Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
“Party Building in the Middle East”
December 22nd, 2010 by Jason
The National Democratic Institute (NDI) has released
a new article titled “Party Building in the Middle East.” Written by Les Campbell, NDI’s senior associate and regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, the article seeks to “enumerate some of the key achievements of democracy assistance in the Arab world over the past decade; describe the strategies democracy assistance practitioners employ in their work; and explain, through four case studies and the voices of recipients, how specific interventions have contributed to the advancement of democracy in the Middle East and north Africa.” The case studies include Yemen, Morocco, the West Bank and Gaza, and Egypt.
Posted in Civil Society, Democracy Promotion, Egypt, Elections, Foreign Aid, Morocco, NGOs, Palestine, US foreign policy, Women, Yemen | Comment »
Palestine: HRW Criticizes Detention of Blogger
December 6th, 2010 by Evan
Human Right Watch released a statement Sunday calling for the release of Palestinian blogger Walid Hasayin, who was arrested by the Palestinian General Intelligence Services on October 31, 2010. Hasayin has not been charged with a crime, but is suspected of posting statements on his blog criticizing Islam and other religions. Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said “The Palestinian authorities’ claim that Hasayin offended Muslims is no excuse for arbitrarily detaining him. The Palestinian judiciary should demonstrate its integrity by protecting the right to free expression and ordering Hasayin’s release and his safety.”
POMED Notes: “A Changing Middle East: Iran, Turkey, and Prospects for Peace”
November 16th, 2010 by Jason
On Monday evening, as part of the 2010 Foreign Policy Initiative Forum, a panel discussion was held titled “A Changing Middle East: Iran, Turkey, and Prospects for Peace.” The discussants were Elliot Abrams, of the Council on Foreign Relations, Ambassador Eric Edelman, of the Foreign Policy Initiative and Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, and Reuel Gerecht of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The discussion was moderated by Lee Smith of the Weekly Standard.
(To read full notes, continue below the fold or click here
Posted in DC Event Notes, Freedom, Human Rights, Iran, Islamist movements, Israel, Middle Eastern Media, Palestine, Political Parties, Reform, Turkey, US foreign policy | Comment »
Palestine: Reconciliation Talks Continue, U.S. Boosts Aid for PA
November 10th, 2010 by Anna
Hamas and Fatah representatives met for a second round of reconciliation talks in Damascus yesterday, focusing on issues regarding control of the Palestinian security and governance apparatus. A Fatah authority said: “We realize that reconciliation is a national Palestinian interest.”
Today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the U.S. will give the Palestinian Authority an additional $150 million in aid. The increased funding is an apparent effort to boost the PA’s budget. She added that a “positive outcome” is still possible in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, in spite of a recent deadlock
Palestine: Services Worsen in Some Areas, Improve in Others
October 28th, 2010 by Anna
The Christian Science Monitorreports today on a “protracted disagreement” between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority over who will pay Gaza’s electricity bills. The standoff means that “for Gaza residents, [the] deep Palestinian divide…not only prevents peace, but literally leaves them in the dark.” Although the European Union used to buy fuel for Gaza from an Israeli supplier, the Palestinians have been paying the bills since December 2009. Now, both sides contend that the other has mishandled tax revenue and international funding: while PA spokesman Ghassan Khatib claims that poor bill collection by Gaza officials has meant that the Hamas-led government pays very little, Gaza Electrical Distribution Company spokesman Usama Dabbour
says that Gazans cannot afford to pay the bills. In the meantime, residents of Gaza continue to deal with blackouts and other failures in public service provision on a regular basis.
On a more positive note, USAID released a brief statement today announcing the conclusion of the five-year NETHAM (”Order”) Rule of Law program in the West Bank and Gaza. The program sought to strengthen rule of law in the Palestinian territories by upgrading Notary Public Departments in the West Bank, training judges and judicial staff, streamlining the process for issuing various routine certificates to Palestinians, and providing additional resources to the Al-Quds University School of Law.
