Fayyad’s ‘Palestine’

PA prime minister’s downfall would be negative development for Israel.

April 29, 2010 22:21
3 minute read.
Salam Fayyad.

fayyad lookin formal 311. (photo credit: AP)

A standoff between Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Fatah has been brewing for some time. It was not too surprising, therefore, that at the end of a four-day meeting of the Fatah Revolutionary Council in Ramallah this week, Fatah officials called on PA President Mahmoud Abbas to strip Fayyad of three key portfolios: Foreign Affairs, Interior and Finance – effectively disempowering him.

Fatah leaders see Fayyad, an independent politician who does not belong to the movement, as a major threat to their power. The US-trained former World Bank and International Monetary Fund economist has been “accused” of cutting off funds to Fatah figures and institutions by insisting on government transparency.

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Fatah’s opposition to Fayyad’s ambitious two-year plan for the creation of a Palestinian state by August 2011 is another source of tension. In “Palestine: Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State,” the 54-page document outlining Fayyad’s Palestinian state-building mission, Fatah, an organization so central in the formulation of the Palestinian narrative, does not even appear in the first pages of the document, though the PLO does. Fayyad’s approach also contradicts the Fatah Congress’s reaffirmation of a one-state solution in the event that negotiations over a two-state solution fail.

Fayyad’s downfall, were it to come about, would appear to be a negative development for Israel. A pragmatic “bottom up” strategy of building roads, a judicial system, health institutions and the infrastructure needed for a thriving economy is in Israel’s interests. The more Palestinians invest in their own welfare, the more they have to lose from the destructive effects of terrorism.

Much of Fayyad’s approach represents a refreshing departure from Yasser Arafat’s blend of violence, terror and duplicitous politics. Consequently, Israel has responded favorably to Fayyad’s success in restoring order with the help of Palestinian forces, trained under the auspices of US Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton. This has enabled the IDF to remove dozens of security checkpoints, easing movement restrictions and invigorating the Palestinian economy. Placing its faith in Fayyad’s government transparency, the US Congress could felt it could trust the PA with $200 million of American money.

IT WOULD be misleading, however, to confidently portray Fayyad as a harbinger of peace. Peace with Israel is not a dominant feature of his 54-page blue-print, and peace with Israel the Jewish state finds no reflection there at all.

Some of Fayyad’s actions, too, raise doubts over the sincerity of his calls for a nonviolent struggle for Palestinian independence. According to Palestinian Media Watch, Fayyad paid condolence calls to the mourning families of three terrorists who murdered Rabbi Meir Avshalom Hai and were later killed by the IDF, as well as to other families of dead terrorists. Just two weeks ago, on Palestinian Prisoners Day, Fayyad sponsored a fencing championship named after Abu Jihad, who planned many major Fatah terror attacks, including the worst in Israel’s history, in which 37 civilians were murdered in a bus hijacking led by Dalal Mughrabi in 1978.

It should be noted in this context that Fayyad’s plan calls for massive Palestinian development in Area C, which is currently under Israeli civil and security control. If Fayyad succeeds in building a semi-viable state by next summer, the PA could seek to unilaterally force a highly problematic arrangement on Israel by going to the UN Security Council and demanding recognition of a Palestinian state and the immediate evacuation of settlements located in “Palestine.”

Given the present state of relations between the Obama administration and Israel, there is less confidence today than once there would have been as to how the US might respond to such a move. Israel would need to thwart some of the potential consequences, including the exposure of Israel to rocket and missile threats not only from Gaza and Lebanon but from within the West Bank, at all costs.

That is not to say that Fayyad’s institution-building work should be opposed. The Netanyahu government has plainly reached the same conclusion. A peace agreement reached through direct negotiations based on mutual trust has the best chance of succeeding if the Palestinians have taken the pains to prepare themselves for independence. After investing resources, energies and hopes in the construction of a future Palestinian state and tasting the fruits of a growing economy, personal security and increased freedom, the Palestinian people would have a vested interest in ensuring that proximity talks lead to direct negotiations that lead in turn to a sustainable accord.

That, at least, is the current Israeli government’s hope on the eve of proximity talks. It would be wrong, however, to suggest that it is the government’s expectation.

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