Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 07/2010

A Two-State Solution Requires Palestinian Politics

Michele Dunne

June 2010

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


Successful Israeli–Palestinian negotiations, whether the indirect talks begun in May 2010 or direct talks, will require a Palestinian leadership that enjoys adequate support in the West Bank and Gaza. Building the institutions of a Palestinian state is also crucial and long overdue. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s two-year plan for institution building, announced in August 2009, is laudable but has signifi cant limitations. That plan, and Palestinian decision making, suffer from a common problem: the suspension of normal political life since the 2007 rift with Hamas and Gaza coup. Without a presidential election, legitimacy is draining away from President Mahmoud Abbas; without a functioning Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and its ability to make laws, institution building is severely limited. The United States should move beyond the short-term thinking— that inconvenient Palestinian politics can and should be delayed because a negotiating breakthrough is just around the corner—that has affl icted its policies for decades. This does not mean that the United States should engage Hamas directly, which would have the unfortunate effect of validating the group’s violent and rejectionist tactics. Instead, the United States should develop a strategy that patiently supports Palestinian institution building and tolerates the internal Palestinian political competition and bargaining that must accompany it; seeks breakthroughs in negotiations with Israel; and holds the Palestinian Authority to a commitment to prevent violence against Israel.