Palestine plans for statehood

2011-10-02 10:00
Mandy Rossouw
Palestinian leaders are confident that the success of the country’s recent bid for statehood will see Israeli settlers being kicked out of Palestine, which will result in better services for the Palestinian people.

Local government minister Khalid Kawasaki told City Press this week that if the bid for statehood launched at the United Nations General Assembly last week is won, Israeli settlements will be dismantled to accommodate Palestinian citizens.

“The continued occupation makes it hard for the local authorities to deliver decent services. Once statehood is approved we want the Israeli settlements to be dismantled and for Israel to get the settlers out of the land,” he said.

Last week Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas threw down the gauntlet at the UN when he submitted a letter asking for membership to the world body.

Although Palestine has enough support in the General Assembly, where all countries are represented, it will face a hostile United States in the Security Council, which is the first hurdle the application needs to clear.

The US made it clear it will veto the application but the Palestinians say the US is not big enough to withstand the continued pressure.

“It is not about the US, it is about our natural right.”

According to Qawasmi, the Israeli settlers “throw waste in the river” which pollutes the downstream Palestine settlements, making it difficult to ensure access to water for the Palestinians.

Currently Palestine is divided into three “bantustans”, as Qawasmi calls them. One is secured and administered by the Palestinian Authority (PA), another administered but not secured by the PA and the third area – mostly in the West Bank – is fully controlled by Israel.

“It is in this part in the West Bank where most of the empty land lies. We believe this is Palestinian land and Israel cannot control it,” said Qawasmi. “It’s hard to plan in an area that you don’t control.”

Palestinian leaders and Qawasmi visited South Africa to glean lessons from South Africa’s municipalities in preparation for independence.

Palestine wants to reduce its 407 municipalities to 250 by 2014, the same way that South Africa drastically reduced its number of municipalities from over one thousand to 283.

According to Qawasmi, the successful building of municipalities shows that Palestine is ready to govern itself.

“We are capable now of running a state. We have a solid base and the infrastructure and we provide most of our services through the local authorities.”

Modelled on South Africa’s one stop centres where government services are centralised in a single building, the Palestinians have established “one stop shops”.

“This is where you receive all that is necessary to work with local authorities,” Qawasmi said.

A lending and development bank is also in the pipeline, which will help with investment in the area.

South Africa’s model of district municipalities will be explored by the Palestinians.

Qawasmi said the PA sees itself as the ANC did in 1994, when the party took over government from the National Party.

“Palestine is similar to South Africa. We suffer discrimination and a lack of freedom.

“Now we are getting ready to become a state and we have to learn lessons from South Africa,” he said.

Qawasmi and his delegation visited the best and worst municipalities in Kwazulu-Natal.

“People here had frank discussion about what’s going on here. Many countries will only focus on the positive and cover up the negative. But here they showed us everything.”