A future Palestinian state could be viable but it would have to ensure security for its own citizens and Israelis and would require USD 33 billion in capital investment in its first 10 years, according to new report issued on Wednesday.
The report by the Rand Corporation
laid out an ambitious plan for the Palestinians to achieve economic progress, but was based on the assumption that they first achieved a stable peace agreement with Israel.
The centerpiece of the plan was construction of a new corridor from the northern West Bank to the Gaza Strip, which would support a 140-mile (225-km) high-speed train, highway, aqueduct, energy network and fiber-optic cable linking all of the future state's major towns and cities.
The new rail line could whisk visitors who enter Palestine through an envisaged new international airport in the southern Gaza Strip to anywhere in the West Bank within minutes.
It would provide a swift and efficient way of moving exports from the West Bank to the new state's port at Gaza.
USD 33 billion price tag
However, everything depended on security, the authors said.
"The success of an independent Palestinian state is inconceivable in the absence of peace and security for Palestinians and Israelis alike," the report said. "An independent Palestinian state must be secure within its boundaries, provide for the routine safety of its inhabitants, be free from subversion or foreign exploitation and pose no threat to Israel."
The estimated price tag of USD 33 billion represented an annual average of USD 760 per person that was broadly comparable with other nation-building efforts.
However, co-author Steven Simon said, "no one knows what this would really cost at the end of the day."
The report ignored many of the political realities in the region, such as the armed Palestinian resistance and the strength of the settler movement opposed to Gaza pullout plan.
The report did point out other formidable problems a future state would face, including rapidly depleting water resources, crumbling infrastructure, high poverty rates exacerbated by the intifada, a growing labor force much of which is unemployed and a fast-growing population.
The new state's population is expected to double within 20 years, boosted by an influx of over 600,000 refugees from the Palestinian diaspora.
The authors said Palestinian prospects of success would be enhanced if the future state achieved territorial contiguity and its borders with Israel remained open.
However, this flies in the face of the security fence now going up between Israel and the West Bank.
Pointing out another major challenge, the report said the stability of a future state would be compromised if it allowed a flood of Palestinian refugees to enter in its first years.
"Such a return would likely swamp Palestine's infrastructure and institutional capacities," the report said.