New “World Press Freedom Index” Shows Decline in Middle East Media Freedom
October 20th, 2010 by Anna
Reporters Without Borders released its annual World Press Freedom Index today. In the Middle East and North Africa, press freedom saw mild improvements in some places, but deterioration overall. Morocco dropped 8 places in the global ranking, which the report’s authors attribute to “the arbitrary closing down of a newspaper, the financial ruin of another newspaper, orchestrated by the authorities, etc.” Tunisia’s score also worsened “because of its policy of systematic repression enforced by government leaders in Tunis against any person who expresses an idea contrary to that of the regime,” as well as a new amendment to the penal code that essentially criminalizes contact with foreign organizations that could damage national economic interests. In Syria and Yemen, press freedom continues to suffer as arbitrary arrests and torture are “still routine,” and crackdowns in Iran have kept that country at the near-bottom of the index. The rankings went down for Bahrain and Kuwait due to an uptick in charges against bloggers, including prominent Kuwaiti blogger Mohammed Abdel Qader Al-Jassem. The Palestinian Territories rose 11 places because “the violations committed in the year just ended are simply ‘less serious’ than in 2009,” and Algeria also saw mild improvements in media freedom. In Iraq, a higher score reflects the fact that journalists now work in safer conditions than in the past.
Posted in Bahrain, Freedom, Gulf, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Middle Eastern Media, Palestine, Syria, Technology, Tunisia | Comment »
Palestine: Is the PA Creating a Security State?
October 19th, 2010 by Jason
at Foreign Policy’s Middle East Channel, asks if a “focus on security at the expense of democracy does generate bad consequences […] why are we doing it again in Palestine?” As Duss explains, the West’s confidence in Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has become pervasive and possibly dangerous. Fayyad assumed power under a “state of emergency” that Duss says “resembles Egypt’s,” which brings the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) legitimacy into question. Duss also reports that the government is allowing “Salafi prayer leaders” into the West Bank, as long as they “direct their rhetorical fire away from the PA and Abbas’ Fatah Party, and toward Fatah’s political opponents, primarily Hamas.” Duss explains the historical parallels between this current development and the rise of Hamas, while noting that peaceful political activity is being suppressed by the PA: “…activists have now found that any association with a disfavored political orientation is enough to make them targets of repression.” Duss concludes that “Political freedom is not a peripheral concern in Palestine — it is central to the U.S. goal of a functioning, viable, and democratic Palestinian state at peace with Israel. The Obama administration must not allow itself, in the interest of an illusive stability, to keep kicking the can down the road, and oversee the creation of yet another security state in the Middle East.”
Palestine: Viable Institutions Require Sovereignty First
October 12th, 2010 by Anna
, a senior economist with the United Nations in Geneva, writes in Ha’aretz that although the Palestinian Authority is working to build institutions in the West Bank, the structures are “unviable and fragile” under current conditions. Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad’s focus on improving security, public services, and transparency are rooted in the logic that “good institutions are necessary and sufficient for statehood.” Khalidi contends, however, that “any state-like institutions that might still emerge are incapable of shepherding the Palestinian economy from its distorted and dependent status under prolonged Israeli occupation.” He cites Nathan Brown of the George Washington University, who recently argued that institution-building efforts in the West Bank have been “more authoritarian than democratic and more cosmetic than transformational,” in Khalidi’s words. Khalidi is critical of the notion that institution-building without sovereignty can lay the foundations for a viable state.
POMED Notes: “Between Religion and Politics”
September 29th, 2010 by Jason
An event was held today at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace celebrating the release of the book “Between Religion and Politics”, coauthored by Amr Hamzawy and Nathan Brown. Marwan Muasher acted as the moderator for the event, where the authors explained the process they utilized in the researching of the book and explored, in depth, the case studies of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
(To read full notes, continue below the fold or click here
Posted in Civil Society, DC Event Notes, Egypt, Elections, Freedom, Hamas, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Muslim Brotherhood, Palestine, Political Islam, Public Opinion, Reform | Comment »
POMED Notes: “Towards A Palestinian State : Is Institution Building Succeeding?”
September 29th, 2010 by Anna
On Wednesday, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the United States Institute of Peace co-hosted a panel discussion titled “Towards a Palestinian State: Is Institution Building Succeeding?” The discussion was moderated by Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen, a Program Officer in USIP’s Center for Mediation and Conflict Resolution. The panelists were Nathan Brown, a Nonresident Senior Associate of the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment, Neil Kritz, the Senior Scholar in Residence in the Center for Mediation and Conflict Resolution at USIP, Ghaith Al-Omari, Advocacy Director at the American Task Force on Palestine, and Howard Sumka, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Middle East for USAID.
For the full notes, continue reading below. Or, click here
for the PDF.
Posted in DC Event Notes, Events, Foreign Aid, Hamas, Judiciary, Mideast Peace Plan, Palestine, Political Parties, Public Opinion, Reform, US foreign policy | Comment »
Palestine: Hamas-Fatah Reconciliation Best Response to Israel’s Moratorium End
September 27th, 2010 by Anna
According to Deutsche Press-Agentur
, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal stated today that reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas will be the best response to the end of Israel’s moratorium on settlement building in the West Bank. In his view, internal Palestinian reconciliation will give negotiators the necessary clout in peace talks with Israel. He called on Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to pursue that reconciliation, and also to make good on his threat to walk out on peace talks if the construction moratorium expired. Abbas has so far not announced whether he will continue to participate in the talks.
