During the opening years of the twenty-first century, Palestinians struggled to establish an independent state, even as Israel continued to occupy the land on which they lived—territory Israel had captured in 1967.
The hurdles that confronted those who tried to build order and accountable government were familiar to anyone who tried to manage transitional or caretaker governments in Northern Ireland and South Africa, or in Yemen, Libya, and Nepal: contested legitimacy and control over territory, deep suspicions and mistrust among the factions that competed for primacy; a nearly empty treasury; a government that served as employer of last resort; a civil service that mismatched skills and responsibilities; and vulnerability to outside meddling in internal affairs. To make matters more difficult, the occupying power and its allies controlled the goalposts for certifying whether Palestinians had lived up to their commitments under the Oslo Accords and therefore whether Palestine merited statehood.
Among those who joined the push for self-government was Salam Fayyad, who served as finance minister (2002–05) and prime minister (2007–13) through the volatile early years of the quest for a two-state solution to the conflict with Israel.
This multipart ISS series draws on Fayyad’s recollections and those of others closely involved in helping steer the Palestinians through that turbulent time.