Rami Hamdallah 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini)
One can only ponder what possessed US Secretary of State John Kerry to praise
the appointment of English professor Rami Hamdallah as the prime minister of the
Perhaps the statement reflects the State
Department’s relief that PA President Mahmoud Abbas did not choose a member of
Hamas as part of a larger reconciliation deal with the terrorist organization.
This is unlikely, however, since there never was a real chance for rapprochement
between Fatah, which sees itself as the only legitimate ruler of the West Bank,
and Hamas, which claims unlimited autonomy in the Gaza Strip.
likely, Kerry was simply trying to make the best of a highly problematic
development. Why ruin relations with the PA over the appointment of Hamdallah,
an academic devoid of political experience, at a time when so much energy is
being channeled toward jump-starting negotiations between the Palestinians and
Israel? Kerry might have reasoned. Besides, the PA prime minister has no real
role in the negotiations, rather it is the PLO and its head, Abbas, who
represent the Palestinians’ interests vis-à-vis Israel.
of Hamdallah should have, however, elicited sharp US criticism because it
clinches Abbas’s effective removal of Salam Fayyad as prime minister without
providing a credible alternative.
Fayyad, we recall, was brought in to
combat the pervasive corruption that flourished during Yasser Arafat’s years as
president of the PA.
In 2002, following the IDF’s Operation Defensive
Shield, Arafat came under tremendous pressure to institute reforms and increase
transparency and accountability. Condoleeza Rice, at the time the US national
security adviser, pushed for the appointment of Fayyad, a former economist at
the International Monetary Fund and manager of the Arab Bank in the West Bank,
to the new position of PA finance minister.
The objective was to take
responsibility for economic issues out of the hands of Arafat and give it to
Fayyad. Despite Arafat’s vociferous opposition, Fayyad initiated numerous
reforms, gaining him the trust of the international community, which had seen
Arafat squander hundreds of millions of dollars in donations.
Fayyad was appointed prime minister of the PA, once again in an attempt to
regain the confidence of the international community, which was wary of
transferring aid to the Palestinians. During his six-year stint, Fayyad clashed
repeatedly with Abbas, primarily over anti-corruption reforms and Fayyad’s
insistence on transparency. But Abbas managed, finally, to push Fayyad out.
Hamdallah’s appointment finalizes the move.
Unfortunately, unlike Fayyad,
who proved himself willing to confront even the likes of Arafat and who enjoyed
a certain amount of political power thanks to the strong support he received
from the international community, Hamdallah is seen as a non-entity, without a
political base at home and without support abroad, who is not expected to stand
up to Abbas. This is probably the reason Abbas tapped Hamdallah, as Khaled Abu
Toameh, The Jerusalem Post
’s Palestinian Affairs correspondent, noted in his
analysis in Tuesday’s paper. Now Abbas will be able to return to the Palestinian
custom, first instituted by Arafat, of stealing international aid.
corruption begins to run rampant once again, Palestinians will rightly grow
cynical and lose faith in the more “moderate” Fatah. Hamas will be the most
likely candidate to take advantage of the unrest and political instability that
is sure to follow in the West Bank. Chances for a negotiated peace will only get
Under the circumstances, Kerry’s praise for the appointment of
Hamdallah is incomprehensible. The ouster of Fayyad, an honest and brave
Palestinian politician, in favor of a man lacking political experience and
political power should be a source of concern in Washington.
Could it be
that Kerry’s singular focus on the “process of peace” has made him oblivious to
the underlying ailments afflicting Palestinian society – such as the tendency
for widespread corruption – which are the real obstacles to a resolution of the