Meshaal has been meeting
with Fatah’s Azzam al-Ahmad in Damascus (where Meshaal lives in exile), and indicated today that full reconciliation between the two factions may come soon. He said that “serious and real steps” have been taken towards ending divisions, and the two sides plan to meet again in Cairo in the coming weeks.
POMED Notes: “Building Palestine Under Occupation”
September 24th, 2010 by Evan
Yesterday the New American Foundation in partnership with the Palestine Note hosted Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad for a talk titled “Building Palestine Under Occupation.” Fayyad’s speech and the following question and answer session addressed a wide range of issues including Palestinian reconciliation, the ongoing peace process and development of Palestinians institutions. These POMED Notes will focus on the portions of the event that direct related to political developments inside Palestine.
(To read the full event summary, continue below. Or, click here
for the pdf.)
Palestine: Is Fayyidism Viable?
September 21st, 2010 by Jason
“Relying on ‘Fayyadism’…alone will likely lead to failure and disappointment. Technocratic management can probably keep Palestinian institutions afloat and even improve their functioning in some limited ways. But it does not even pretend to offer a solution for the deeper problems afflicting Palestinian politics—division, repression, occupation, alienation, and wide-reaching institutional decay.” This was the conclusion of a paper by Nathan J. Brown
two months ago. In a recent article
at Carnegie Comment, Brown responds to questions about, and criticisms of, that paper.
The first criticism Brown takes on is the assertion that “limited state building” is the best that can be achieved in the present circumstances. Brown agrees that the situation is “impossible,” but focuses his response on the prevailing wisdom that Fayyidism is the key to state building in the West Bank. “Fayyad’s accomplishments, like his virtues, are real… The real political damage is done when those accomplishments are treated not as a way to keep Palestinian politics on life support but as a cure for the underlying diseases,” which he diagnosis’s as “Hamas, Gaza, authoritarianism, and political decay…” along with a broken legislative process.
Brown goes on to address questions about the reach of Fayyidism, whether its popularity makes it democratic, and why Fayyidism has gained so much support if its ability to effect real change is so limited. In a reveling passage, Brown tries to lay out an alternative to Fayyidism: “The existing approach, based on an assumption that a comprehensive Israeli–Palestinian agreement can be negotiated and then used as a device for ousting Hamas from control of Gaza is implausible… An approach that takes Palestinian politics seriously and prioritizes rather than postpones the issues of Gaza and Hamas would be difficult in its design… But at least it would be grounded in the realities of today rather than pretending that the conditions of the 1990s…still obtain.”
Palestine: World Bank Praises Palestinian Authority’s Reforms
September 17th, 2010 by Anna
In a report
released today, the World Bank cautiously praises the Palestinian Authority’s governance reforms. According to the institution, the PA’s spending remained within budget this year, and it collected more revenue in taxes than had been expected. The report concludes that Palestinians will be ready for statehood “at any point in the near future” if Western-backed financial reforms are continued, in addition to institution building and improvements in social service provision. The World Bank also approved an additional $40 million in grants for reform and institution building in the West Bank.
Palestine: “Significant Progress” in State Building
September 15th, 2010 by Jason
In an interview
with Middle East Progress, Dr. Robert Dannin addresses the progress that has been made in the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority and the prospects for peace with the Israelis. Having recently returned from a post with the Office of the Quartet Representative, Dannin says, “I’m left with a real sense that a majority of the people wants peace and yet they are almost without hope. There is a strong sense of mutual betrayal.” He goes on to emphasize the importance of “…conditioning the public and the environment for what is possible and what may be necessary, in terms of compromises, to achieve peace.”
With regards to the state building measures underway in the West Bank, Dannin sees “significant progress” in a number of different areas. “[I]n 2008 important progress occurred in a number of areas, including but not limited to the economy, where widespread growth and private sector development occurred, and in the development and professionalization of the security forces, and their ability to bring stability and law and order to some rather difficult areas within a circumscribed and orderly chain of command.” In fact, the PA and the IMF estimate economic growth in the West Bank to be “…anywhere from seven to eight percent this year,” and possibly higher. Dannin identifies “budget shortfalls” as one of the major problems facing the PA, along with the separation from Hamas-controlled Gaza and the continuing occupation by Israel.
