The foundation stones of a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian agreement will have to be fundamentally different from any heretofore used in pacts negotiated between existing states in the Middle East. There is a basic geopolitical difference between the situation in which the Israelis and Palestinians find themselves and the conditions that fix the nature of agreements between Israel and the Arab states. For this reason, peacemaking between Israelis and Palestinians is going to require an extraordinary amount of patience, time, creativity - and probably other people's money and mediation as well.

Israel can negotiate final, stand-alone agreements with Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan to complement the peace with Egypt. There are already models for starting such a process-the Egyptian and Syrian disengagement agreements and the Camp David accords-and a model for finishing it-the Israeli-Egyptian Treaty. Thanks to the latter, there is also a considerable amount of practical field experience in implementing such a model. But no such agreement is possible between Israel and the Palestinians, and no tested alternative model exists to act as a social and political compass for the parties. The reason is simple: security requisites differ dramatically.

Israel's primary concern in all negotiations with Arab interlocutors is to ensure its own security. During the peace talks with Egypt, the Israeli government could afford to leave many less pressing issues to be decided by bilateral committees in the future because, even if those issues were not resolved-and many were not, as the so-called cold peace between Israel and Egypt attests-they could not affect Israel's basic security interests. The vast expanse of the Sinai, coupled with a relatively small civilian population and the supervised demilitarization of the peninsula, gave Israel the security cushion it needed.

Frontier areas separating Israel from Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan exhibit similar characteristics, although to a far lesser extent. In the Syrian and even the Jordanian case, thinly populated areas (suitable for easily supervised demilitarized and limited forces zones monitored by high-tech equipment) divide the population centers. Even if there is a breakdown in political relations at some future point, security arrangements could stand alone, as they do in the Sinai. Such arrangements would provide Israel with early warning against attacks by either terrorists or massed armies.

In short, security issues between Israel and the Arab states are relatively straightforward: the primary concern in any negotiation is to define frontiers in such a way as to keep massed armies as far away from each other as possible and to provide early warning in case of any change in the military status quo. If relations between the peoples of the countries involved take time to develop, the results may be disappointing. However, they will not be critical to the achievement of the initial objective of providing enough warning of the possibility of a large-scale military offensive so that effective countermeasures can be adopted in time.

This straightforwardness is simply absent in relations between Israelis and Palestinians. No matter what the final outcome of the Israeli-Palestinian talks, these two peoples will end up abutting each other-physically, economically and culturally in daily, and probably jealous, eye contact. In such circumstances, military forces, no matter how large and how well equipped, cannot control an extended campaign of terrorist attrition should it be launched by the disaffected and those ideologically opposed to peace.

As a result, a politically tolerable, economically viable, and socially acceptable buffer zone between Israelis and Palestinians cannot be made of territory. It can only be created out of an intricate web of hundreds of detailed side-agreements that impinge on virtually every aspect of daily life and intercourse between the two sides. Moreover, only a carefully woven political, social, and economic webbing that creates real stakes and incentives for the vast majority of Israeli and Palestinian individuals to maintain the peace, and that bears costly penalties for fomenting inter-communal violence, can possibly provide the protection both sides seek.

Thus, lost amid the euphoria and fear that accompanied the September 13, 1993, Declaration of Principles is the fact that the agreement reached in Oslo is more notable for what it doesn't speak of than for what it does. Whether the agreement actually produces peace will depend almost entirely on how quickly and how fully several large black holes are filled-and with what. Unless these vacuous pockets are filled with detail, the agreement can have no long-term legitimacy.

The timetable for implementing the political and military aspects of the accord, difficult as they are, runs far ahead of what it will take to map out a new socioeconomic reality. Both sides remain woefully unprepared to confront and cope with many of these challenges, partly because the process of reaching the Declaration of Principles did not allow for extended discussion of any of the many parts that must go into making up a real Israeli-Palestinian security net. The Oslo accord was and remains only a skeleton with few, if any, critical body parts attached. The task that lies ahead will undoubtedly be greater than the twenty-two-month-long political slugfest between the Madrid conference and the handshake on the White House lawn.


The immediate reaction of most Israeli commentators to the Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles was to launch a sophisticated analytical critique of the technical aspects of its security clauses. Would Israeli soldiers be able to carry out hot-pursuit operations into Palestinian-held territory in the event of terrorist attacks in Israel? With what types of arms and equipment would the Palestinian police force be issued? What level of coordination would be necessary between the Israeli intelligence services and those of the Palestinians establish?

Among Palestinians, the primary concerns were prospects for national self-determination and the control of land and water. Palestinian critics of the Jericho-Gaza deal noted that there was no resolution of the problems of access and to the political future of Jerusalem, the future of the Jewish settlements, and the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees.

But these issues, while important, beg the major question: How can the peace process itself, and the agreements negotiated within it, acquire sufficient domestic and international legitimacy to succeed? Without majority popular support for the process, the agreement will fail. Unless there develops a perception by large constituencies on both sides that their leaders are acting in their interests, no peace agreement reached "in committee," so to speak, can have a bright future.

