(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
In August 2009, Salaam Fayyad, then prime minister of the Palestinian Authority,
presented an ambitious and refreshingly constructive plan for instituting the
twostate solution titled “Palestine: Ending the Occupation, Establishing a
Salaam, who resigned on Friday, rejected the Oslo Accords’
“top-down” legacy of negotiations between political leaders, and various forms
of resistance to the “occupation” – from civil disobedience to
Instead, Fayyad proposed a “bottom-up” strategy. He would not
use high-level diplomacy, international conferences or suicide bombings, AK-47s,
Kassam rockets or stone-throwing, but rather responsibility, efficiency and
transparency. The PA would work toward creating an independent Palestinian state
in the West Bank within two years (by August 2011): Institutions would be built;
foreign investment would be encouraged; infrastructure would be put in place (an
international airport in the Jordan Valley, rail links to neighboring states);
the education system would be revamped (use of information and communication
In February 2010, President Shimon Peres referred to
Fayyad as the “Palestinian Ben-Gurion.” He too was building a state while under
foreign occupation by “creating facts on the ground.”
Yet, from the
beginning there were ominous signs that Fayyad’s pragmatic approach to
state-building would fail.
Unlike David Ben-Gurion, who enjoyed broad
support for his vision among the Yishuv’s residents, not just within Labor
Zionism but also within other Zionist parties, Fayyad lacks any real political
clout. In the 2006 elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council, his Third
Way party, which included Hanan Ashrawi, mustered just over 2 percent of the
some 1 million votes. Accusations by a Fatah member in Nablus during the
campaign that he was working for the CIA were a harbinger of the tense political
relations Fayyad would have as a prime minister lacking a significant grassroots
constituency and installed under pressure from the US and the EU. Indeed, US and
EU pressure on Fatah and its leader, PA President Mahmoud Abbas, including
threats that donations would be discontinued if Fayyad was fired, only
undermined the former World Bank economist’s political standing at various
junctures during his six-year stint.
As Khaled Abu Toameh, The Jerusalem
Post’s Palestinian Affairs correspondent, put it in a recent article for the
Gatestone Institute, “The Fatah leaders are yearning for the days of Yasser
Arafat, when they were able to steal international aid earmarked for helping
Fatah members undoubtedly remember with chagrin how in
2001, under pressure from the Bush administration, Arafat appointed Fayyad
finance minister. Within a few months Fayyad had sent home 40,000 superfluous PA
bureaucrats and shut down dozens of Hamas charitable institutions that served as
fronts for the organization’s political and terrorist activity.
despite his impeccable integrity, Fayyad failed to gain the trust and backing of
the Palestinian populace in the West Bank that he was supposedly leading.
Palestinian popularity polls are consistently won by terrorists such as Marwan
Barghouti, serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison for planning the
murders of four Israelis and a Greek Orthodox priest, and Ismail Haniyeh, head
of Hamas in Gaza. A poll taken by Dr. Khalil Shikaki’s Palestinian Center for
Policy and Survey Research in December 2009, a time when Fayyad had just
launched his program and optimism was high, only 13 percent of Palestinians said
they wanted him as prime minister.
Neither Fayyad’s personal integrity
nor his PhD from the University of Texas, nor his experience at the Federal
Reserve of St. Louis, the International Monetary Fund and the Arab Bank seem to
impress Palestinians much.
“Had Fayyad killed a Jew or sent one of his
sons to throw stones at an Israeli vehicle, he would have earned the respect and
support of a large number of Palestinians,” Abu Toameh wrote.
departure from Palestinian politics is significant not just because it ends
hopes, at least for the time being, of an alternative approach to resolving the
Israeli- Palestinian conflict. The incident also reveals the unsettling reality
that to truly succeed in Palestinian politics it is not enough to work for the
betterment of the Palestinian people, one must be a devoted and preferably
violent enemy of Israel.