Dannin calls the recent PA crackdowns on dissent and the concurrent criticisms “overstated”, while noting that “Not that long ago, there was a situation of semi-chaos in the West Bank […] That is no longer the case.” He admits that there have been rights abuses, but contends that the PA has been “responsive” to the charges and is making progress on reforms in that area.
Egypt: Gamal Mubarak’s DC Visit Draws Criticism
September 2nd, 2010 by Evan
In the Daily Star
, Jamil K. Mroue writes
that while Gamal Mubarak should have the right to run for president, his candidacy “illuminates the deep-seated and systemic problems afflicting Egypt.” According to Mroue, there is little that is genuine about the younger Mubarak’s campaign: “Gamal Mubarak is little more than another crown prince awaiting succession to the throne of a purported Arab democracy.” The American Coptic Union also recently criticized the Obama administration’s decision to invite both Hosni and Gamal Mubarak to this week’s Israeli-Palestinian peace talks: “His son plans to inherit his father’s position as if he were entitled to it. This invitation is a slap to the face of those who believe in the US position on promoting democracy in Egypt.”
Palestine: Concentrate on Leadership First, Negotiations Second
September 2nd, 2010 by Jason
With negotiations set to begin today in Washington between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, members of the Palestinian community are calling on their leaders to resolve internal disputes. In an interview with Reuters, influential Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti emphasized the need for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas and the importance of this reconciliation to the peace process: “The problem is not in the principle of negotiations, which we accept, but that without a popular foundation and action on the ground which supports negotiations, they will not reach any results.”
This feeling is echoed
by Hani Almadhoum who writes that he is not surprised by the “cynicism” of the Palestinian people: “…in the past five years, when was the last time you heard of a Palestinian leader giving a key speech
…the kind of speech that inspired a national dialogue?…I cannot remember such a day…Such banality is dangerous.” Almadhoum goes on to describe the governments in both Gaza and the West Bank as “managers”, capable of hanging on, but not much else: “…managers worry about their respective departments. Leaders worry about the whole unit. We need both decent leaders and wise managers to go hand in hand in an increasingly complex and volatile political and economical (sic) situation.”
Palestine: Political Divides, Repression Will Hurt Peace Process
September 1st, 2010 by Anna
, Executive Director of the Palestine Center, asks
in an article today what recent ”upticks in politically repressive activity” by the Palestinian Authority might mean for the prospect of peace with Israel. He writes that “Abbas is now about to enter direct negotiations in spite of the adamant objections of the Palestinian public.” By cracking down on political opponents, according to Munayyer, Abbas is only damaging his government’s legitimacy and confirming that he “is in no position to sign a binding and lasting agreement on behalf of Palestinian stakeholders.” Amidst an inter-Palestinian divide, Munayyer points out that many Palestinians do not feel adequately represented by the PA, and this sentiment is exacerbated by the continued repression of non-Fatah voices in Palestinian politics. He concludes that “Palestinian domestic political disarray is likely to continue,” and contends that a viable resolution of the conflict with Israel can only be possible under a “unified and representative” Palestinian government.
Palestine: Fayyad’s “Mirage”
August 31st, 2010 by Evan
Responding to Kenneth Chasen’spiece last week on the success of the Fayyad administration, Ali Abunimah writes that much of what Chasen saw during his visit to Ramallah was “a mirage”. Despite apparent development, the economy is still weak and institutions that Fayyad is credited with building are “hollow”. Abunimah specifically takes umbrage with Chasen’s assertion that Fayyad’s authoritarian style is necessary for progress: “Chasen acknowledges that Fayyad rules in an ‘authoritarian’ way, but this is putting it mildly. Last Wednesday, Palestinian Authority thugs raided a meeting of dozens of Palestinian political activists opposed to the authority taking part in new direct talks with Israel…”. The author also points to a recent Carnegie Foundation analysis that states that Fayyad’s regime “is not just postponing a democratic system; it is actively denying it.”
Palestine: Sign of Things to Come?
August 30th, 2010 by Jason
An article at the Middle East Monitor today claims that the Palestinian Authority runs the risk of “changing rapidly into a repressive, dictatorial regime in the same mold as other Arab governments”. This piece was prompted by the recent breakup by Palestinian Security Forces of a symposium put together by Palestinian groups opposed to direct negotiations with Israel. While President Mahmoud Abbas has said that the incident will be investigated, the reaction from the Monitor was less than hopeful: “…when have the Authority’s investigations ever brought about real results? Indeed, when have real results ever been possible, the findings implemented and the accused brought to justice?”
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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of POMED as an organization