Warning signs of what may happen have abounded since the Declaration of Principles was signed. In Gaza, workers complain that they see no evidence of the peace dividends they were promised, and support for Hamas remained virtually unaltered. On November 24, 1993, a coalition of Palestine (PFLP), and the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PDFLP) defeated the Fatah candidates in elections for the student council at one of al-Fatah's political fortresses, Bir Zeit University. (The actual vote was fairly close, 52 percent to 48 percent, but the winner-take-all electoral system produced a more dramatic outcome. A few days later, Fatah also lost an election at the Ramallah's Teachers College to the same coalition). And the general secretary of the Labor Party, Nissim Zvili, admitted in a mid-November interview with journalists that his party had failed to marshal support for the plan from many party members.

A significant part of the problem is that fence-sitting potential members of pro-peace constituencies on both sides remain more concerned about what they know they are going to lose now than by what they may gain in the future. Moreover, the nationalist ideologies inculcated into the peoples on both sides for generations are now confronting a new world reality, and it is hard for many to abandon deeply held beliefs. One of these beliefs on the Palestinian side has to do with sovereignty.

The world into which Palestinian entity is about to emerge is one less grounded than in the past on absolute national independence. It is based far more on whether political entities recognize and actively support regional interdependence. As the warring parties in the former Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union can attest, true international legitimacy today is a product not only of agreed borders and symbols, such as flags, but of the willingness of nations to subordinate purely national interests on behalf of effective regional cooperation. Under the circumstances existing today, unless both sides, but especially the Palestinians, recognize that they must accept limitations on their sovereignty, the peace process will dither down in an endless circle. Without jobs and a vibrant Palestinian economy, there will be social unrest. Without a calm social atmosphere, there will be little or no outside entrepreneurial investment of the kind that creates jobs and economic growth. And so 'round and 'round we go.


As of this writing, the two sides literally do not know what they are talking about when it comes to many aspects of the daily lives of Palestinians in the occupied territories-or the impact these conditions will have on the peace agreement. It is obvious that the tenor and spirit of the side-agreements and their implementation will have an enormous psychological and practical impact on the final settlement. And yet, the political leadership on both sides appears to grossly underestimate the amount of work to be done and its general significance. Indeed, the list of puzzles to solve is almost endless.

For example, no one questions that the Palestinians will need a "land bridge" across Israel to connect the West Bank with Gaza. But will Palestinians then be restricted to certain roads? Will Israelis have the right to inspect sealed cargoes on trucks? Will Palestinians who use the land bridge have to pay a road tax or tolls? If so, how much? Who will collect it, and how? Will they need car insurance with an Israeli carrier? Will their vehicles be subject to increasingly stringent Israeli safety and pollution regulations? On an issue as critical as this to the Palestinians, the tougher the Israeli stand the "colder" the peace.

If Palestinian garbage in Nablus pollutes aquifer waters that run underground to Rosh Ha-Ayin, near Tel Aviv, who is liable for damages and who must bear the cost of remediation? Who gets to set the standards for water quality, or the definition of a sanitized landfill?

Another example: What will happen to Palestinian agricultural exports-especially those from Gaza? Currently, Gazans export tomatoes, strawberries, and other crops to Europe by air in winter via Agrexco, the Israeli marketing company. Will they be allowed to continue doing so in open competition with Israeli farmers? If not, what will happen to the Gazan farmers? Can the Palestinians build an international air terminal with all the facilities for grading, cooling, and marketing their produce? The only way to make air shipments profitable is to have returning imports on these aircraft guaranteed; otherwise, if planes have to return empty, the price of outbound shipments nearly doubles. But how much in the way of imports by air is feasible for a relatively simple economy? Where are the Palestinian institutions to develop new strains of crops in a highly competitive and changing international market? Tens of millions of dollars in income hang on such questions.

And what about Palestinian exports to Israel? Will they be subject to customs duties or quotas or other nontariff barriers? Palestinians hope to establish labor-intensive industries, such as shoe factories and sewing shops. But the natural market for these industries remains Israel because other, neighboring Arab countries, such as Jordan and Syria, produce many of the same goods and impose protective walls around their producers. Will the Palestinians be allowed access to the Israeli market? If so, under what conditions? Must they adhere to the regulations set by the Standards Institute of Israel? If so, will they have to have their testing done in Israel or will they set up their own standards institute? And if they set up one of their own, will it be recognized by the Israelis?

Despite the fact that Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied territories have lived in close proximity for a quarter of a century, when the time came to talk to each other rather than at each other, neither side had much to say. Indeed, their ignorance of what made the other tick was little short of mind-boggling. After rummaging through their files and archives, Israeli negotiators found that little or no preparatory work had ever been done to plan for genuine Israeli-Palestinian peace and normalization. As the chief Israeli negotiator, Elyakim Rubinstein, admitted in a January 1993 interview on Israeli television, "We spent the first year learning about each other."

