The panel discussion "Building a Successful Palestinian State" took place at the 59th annual conference in November, 2005.
Robert Danin, Steven Simon, Ross Anthony, Laith Arafeh, Shlomo Brom
Steven Simon and Ross Anthony of RAND Corporation presented their proposal for a future Palestinian state. The Arc Plan, as they called it, lists four criteria for success: security, effective and legitimate governance, a sustainable economy, and social well being founded on the ability to provide basic necessities (food, clothing, healthcare, etc.). The total cost of the proposal — 33 billion dollars — is based on a pre-existing commitment from the international community of the same amount over the next 10 years. Per capita, the cost would be roughly the same as the rebuilding of Bosnia.
Simon and Anthony believe that a sustainable economy will be impossible to build without first alleviating the security and corruption concerns of foreign investors. They cited the poor Palestinian territorial continuity and permeability of borders and projected that without high continuity and permeability, GDP would reduce by 30%. Therefore, according to RAND, the highest priority for a successful Palestinian state is the creation of a strong judiciary and police force, which would cost an estimated 8 billion dollars.
In addressing basic social needs, Simon and Anthony believe improved healthcare and public works to be most important. A plan to consolidate the current “crazy quilt” of uncoordinated US, UN, NGO, and Palestinian Authority healthcare would cost at least 1.3 billion dollars. And a water public works plan estimated at 2 billion dollars would alleviate reliance on an overworked desalinization program.
The bulk of the RAND proposal focused on a transportation infrastructure that would be able to support the exploding population while simultaneously encourage a balanced population density. They noted that the plan would also need to preserve agricultural land, respect existing Palestinian cities, and stimulate economic growth. Labeled, “The Arc,” RAND proposed a public transit system that would link the territory through a central rail line backed by smaller bus routes. The rail would run from Gaza into the West Bank in a southerly route, connecting all of the Palestinian territory with the Rafah airport and a potential Mediterranean seaport. Bus lines would connect the Palestinian towns and cities to the rail system, and RAND anticipated economic enterprise to parallel the bus routes. The total cost would be approximately 8.5 billion dollars and would include the construction of 100,000 housing units as well as other minor projects.
Simon and Anthony noted that high-ranking Palestinian officials and some Israeli authorities expressed interest in the plan. Palestinian policy advisor and co-panelist Laith Arafeh enjoyed RAND’s plan, but believed that without peace between Palestinians and Israelis, the proposal’s implementation was not feasible. Former Israeli security advisor and co-panelist Shalom Brom had little hope for the plan unless several critical issues were resolved, including lingering Palestinian suspicions of Israeli intentions, the fragmentation of the Palestinian community, donor fatigue and Israel’s desire to move beyond unilateral engagement and security paranoia. He thought that was not likely anytime soon.
When Simon and Anthony of RAND were asked whether or not the Arc Plan was a pipe dream, they left the question open.
Ania Nikonorow, a senior at Georgetown School of Foreign Service majoring in International Affair, Security Studies, and Arab Studies, and J. Edward Conway, a graduate of Davidson College, wrote this summary. They are both interns at the Middle East Institute.