‘West Bank First’ Approach Failing Miserably

Elliott Abrams, one of the key players in the attempted U.S.-backed coup in 2007 to install Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party as the sole Palestinian entity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has a short piece in Foreign Policy arguing for more of the same “West Bank first” approach to Palestine.

Abrams’ suggestion has been in place since the end of the Bush administration’s second term, and it has produced absolutely nothing good.

The “West Bank first” approach refers to the policy, first begun by the Bush administration and continued by the Obama administration, of showering the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank with aid, international backing and training for security forces in an attempt to weaken the Hamas-run government in Gaza by drawing a stark contrast between the living conditions in the West Bank and Gaza.  The approach also further legitimizes the decades-long Israeli goal of separating the West Bank from Gaza, therefore precluding the possibility of a viable Palestinian state.

Not only is this approach undemocratic and dismissive of Palestinians’ electoral choices, it is also failing miserably.  Hamas is doing a much better job at governing than the Palestinian Authority.

Professor Menachem Klein, an Israeli who teaches at Bar-Ilan University, writes today in Ha’aretz:

A question: Which government functions better, that of Salam Fayyad in the West Bank or that of Hamas in the Gaza Strip? Answer: The Hamas government. Another question: Which of the two governments would stop functioning without foreign aid? Answer: The West Bank one.

Ismail Haniyeh’s government functions well, despite the blockade of Gaza, the diplomatic boycott and the lack of assistance from large international organizations. Fayyad’s considerable personal abilities, the success of his technocratic government in improving living conditions in the West Bank, the excellent foreign relations maintained by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the extensive aid Fayyad’s government receives have not created a more effective government than the one run by Hamas. These are the conclusions of a new study by Dr. Yezid Sayigh from King’s College, London.

Furthermore, the popular belief that the Hamas regime is brutal while the Abbas-Fayyad government is democratic is also mistaken. Hamas came to power in real, democratic, internationally-monitored elections – a process unprecedented in the Arab world. By contrast, President Abbas’ legal term of office ended long ago, yet he has not left office.



5 responses to “‘West Bank First’ Approach Failing Miserably

  1. RE: “Elliott Abrams…has a short piece in Foreign Policy arguing for more of the same ‘West Bank first’ approach to Palestine.” – Kane
    MY COMMENT: There is nothing quite like a warmed-over load of BS being excreted by the world’s foremost purveyor of BS!

  2. You mentioned this briefly, but I think it is worth again highlighting the dependence of the West Bank economy on foreign aid. While the private sector is slowly growing again after the Intifada, most of the much-celebrated economic growth in the West Bank is the result of government initiated programs that are completely donor-funded. Despite nearly $8 billion of aid in the last few years, the PA is expected to end the fiscal year $300-400 million in the red – forcing Fayyad to make a speech in which he both boasted about the growth and begged for more aid.

    The consequence of all this is that the West Bank under the PA, despite what is perceived as substantial political and economic growth, is ill-prepared to be the base for a viable democratic Palestinian state. In addition to the short-comings of the PA, the West Bank first approach is further the rift between Fatah and Hamas – and therefore pushing Palestine much closer to civil war than to an independent state.

  3. Thanks, Chris, for your always insightful comments.

  4. Pingback: Image and Reality of Barack Obama’s Israel Policy | Alex Kane

  5. Pingback: Image and Reality of Barack Obama’s Israel Policy

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