The PLO is in even in worse straits. Its Tunis-based leadership is not only ignorant of Israel and its view of the world, it also lacks an intimate understanding of the condition and concerns of the Palestinians who are living under Israeli control. The August 1993 mini-rebellion by Faisal Husseini, Saeb Erakat, and Hanan Ashrawi against the fiats being issued from Tunis was but the most open and public indication of a series of misunderstandings caused by Tunis's isolation and ignorance and the resentment they caused in the territories.

While the learning period between Madrid and the handshake could have been used to good effect by building up a corps of researchers and advisers, the opportunity was lost. Both sides claimed to have set up advisory committees to assist the negotiators-no less than twenty-three committees in the case of the Palestinians. From Western press commentary, an innocent observer might have supposed that these committees had real authority and were actually doing something. Not so. With the notable exception of the finance ministry, Israeli bureaucrats, lacking direct political marching orders, waffled around without any real direction to their discussions. Among the Palestinians, the situation was worse. Membership in the technical committees was not according to merit but according to a political key. And PLO headquarters in Tunis was more interested in the politics of the negotiations than in the practical consequences. Indeed, when the Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles was announced, senior officials from both sides-particularly those charged with maintaining regular contact with their respective corps of researchers and analysts-were caught totally by surprise. Neither Elyakim Rubinstein nor the Israeli general staff were informed in advance. The atmosphere at New Orient House, the Jerusalem headquarters of the Palestinian negotiating team and Sari Nusseibeh's functional committees, was described by one Western diplomat as "a shambles."

Before the breakthrough, the committees had very little impact on policy making, and their public profile, as a result, was near zero in the region. This was unfortunate because now, with an agreement on principles in hand, the committees ought to have been engaging in one of the more important functions such bodies can perform: kite-flying-leaking proposals and ideas to see how they fare prior to formal presentation. But neither side-the Palestinians in particular-was eager to interview those that had been selected, either on or off the record. A close examination of the Palestinian committees, at least, explains why. In most cases, they were mere apparitions. Some hade no more than one or two individuals of any professional note, and the advisory bodies could produce few, if any, ideas worthy of being floated in public.

But public debate on what life will be like after the Israeli withdrawals is an integral part of the process of legitimizing the agreement among the Palestinians. As a result, conventional wisdom-the refuge of the thoughtless in heady times-carried by conventional figures has stifled discussion. Input by those who might have imaginative and pragmatic suggestions has been limited and an intellectual wasteland has been created, an ideal playing field for ideologues, theocrats, special interest groups, and demagogues of various stripes. No less important is that since the talks have been shrouded in a veil of often conflicting and contradictory public statements and leaks to the press, there has been a lack of accountability to the public by those charged with running the negotiations.

In order to understand why this has occurred, one needs to look at the political-diplomatic environment as a whole. Since Israel and the Palestinian entity (no matter what form it eventually takes) are tiny by world standards of population, gross domestic product, land size, natural resources, and so forth, the mainstream political organizations on both sides recognize that the two communities will have little choice but to maintain a considerable degree of cooperation in the future. This recognition is critical not only if there is to be international legitimization of a final settlement but also if precious and limited resources are not to be wasted. So why has progress on the construction of a base for cooperation been so slow?


One reason for the slow progress in constructing a base for cooperation is a sheer lack of expertise and data on the Palestinian side. The Israelis, with their well-founded and experienced bureaucracy, could, when they finally chose to do so, call upon a deep well of experienced technocrats to aid them. Even a cursory investigation, however, makes it plain that the Palestinians do not have the capacity to manage such a complex operation. Hisham Awartani of Al Najah University in Nablus, an advisor to the Palestinian negotiating team, lamented: "We are amazingly underqualified [to undertake these kinds of discussions]."[1] The Palestinians are hard put to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps because there are too few boots to pull on.

Sari Nusseibeh, the coordinator of the activities of the technical committees, claimed in a January 1993 interview that the Palestinians have a sufficiently large and experienced corps of people to deal with these technical subjects. He asserted that up until 1967 the Palestinians ran all the major offices in the West Bank, and that even today it is the Palestinians who are in charge of day-to-day administration. But his claims are misleading. Those who worked in senior positions in the civil service up to 1967, are now either dead or retired. And those currently working for the Civil Administration know too little to be effective, independent policy makers or policy advisers.

