The Middle East peace process will fail unless Palestinian political institutions are rebuilt, argues a new paper from the Carnegie Endowment. The rebuilding of viable political structures to represent and serve the Palestinians is the only way to move beyond the current political stalemate and the failed effort to build a Palestinian state.

In The Road Out of Gaza, Palestinian expert Nathan J. Brown discusses the economic and political disarray not only in Gaza and the West Bank but within Hamas and Fatah as well, and argues that the international efforts to rebuild Palestine are in reality counterproductive. Brown suggests a long-term international strategy based on restoring Palestinian institutions, encouraging a Fatah–Hamas agreement, and emphasizing regional diplomacy.

Key Conclusions:

  • An agreement must be reached between Hamas and Fatah—there is little chance for a military victory by either side. For this to be accomplished, Hamas must relax its hold on Gaza but be allowed to return to the cabinet.
  • Constitutional rule based on the terms of Basic Law must be restored and legitimate elections held. Hamas will then either have to deliver on its campaign promises of change or face voters in the parliamentary elections due in 2010.
  • Regional diplomacy must be emphasized. While Hamas does not listen to the United States and Israel, it does respond to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who have their own concerns over Hamas' rise.
  • Restoration of Palestinian institutions requires a degree of calm on the Israel–Palestinian front. Israel will need to be convinced that the cease-fire offers both short and long term benefits. Israeli leaders are oddly far more open to this idea than U.S. leaders.

“The risks of a strategy of ensnaring Hamas in traps laid by public opinion (expressed in part through elections), Arab diplomacy, and Palestinian political procedures are very real. But the path seems far more likely to pay off—both in security and diplomatic terms—than the current strategy of total isolation, abstract diplomacy, aid, and intermittent military operations,” concludes Brown.

This is a web-only publication.

About the Author
Nathan J. Brown is a nonresident senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment and is also professor of political science and international affairs and director of the Middle East Studies Program at the George Washington University. His past work has focused on Palestinian politics and on the rule of law and constitutionalism in the Arab world.