A report published last week by the Israel-based Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) moved to unpack what Senior Research Fellow Kobi Michael described as the “4-level game” that will determine whether the current round of U.S.-backed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks successfully yield a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel. Michael emphasized that in addition to “the military element” – which thus far has been the focus of the U.S.’s security-related efforts – negotiators must also account for the elements of “Palestinian governance… of regional cooperation… [and] of international legitimacy.”
From the perspective of Israel’s interests, a viable Palestinian state that takes governmental responsibility and exercises a monopoly on the use of force is an essential condition for ensuring stability and security. A Palestinian state that falls into the pattern of a failed state is liable to become a subversive and hostile entity and develop into a grave security threat to Israel. The transition from a sub-state entity with a questionable performance level to a viable, vital, and functioning state can take place through a gradual and responsible state building process with the support of the international community and Israel.
Whatever elements are mobilized to bolster its viability, analysts have long identified at least four critical dynamics that would have to be addressed to prevent a Palestinian state from collapsing into a failed state: the absence of political legitimacy, the absence of economic stability, the absence of a monopoly on the use of force, and the existence of rival governments in some of the territories that Palestinians reserve for a future state. Despite the peace process, it is difficult to find evaluations citing progress along these four dimensions. Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas is currently in the ninth year of his four-year term, Palestinians are scrambling to avoid an economic collapse due to donor fatigue, there is a growing jihadist presence throughout territories controlled by Palestinian governments, and efforts to unite the Fatah-controlled West Bank and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip have again stalled. The latter factor has often been left unaddressed in peace talks, but a single state under two governments is almost by definition a failed state.
[Photo: Yasin Degirmenci/ YouTube]