The lack of experience is evident in what little substantive work has been done. In a revealing comment, Nusseibeh said that the task given to the teams was to "determine the needs of the Palestinians." The concept that lies behind that mandate is the very opposite of modern policy planning. Normally, one begins with an assessment of the resources available and then asks how those resources can be applied to problem solving. As a senior European Economic Community (EC) official charged with coordinating aid to the Palestinians commented only slightly tongue-in-cheek: "When they first set up their committees they left out the two most important areas: Justice, which provides the legal basis for governments to steal money from civilians through taxes; and Finance, which plans how to go about that theft. The people in Tunis were even worse. [In some cases] we got proposals that were to the left of Stalin." Another Western diplomat added: "What we often see is a wish-list for every model of white elephant ever made."[2]

The lack of qualified advisers has a lot to do with the endemic cronyism of Arafat and the PLO. Within the PLO, advancement has usually been based more on personal loyalty than on professional skill. The creation of a bureaucratic meritocracy has never been one of Arafat's priorities. In a highly revealing comment in Tunis in mid-November 1993 that received virtually no international press coverage, Arafat stated that the Palestinian entity "will not be governed by bureaucrats and technocrats"[3] This mind-set has already led to confrontations with potential donor countries that do not want to see their money wasted. In November 1993, when Arafat tried to pack the Palestinian Economic Development and Reconstruction Authority (PEDRA) with cronies rather than with experienced economists, he was smartly and tartly upbraided by the World Bank.[4] PEDRA is the body charged with coordinating international aid projects and is expected to play a critical role in the development of the Palestinian economy.

But Arafat's attitudes are not the only problem. There is the difficulty in finding adequate trained manpower. From the 1960s to the 1980s a large percentage of Palestinians, particularly in scientific fields, received their higher education in Eastern Europe for ideological or economic reasons. Not only was what they were taught often obsolescent or inadequate by Western standards, they (and many others who studied in universities in Arab countries) never learned English of sufficient fluency to keep up with the professional literature-or to take part in international discussions on new developments in their respective fields, where English is the lingua franca.

However, the Israeli government, too, shares the blame. For more than two decades, the Israelis not only failed to train Palestinian civil servants for positions of leadership, they actively prevented qualified individuals from learning the intricacies of modern policy making. According to high-ranking sources in the Israeli-controlled Civil Administration, approximately fourteen thousand Palestinians work in the public sector on the West Bank. Of these, five hundred are said to have "senior positions." Only three hundred have direct responsibility for subordinates, however, and not one has the right to independently set budgets or to change management practices-the two major criteria for what might be termed "senior management." Moreover, within the Civil Administration, promotions have been almost entirely narrow and vertical. Thus, a hospital administrator who has worked his way through the system may know a great deal about hospital management but very little about public health work or mother and child clinics.

No less a problem for the Palestinians has been their inability to acquire the data they need in order to make rational decisions. It was only following an Israeli Supreme Court case in 1993 that the Civil Administration finally agreed to publish a detailed budget of its revenues and expenses. A great deal of other important data remain hidden in the bowels of archives and computer records-the number of Palestinians who have applied for family reunions, to name but one critical area-and has not even been made available to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics.

Other important data are also unavailable because no one has bothered to gather them. For example, one critical element in Palestinian policy planning ought to be a detailed survey of potential revenues. The Israelis have information on those taxes and levies-income taxes on salaried workers, customs duties, property taxes, value-added tax (VAT) collected within the occupied territories, stamp taxes on documents, and so forth-that are easy to calculate and collect. However, there is no information about the VAT Palestinian workers pay when they buy goods within Israel proper. Of greater significance is the fog surrounding the endemic and extensive tax evasion by the self-employed.

Although the region has been subject to intense public scrutiny for decades, and millions of words have been crafted to try to explain events there, it is surprising how little has been written that is of practical use to policy planners. Much of what has been published to date has been vapid or self-serving in the extreme. A perusal of the excellent bibliography on the refugee issue prepared by York University's Institute for Refugee Studies for the Canadian government shows just how low the level of field research has been. The vast majority of the articles written in recent years can be divided into three groups: small-scale scientific studies on subjects such as water purity or sewage systems in a particular village; polemics disguised as academic studies; and studies prepared by the United Nations, governmental fact-finding teams, and other nongovernmental organizations. With the exception of the small-scale scientific studies, almost all of the studies are so self-serving that they are of no use to the Palestinians in future policy planning.

U.N. reports, for example, usually fall into three categories: proposals for projects; reports justifying the value and efficacy of the projects; and bibliographies listing all the project proposals and the follow-up reports. Similarly, most of the independent aid organizations' reports are designed solely to justify to donors how the money was spent-as a prelude to a request for more funds. Thus, for example, while many reports on the status of refugees deal with housing, not one discusses building codes for refugee settlement projects, a critical oversight in an area prone to earthquakes.

U.N. reports may be useless to Palestinian planners, but at least they do little harm. The same cannot be said about proposals from fact-finders with specific axes to grind or interests to promote. In 1990, for example, an Italian fact-finders team proposed that Italy establish a citrus-processing plant in Gaza at a cost of more than ten million dollars.[5] The proposal came at a time when there was a glut of citrus fruit on world markets, when world citrus prices were plummeting, and when Gaza was suffering from a severe drought that had salinated many of the wells used to irrigate the water-guzzling citrus trees. When a Western diplomat who was closely acquainted with the Italian idea was asked what he thought of it, he merely shrugged his shoulders and said: "It looks as though the Italians had a surplus plant available and this looked like a good way of getting rid of it." With advice from friends like these, who needs enemies?

