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  • What's Next for Palestine?


    Raja Khalidi begins a series discussing the role of Qatar, unity of Hamas and Fatah and the prospects for Palestinian development as Israel's position hardens -   January 29, 13
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    Bio

    Raja Khalidi has spent most of his professional career with UNCTAD, where he is currently Chief, Office of the Director, Division on Globalization and Development Strategies. He holds a B.A. from Oxford University and M.Sc. from University of London SOAS. From 2000-2006, Mr. Khalidi was Coordinator of UNCTAD's Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian people, which combines the analytical and operational expertise of the UNCTAD secretariat in an integrated manner. His assignments at UNCTAD have also dealt with Debt and Development Finance, the global economic crisis and institutional development and strategic management reform. His own publications include a book on the dynamics of Arab regional economic development in Israel and contributions on Palestinian economic development issues to the Palestinian Encyclopedia, the Journal of Palestine Studies, edited volumes, as well as Jadaliya online and Palestinian, Israeli and international media. The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations.

    Transcript

    What's Next for Palestine?PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore.

    In the Middle East, moves are afoot, to a large extent led by Qatar and its emir. He was in Gaza recently, and he seems to have made a deal,

    some people calling it a shotgun marriage, where Hamas and Fatah—Hamas recently moved its head offices to Doha, and now we have a

    sort of peace agreement. We're told by our journalist in Gaza, everywhere you see a Palestinian flag, there's a Qatari flag flying next to it. And

    Hamas is actually allowing people to protest, carrying the portraiture of Abbas, Abbas the head of Fatah and the PA. It's a very interesting

    development, including the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which seems to have managed the peace agreement with Gaza in a way that has

    pleased President Obama.

    Now joining us from Geneva is Raja Khalidi. He's spent most of his professional career with the UN Conference on Trade and Development,

    UNCTAD, where he's currently chief of the Office of the Director, Division on Globalization and Development Strategies. And I have to point

    out, the opinions he's about to express are primarily his own; they're not necessarily those of UNCTAD. Thanks for joining us, Raja.

    RAJA KHALIDI, SENIOR ECONOMIST, UNCTAD, GENEVA: Nice to be with you.

    JAY: So, first of all, what do you make of what's going on, in terms of the UN recognition of Palestine as a nonmember state? And just what

    kind of Palestine does Qatar and others who are kind of moving pieces around on the chessboard, what kind of Palestine do you think is going

    to be built?

    KHALIDI: When you ask what sort of state we can expect to come out of this, I don't think any state—I don't think from the—I mean, at least

    from the status of the peace process, I don't think we can expect any state to come out of this.

    We haven't seen a change in Israel's position. On the contrary, we've seen a hardening of the Israeli position regarding settlement of the West

    Bank. We haven't really seen anything in the way of a durable ceasefire. As a result of the Gaza conflict, we haven't seen a relief of the siege of

    Gaza. So people in Gaza haven't really felt anything new as a result of a very hard-fought and widely publicized battle.

    So, I mean, as I said, I think the prospects for a Palestinian state haven't looked good for a long time, and they don't look any better, to me, at

    least, today as a result of—notwithstanding the diplomatic, military, if you wish, and regional diplomatic sort of pluses that the Palestinians

    have chalked up in the last few weeks.

    JAY: A Palestinian friend of mine, his theory of what's happening here is: Qatar, together with Saudi Arabia and in cooperation with the

    United States, the sort of plan is to develop the economy in Gaza and the West Bank and develop Gaza in a way that it becomes more and

    more integrated with Egypt, and Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood sort of manages Gaza. And in the West Bank, again, investment from

    Qatar and others develop the economy there in a way that strengthens the links with Jordan. He saw the whole thing as sort of the—his quote

    was this is the end of the Palestinian project.

    KHALIDI: The first person to say that was, I think, a Palestinian scholar in 2005, who said that with Arafat's death, the Palestinian national

    movements would start to come apart. In many ways, the last five years, six years have seen that sort of a disassembling of what was

    otherwise a fairly united national project now scattered into two regional, political projects, as well—I mean, regional in the sense of Gaza

    and Ramallah, two different, separate Palestinian political entities, if you wish, political systems. And everything else we've seen in the way

    of disunity, if one can use that word in the Palestinian political and geographic and economic and international and regional relations sort of

    map.

