The day before the first Sunday of Advent, I spent together with some staff members at the Consulate General of Sweden in Jerusalem, in preparation for the annual Christmas market in Bethlehem. To the aromas of gingerbread and candy cane rods, we tied little red bows around bags of Swedish candy and angel chimes. And outside the window Jerusalem spread out in all its, for the day, sun-kissed sheen. Not difficult to get into some Christmas spirit in that setting.
Last summer, the Folke Bernadotte Academy arranged a seminar in Almedalen on Israel, Palestine and the way forward. In an interview FBA did with Johanna Strömquist, Deputy Consul General at Consulate General of Sweden in Jerusalem, we asked how she viewed developments in the near future. She replied that she unfortunately thought that difficult times was to be awaited before it got better. A few weeks later, fighting that would change the tone again, broke out.
Last week, the Folke Bernadotte Academy was on a visit to talk about state-building with parts of the Palestinian authorities. It’s easy to fall in abstract terms, but it’s also easy to fall into the technical aspects, when talking about state-building. There is no exception in this context.
When talking about the key players in state-building it´s often said that the national police is part of the spine. That the police symbolizes the state’s relationship with its citizens and is implementing its strategies. How the security sector is perceived among the population is often a good thermometer in the public democratic dialogue.
The Palestinian police are facing a number of challenges. Some obvious, others more elusive for an external visitor. In our conversations with official representatives from e.g. the civilian Palestinian police, the map spreads out. Literally, in view of the upcoming reconciliation process between the West Bank and Gaza, but also in state-building terms.
When we return home, we have with us a number of new insights on how complex it can be. And above all, an acknowledgment that each situation is unique and has its own conditions. To say that you are working at a Swedish agency that carries the name of Folke Bernadotte in this part of the world, creates a certain feeling. His works still echoes in Israel’s history, as in Palestine’s.
That is a feeling I take with me into 2015.
Photo: Hanna Högberg