Palestinian officials, though, are reluctant to criticize such proposals for fear of losing future donations-and because they do not have the background data to offer alternate suggestions. What then happens is that the economy of the occupied territories becomes distorted. The Palestinians get what others want to give them, not what they really need. Only 0.68 percent of the money donated to the occupied territories in 1992 was directed toward public administration and policy planning. The vast majority of the $202,191,852 donated that year was for maintenance-health, education, culture, and the like. Less than 20 percent was directed towards the creation of wealth: agriculture, trade, industry, and the like. And of the aid to industry, almost half was accounted for by the construction of the citrus-processing plant in Gaza.[6]


The problem doesn't end there, but, in a way, begins again with the two leaders, Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat. First comparisons of the two suggest great differences in backgrounds and beliefs, but they are also remarkably similar in many ways. Both men have spent virtually their entire adult lives dealing with military issues and "high politics." Unlike most democratic leaders, who started off as lowly backbenchers in their respective parliaments, learning the nitty-gritty of constituency politics, neither Arafat nor Rabin went through a political apprenticeship. Neither has schooling in "civil matters", and both disdain the day-to-day world of domestic governance that is the basis for constituency mobilization.

Rabin often insults senior civil servants who dare present policy proposals that abrade against his preconceptions. Arafat is even worse. When the PLO was in virtual control of the refugee camps in Jordan in the late 1960s, and in Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s, corruption and cronyism were rampant. Arrogance abounded. Relations with neighbors deteriorated into war.

No less significant are their personal styles of governance. Both men play their cards close to the chest, confiding only in a tiny group of personal loyalists. Neither man has sought advice from constituents, and constituents with suggestions have no reliable way to reach their leaders. Even technocrats working within the system have great difficulty earning a hearing.

A major difference between the positions of the two men is that Rabin is at least subject to close scrutiny by his fractious cabinet and the highly critical Israeli press. Despite the barriers he has erected around himself, some information and many questions on substantive matters do get through to him. Arafat's communications links, especially with constituents in the occupied territories, are far more tenuous. Theoretically, his hand-picked negotiating team should have served that function by acting as a conduit for him. Faisal Husseini tried. Through the use of public meetings and constant visits to villages and towns outside Jerusalem, he made a strong effort to take the pulse of his constituents.

But Arafat is not interested in cultivating an active internal dialogue because he still fears that the negotiators from the occupied territories, if given sufficient opportunity, will develop independent power bases. A public discussion of details in such areas as refugees resettlement and town planning, agricultural policy, or the promotion of tourism would automatically involve a transfer of authority and responsibility for decision making to those who are in situ.

Moreover, even if Arafat were interested in such quotidian issues, it is impossible for him to deal with a wide range of policy matters now. He simply doesn't know how. Neither he nor any of those with whom he consults regularly has ever had to consider what to do in the event of an outbreak of Newcastle's disease in chickens, or foot-and-mouth disease in cattle. Such matters simply have never been on their agenda.

On the other hand, those who are interested in and knowledgeable about the details of peace have no popular legitimacy. When the intifada broke out, power in the Palestinian community passed overnight men in their sixties, seventies, and eighties to youngsters of sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen. It was the latter group, though bereft of work experience or professional training, that was armed and capable of enforcing its will, and it was the youngsters who controlled the streets. Virtually the entire middle generation of moderates was left without a power base. Today, members of this age cohort that are involved in the negotiating process are entirely beholden to Arafat for the public positions they hold.

Even those with close family or personal ties to any of the thirty-something members of the Palestinian delegation to the talks held in Washington after the Madrid conference have fared no better, for that delegation lacked legitimacy as well. The Palestinian negotiating team that labored away in Madrid and Washington for almost two years was largely the product of American diplomacy. U.S. mediators recognized that it was no longer worthwhile to rely on a discredited older generation, when they would not talk to the youngsters or to recognized PLO officials. They therefore set out to rejuvenate the political base of the middle generation. People like Faisal Husseini were invited to Washington and given a high media profile. But while Husseini was certainly a person of stature, the United States could not provide a vehicle by which he, his supporters, and their technical advisers could legitimize their activities at home.

In short, those who are in charge, especially on the Palestinian side, have no appetite for details, and those who have an appetite for details are not in charge and have no independent means of access to those who are.


In the end, of course, it was the lack of an effective Palestinian negotiating partner who could take decisions and make them stick that led Rabin to elevate the secret talks with the PLO to the diplomatic summit. The discussions that led to the Declaration of Principles were pregnant with irony. It had been assumed in Jerusalem and Washington, for example, that since the Palestinian delegation represented those living under Israeli occupation, the local leadership would drive the PLO in Tunis toward moderation. But because the delegation lacked legitimacy, it felt obliged to calibrate its positions in response to the influence exerted by those who controlled the streets. The PLO in Tunis, on the other hand, became more moderate because of internal disputes, worries about Hamas, and the organization's acute financial weakness. The more extreme the delegation from the occupied territories became, the less influence it and its technical committees had in Tunis.