    And now the fact that capital in the region might—I mean—or the idea that capital in the region might flow into Gaza or to the West Bank

    more readily than it has, let's say, in some better periods, i.e. periods where things were looking up, the Oslo period, for example, or even the

    last few years in the West Bank, that it's going to somehow transform the economic prospects, I think, is unlikely. You know, there's very little

    what we call—in Arabic we use the word [incompr.] brave capital, courageous capital that's willing to really put its feet down in Palestinian—

    in investing in Palestine. So, there's a

    Palestinian capital out there that could come back. So I don't see a major, resource transfusion.

    We heard about this social—this safety net, financial safety net approved by the Arab League. Basically, it's saying that, if the Israelis cut

    off the tax revenue that's due for transfer to the PA, the Palestinian Authority, then the Arabs will step in and foot the bill, which is really,

    almost—, which is a good safety net for a short period, but it's not really a sustainable one. In Gaza, you're right, there was this—there were

    major pledges for infrastructural development projects, and I think from Qatar prior to the last fighting. And those might actually—, now, in

    fact, there's probably even more to reconstruct than there was before.

    But I don't think that, that's—again, we've had these spurts in Palestinian economic history of either donor-funded or remittance- (in some

    cases) funded or labor from— wages-from-income-funded growth spurts, which led to, in some cases, some prosperity here and there, what

    we've called in UNCTAD, individual prosperity and communal impoverishment. And we could see the same sort of— especially in Gaza,

    because I don't think the West Bank has that, is really— has anywhere to grow, whereas Gaza has a lot, still, to recover from. There's a lot of

    major infrastructural and social expenditures that could be envisaged there.

    And that will— that could delay certain things, but we've always seen—the thing comes back and bites any economic piece or any, prosperity

    booms in the rear very badly. And it's happened— it happened in 1987 with the First Intifada. It happened again after Oslo twice, both in the

    mid '90s, and then in 2000. The Second Intifada, we've had it again and again in Gaza.

    So, I mean, I think that the main issue is mainly occupation, lack of sovereignty, extremely limited, if any, economic policy space, even for the

    Gaza—government in Gaza, especially for the PA, in terms of its—the nature of its economic agreements and security and Oslo and Paris so-

    called agreements with Israel. I don't see anything yet that's— with all of the links that might exist between the Hamas, Palestinian, Muslim

    Brotherhood, Egyptian, and others, there are other very important forces at play.

    The Iranian support for—the military support that has reached Gaza can't be discounted. There's a situation in North Sinai of lawlessness,

    which the Egyptian government hasn't got a handle on and I think, worries Israel, and even worries Hamas, because it's a Salafi—sort of

    armed Salafi—not insurgency, but lawlessness, as I said, in the northwest Sinai. And then you have everything that's happening in Syria and

    Jordan in terms of regime change or potential reform, constitutional reform in Jordan.

    So, I think the key player here in all this, even though I've made the tour of the Arab world, the key player is really Israel. I mean, the party

    that has it in its hands to change the prospects for a Palestinian state or a Palestinian economy, or even, some achievement of Palestinian

    rights, is Israel. And, we haven't seen any moves except, further consolidation. This extraordinarily sensitive settlement plan in this area

    east of Jerusalem, E1, is certainly not—not to mention the tax issue, the revenue withholding. I mean, that could go on as a short-term

    punishment, but I don't think the PA can live with it for very long.

    And already I think President Abbas, when he addressed the Arab League the other day, unfortunately, I think this has given us an example

    of the limitations of the state—status of being a state that the PLO is accorded in the UN is that he announced to them, he says that we're

    fast approaching becoming a collapsed state, basically, probably the fastest failed state in history, between November 29 and— only because

    we have one month of Israeli channeled tax revenue withheld. And that's problematic. I mean it's problematic when you talk about state

    institutions that are supposedly there ready to function, and all that is needed is the magic wand of a political agreement. That's— that's more

    easier said than done.

    JAY: Okay. So, in the next segment of our interview, let's talk further about just what kind of economy is going to be built in Palestine and

    Egypt, other countries of the Arab Spring. People were demanding democracy, but not just political democracy. People want something in

    terms of their economy. So please join us for the next segment of this interview on The Real News Network.

    End

    DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot

    guarantee their complete accuracy.


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