In August 2009, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad pledged to "complete the process of building institutions of the independent State of Palestine . . . within the next two years." Fayyad argued that by focusing on building institutions, a Palestinian state would "emerge as a fact that cannot be ignored." Fayyad's two-year deadline expired in August 2011. Is Palestine ready, in institutional terms, for statehood?
Palestine, From the Ground Up
With the Palestinian Liberation Organization poised to seek U.N. recognition for a Palestinian state later this month, the political obstacles to such a move have been in the spotlight. Less attention has been paid to the concrete features of an eventual Palestinian state. Are Palestinian governmental institutions prepared for sovereignty? What are the possibilities for economic development in a state of Palestine? And beyond the conflicting myths and narratives of return, what are the prospects for reintegrating Palestinian refugees?
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Critics argue that the Palestinian Authority is dysfunctional and aid-dependent, while Palestinian officials argue that the economy of an independent Palestine would function much better than it does under the current conditions of Israeli occupation. Part of the challenge of assessing the economic prospects of a future Palestine is that it fundamentally depends on what kind of Palestine one imagines and how one imagines getting there.
Whether and when a Palestinian state is established will be determined by the political realities dividing and linking Israel and Palestine. However, external factors may influence the timing and shape of the forthcoming Palestinian state, its prospects and the nature of its relations with surrounding states. One important area in which exogenous factors may be as important as internal factors in Palestine and Israel is refugee return.