One consequence of this situation is the Palestinian negotiators' inability to initiate local confidence-building measures. That makes it harder for Arafat's men to exert control over the violent youngsters on the streets-or to convert Hamas supporters to the new secular faith. Without a flow of practical proposals to put before the public, the process of legitimizing and concretizing the peace process will suffer.

The two sides have managed to put together teams of experts of sufficient experience and quality to deal with some critical macro questions. Thus, many Palestinians who left the occupied territories in the wake of the Six Day War will now be allowed to return home and be reunited with their families. Some Palestinians, prevented by the Israelis from building homes in certain areas, will now be able to do so. A more open economic system may allow Palestinians to found banks and businesses, provide credit to entrepreneurs, and create badly needed jobs for a burgeoning population (the job situation has become particularly acute since Israel sealed off the territories in March 1993). But until the details of an interim accord are settled, this activity will be subject to contradictory law and authority, and may make the eventual practical solution to Israeli-Palestinian coexistence more instead of less difficult.

In the absence of disciplined and systematic discussions, one can expect a certain amount of drift, and, as Moshe Dayan used to put it in a different context, the near random establishment of facts. So, for example, the macro teams have decided that the heart of Palestinian economic recovery must lie in the encouragement of small entrepreneurial businesses, especially by landless refugees. However, without a defined policy on land use and a micro approach to land allocation, this may prove to be mere theorizing and wishful thinking. In the industrial park in Beit Lahia in the Gaza Strip, for instance, the price for a one dunam (quarter acre) plot leapt from ten thousand dollars in late August to seventy thousand dollars within ten days after the handshake. That has put the establishment of a carpentry shop or a smithery out of the reach of all but the established, landholding well-to-do. In the West Bank, land prices are even higher.

The absence of adequate communication between the leadership in Tunis and the common folk living in Ramallah and Nablus, together with the Tunis leadership's insistence on control of all policy making, has led to a new political phenomenon. Having watched the raucous Israeli experiment in popular rule for more than a quarter of a century, the Palestinians in the West Bank now want the same for themselves. A slow-growing, but nonetheless visible popular revolt against the fiats of Tunis is now under way. "Democracy" has become the new buzzword among mainstream al-Fatah intellectuals and activists. In the evolving lexicon of Palestinian politics, "democracy" has come to mean the right by local civilians to protect their interests from the dictates and encroachments of the Tunis-based leadership. Until a mechanism is found to satisfy demands for greater constituency input, the rebellion will continue to grow.


Without a resolution of issues that have a direct bearing on regional cooperation and the establishment of a broad constituency for peace, it will be hard to sustain the process of peacemaking through the months and, yes, even the years ahead. Up to now, unfortunately, the United States has made little effort to deal with the problems outlined here. Rather, like Rabin and Arafat, foreign officers and the responsible cabinet and sub-cabinet officials shrink from dealing with constituency politics. Being appointees themselves, they prefer to deal with those whom they view as peers-selected members of the traditional ruling class.

That is unfortunate. The failure to launch a campaign to help legitimize the peace process at the grassroots level has been a major shortcoming of U.S. mediation efforts to date. At the least, the Clinton administration should remind both sides that negotiating the functional agreements that will support the political accord is of crucial importance and must proceed in tandem with the political track. Just as the multilateral negotiations of the Madrid formula have complemented the bilateral track in general, so too would such parallel discussions support and help shape the very nature of the framework under negotiation.

Empowering the technocrats sooner rather than later may bear another significant benefit. The results of their work could, in the future, enable the political negotiators to finesse problems that, if attacked frontally, might hinder progress. Thus, for example, instead of negotiating the question of final boundaries head-on, it may be easier to break the issue down initially through a discussion on telecommunications, water lines, or who will be responsible for road maintenance. Whichever side took responsibility for dealing with these subjects in particular geographic areas would be defining de facto their area of control--literally, house by house, telephone pole by telephone pole, and street by street.

The United States can do even more than that if it really wants to. In its essential role as mediator and facilitator, five small initiatives could make a large difference.

First, there is a need to collate what data is already available. There has been no census in the occupied territories since 1967, so researchers and analysts have to rely, at least initially, on what the Israelis have collected over time. The United States should therefore squeeze the Israelis to release the raw information at the disposal of the Civil Administration. To this basic data base can be added any quality material that has been gathered by other sources.

