot of the terrorism in Ireland, for instance, stopped once there were other things for people to do besides — they had economic opportunities.

We believe that the arc is a concept. It’s a useful concept. It has lots of details that one would have to work through to be actually implementable. But none of them that have been brought up are not overcomeable. Certainly the issue of territories, one would have to overlay the arc on where the present settlements are. We haven’t actually done that. But if you do it, it misses most of the major ones. But it will have to deal with that issue. We do not believe that is our role to deal with that issue. That is really something that needs to be negotiated between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

But no matter how it’s negotiated, and we’re clear on what the likelihood for success is with greater territorial contiguity, you can still manipulate or draw an arc kind of corridor that brings together and promotes economic development and national aspirations.

Question: The second set of questions centers around the reaction to this study by the parties and in the region. Emblematic of this is, has RAND thought of publicizing this widely in Palestine, in Israel and the Arab world? How have people reacted to it so far? While PAL-1 was regarded as an impressive work, PAL-2 was seen as a critique in mainstream media and as a pipe dream. How does RAND react to such critiques?

Steve Simon: The Palestinians, at this point the PA, seem to have embraced our findings quite warmly. They have been briefed both to the president and the prime minister, to chunks of the cabinet at one time or another, in fact on multiple occasions. There is now a cabinet subcommittee that’s been formed under the leadership of the planning minister, Hassan Khatib, to work with RAND on implementing some of the things that we’re proposing. So all in all, a very favorable reaction. There was some skepticism in the press but the people we’re working with in the PA are beyond that.

On the Israeli side, we briefed this to senior Israeli officials. I would agree with Shlomo Brom very strongly that the bulk of the reaction was, well, a successful Palestinian state is in Israel’s strategic interest. There are differing definitions of success on the Israeli side and there are some who doubt the possibility of what it is we’re trying to do and doubt the feasibility of success on the Palestinian side. But nevertheless there was fundamental agreement on the premise of our study.

Is the RAND arc concept a pipe dream? Who knows?

Robert Danin: Thank you very much to our panelists. Let me just say that this huge stack of questions just points to the stimulating nature of this study.

About this Transcript:

"Building a Successful Palestinian State" was the sixth panel at MEI's 59th Annual Conference, which was held on November 7-9, 2005.