Building Palestine From the Bottom Up

While both the Palestinians and Israel can easily and rightly be blamed for the failure of the Oslo peace process, the fundamental problem was that effort's insistence on creating a Palestinian state from the top down. The effort should shift to building a Palestinian state from the bottom up, for which there are encouraging signs.

JERUSALEM – As President Barack Obama’s special Middle East envoy, former US Senator George Mitchell, learned during his visit to the region, America’s efforts at Israeli-Palestinian peace-making are running up against three major obstacles. They will, no doubt, also arise in Obama’s upcoming meetings with the region’s leaders.

The first obstacle – indeed, the issue that stands front and center today – is the ongoing Palestinian civil war, with Hamas controlling the Gaza Strip in defiance of Abu Mazen’s Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. The Palestinians’ basic failure at nation-building makes any meaningful peace talks with Israel – let alone an agreement – almost impossible at the moment. With Palestinians unable to agree among themselves on a minimal national consensus, how can peace be established between them and Israel?

Second, with Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister, Israel now has a government which is far less likely to be willing – or able – to make major concessions and evacuate hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers from the West Bank.

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