It is worth emphasizing the importance of this compilation of data. Without an adequate data base for policy planning, Palestinian supervision of the bureaucracy will merely perpetuate existing policies designed for Israeli or foreign donors' needs, not Palestinian requirements. Worse still, the void in concrete facts and figures could provide Palestinians, who are dedicated ideologues but who have never had to take responsibility for practical decision making, with a means for making the same mistakes that were made in Africa and elsewhere in the 1960s and 1970s. The result could easily be not economic and social freedom but the kind of penury that afflicts potentially wealthy Third World countries to this day. That, in turn, is a recipe for intracommunal and intercommunal instability. Data assembly is also the first step in myth demolition, national reality therapy, and the establishment of a permanent base for public scrutiny of policy makers.

Secondly, there is a need for neutral and mutually acceptable outside parties to assess the value and relevance of all the available data. The presence of outside referees in this process is critical. As Neil Hawkins, the Middle East director for FAFO, the Norwegian Trade Union Research Unit, pointed out: "There is a lot of scientifically valuable work that the Israelis and the Palestinians have done, but [the work] has no legitimacy because the two sides don't trust each other."[7]

Another major problem that can be resolved by referees is the inability of those who have done research in the past to come up with a common definition of many of the words they use, or a common statistical base upon which to build their work. On issues such as unemployment, for example, figures issued by the Israelis and by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency are often wildly at odds. As well, there is no agreed upon definition of such elementary terms as who is a "Palestinian." Outsiders could act as neutral arbiters of the integrity of the raw data, the value of the aggregate analyses, and the definition of terms used in those analyses.

Thirdly, the United States could sponsor original field research as necessary in specific areas where ignorance of the current situation is rampant. One of the few truly useful studies of the past few years was the survey prepared by FAFO, and it can serve as a model for much of the work that must be done in the future.[8] What makes the FAFO report outstanding is not only its breadth and scientific rigor but that it is one of the very few reports issued that is both self-critical and willing to indicate where the data are incomplete or the conclusions open to question. It is no wonder that the FAFO report formed a critical element in the Oslo initiative. Unlike the Americans, who could find no way out of the diplomatic impasse, the Norwegians acquired from the report the data necessary to raise and discuss significant issues of importance to the Palestinian constituencies. A new study by FAFO on the demographics of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem--a prelude to a proper census--is to be launched soon. It deserves international support.

When independent, high-quality studies of the real situation in the field have been made in the past, the results have often been surprising and counterintuitive. For example, it is widely recognized that Gaza is one of the least inviting places in the world in which to live. Overcrowding and a lack of public services can make life for residents there distinctly dismal. However, an unpublished, internal study prepared for the Norwegian government based on the raw data extrapolated from the FAFO study indicates that, at least in one field, conditions in Gaza are superior to many places in the world--including the situation in the inner cities of the United States. This field is postnatal care: checkups, vaccinations, and the like. The reason is that there is an extensive network of medical clinics run by the government, the United Nations, and independent charitable organizations. More important, however, mothers use these clinics as a kind of club where they can go to get out of their overcrowded houses and meet and chat. They therefore use any excuse to bring their children to the clinics.

Fourthly, policy planning itself needs to be institutionalized. Sari Nusseibeh admitted that when he set up his technical committees, political affiliation was as important a consideration for whom to nominate as was professional competence.[9] Now is the time for outsiders to encourage the development of a meritocratic civil service.

Fifthly, detailed policy proposals have to be prepared. Once again, there is a model available for emulation. The Harvard University study on the economics of peace is an 1example not only of general professional competence but also of a coherent joint approach to regional problem solving.[10] Unlike the World Bank report, it was a joint, coauthored study by leading Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian economists--some of whom were advisers to their respective delegations.

The United States government need not work alone in this area. Canada, Sweden, Norway, and the EC have all appropriated funds for this type of research. What is required is a level of coordination between sponsors and a steady sense of direction for the research that does not now exist. The results of these studies would then form a quality data base for policy planning, both locally and in a regional context.

Those plans, in turn, could also be used for constituency mobilization. It is time to bring in the specialists and mid-ranking technocrats who have so far been excluded from the process and allow them to provide their expertise. Those on both sides with the capability to provide real information must be sought out and their work sponsored. Where necessary, donor countries should use their leverage to ensure that aid money is funneled to those capable of producing tangible results, rather than to political hacks with their own political and economic futures as their singular priority. Dialogues between Israelis and Palestinians based on mutual professional interests should be encouraged. The need for a coherent, pragmatic, analytical approach is all the more pressing because many potential aid donors, from the Nordic countries to Japan, are now proposing massive aid packages to the Palestinians without knowing for what the money should or could be used.

If the Palestinians lack personnel of sufficient caliber to either undertake the studies or craft viable plans, what then? The U.S. offer at the Paris multilateral talks in October 1992 to train Palestinian public administrators will only show results in the medium and long terms.

One solution may lie across the river. Jordan could, and probably will, play a significant role in any number of technical fields. For example, the Palestinians do not have a mainframe computer capable of processing the raw data the Israelis have collected. Jordan does have such facilities. Also, among the three hundred thousand Palestinians who left the Gulf for Jordan during and after the Gulf war, there is a skilled population whose talents are in many ways perfect for the territories. Most of these people are not yet deeply rooted in Jordan and may appreciate an opportunity to set down new roots where they are wanted and needed.

In the near term, however, Jordanian aid is not likely to suffice. International assistance in on-the-spot teaching of policy planning could help, too, but this will not be easy; Palestinians are particularly sensitive when they think they are being ordered around by foreigners. No less a problem will be the attitude of the PLO itself. In the past, Palestinians academics, entrepreneurs, and professionals in the occupied territories were reluctant to become involved in visible, public projects with Israelis and foreigners unless they received specific permission from the leaders in Tunis. Since the signing of the Declaration of Principles, that has changed to a certain degree.

What has not changed is the mind-set of the PLO's hierarchy when it comes to having to act on the recommendations these encounters create. To them, any act, anywhere, has first and foremost a political meaning, rather than a simple, functional significance. For example, when it was decided at the Paris multilaterals that the World Bank would launch a major economic study of the region, the public reaction of PLO officials did not relate to the study's potential utility. Rather, almost all the spokesmen talked only in political terms: that the Palestinians had been "recognized" by the World Bank for the first time.

This politics-first mind-set has meant that when it comes to decision making, the creation of symbols of national sovereignty often takes precedence over substantive acts that would produce greater real national independence. For example, if Palestinian industry is to be encouraged, telecommunications systems in the autonomous areas will have to be improved drastically--especially in the rural areas, where land for industrial development is relatively cheap. However, it will take years to put a full-fledged infrastructure of land lines and exchanges in place. A more rapid solution would be the development of a more extensive cellular telephone network. That means intense negotiations with the Israelis over rights to certain frequencies and intense internal discussions on whether, for instance, to choose a digital or analog system. According to high-ranking sources in East Jerusalem, however, the only clear instructions the technical teams had received from Tunis on the issue of telecommunications was that they demand that a separate international dialing code number be given to the Palestinian entity.

Possibly one of the most useful tasks American mediators could perform now would be to encourage Israel to allow Palestinian expatriates--even those who did not leave after the 1967 war--who have the technical and research skills necessary for policy planning to receive permits to live and work in the territories. At the same time, Washington should push the PLO to lift many of its restrictions on dialogue by confronting the Palestinian leadership with the critical questions: Has the running of a liberation movement, free of the orderly restraints and responsibilities of public management, become an end in itself --just as for Palestinian radical groups, such as the PFLP, armed struggle has become an end in itself? Do those for whom the political wilderness has been home for so many years see the confrontation with potential reality of self-governance as an opportunity, a burden, or an imposition? Can those responsible for the success or failure of the negotiations with the Israelis make the existential leap from living the dramatic life of a potential liberator to the more mundane one of providing basic, competent services to a civilian population in need of day-to-day assistance?

In short, there is no reason why in their public statements U.S. diplomats cannot begin the long process of explaining a truth that is not yet self-evident to many Israelis and Palestinians: peace is more than just the absence of war, and turning a paramilitary "liberation" organization into a governing administration takes more than just a change of wardrobe.


For decades, "high politics" and extremist ideologies have been the opiates of the peoples of the Near East. Only after the myriad of tiny details needed for real policy planning is assembled and placed in order will it be possible to provide Israelis and Palestinians in the territories with a reasoned alternative to their years of armed struggle.

What is needed most is to personalize the outcome of the negotiations for each individual. Each individual, to be brought on board, requires a coherent and comprehensive vision of a personal future that mixes well with a vision of a joint communal future both sides can tolerate. Only when individuals become direct shareholders in the peace process will it be possible to turn people's attention away from nonproductive preoccupations with history, vengeance, and demands for indemnification for all slights and sufferings, real and imagined, that they believe they have endured. Only once they see what is really at stake will it be possible to ask them to discard the ideological shibboleths and false prophets of the past and turn to the pragmatic business of building a peaceful life for themselves and their children. That's a lot harder than lunching in Oslo and shaking hands at the White House. And it's also a lot more important.

Jim Lederman is the longest-serving foreign correspondent in Jerusalem and the author of Battle-Lines: The American Media and the Intifada (New York: Henry Holt Co, 1992).

[1]. Interview by author, Feb. 1993.
[2] Conversation with author.
[3] Yasir Arafat, Remarks to the Higher Committee, Nov. 13, 1993 (transcript)
[4] Israeli Finance Ministry officials interviews by author.
[5] United Nations Development Program "Assistance to the Occupied Palestinian Territories-1992: Compendium of Ongoing and Planned Projects" (Jerusalem, Apr. 1992).
[6] Ibid.
[7] Telephone interview with author, Aug. 1993.
[8] Marianne Heiberg and Geir Ovensen, "Palestinian Society in Gaza, West Bank and Arab Jerusalem: A Survey of Living Conditions," FAFO Report 151, Oslo, 1993.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Stanley Fischer et al., eds., Securing Peace in the Middle East: Project on Economic Transition (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1994). See Patrick Clawson's review of this report in this issue.