Abbas and Fayyad shake hands 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Thaer Ganaim/PPO/Handout)
This week, one month after resigning as prime minister of the Palestinian
Authority, Salam Fayyad publicly announced to the international media what
senior officials in the Palestinian Authority have been saying for years: The
current Palestinian leadership lacks the foresight and ability to make strategic
In an interview with The New York Times, Fayyad said that
Palestinian leaders (namely, Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas) possess tactical
capabilities alone, and throughout the years have clung to the antiquated
rhetoric whose sole result is to bring about the collapse of Fatah.
content of Fayyad’s recent public admission has been espoused by senior
Palestinian officials for years, though this is the first time it was announced
in an official statement. This sentiment was heard before the second intifada
broke out in 2000, during it, and for years to follow. It was discussed by
senior Palestinian officials, as well as Israeli officials who held regular
meetings with the Palestinians.
The Palestinians carefully chose the
words they used in meetings with Israeli representatives, which have taken place
all over the world, but Palestinian security leaders, namely Muhammad Dahlan and
Jibril Rajoub, both of whom participated in coordination meetings during the
second intifada, were much more blunt and direct in their discussions with
A lack of leadership – in addition to his inability
to make decisions or implement changes – characterized Yasser Arafat’s
leadership style. For many years now, unfortunately, Mahmoud Abbas has been
displaying an extremely similar style. However, these two leaders are completely
different from each other.
Arafat was more extroverted and charismatic.
He was also a natural orator and had great determination.
helped him become the leader of Fatah and the revered symbol of the Palestinian
struggle in Israel. But these characteristics alone were not sufficient to make
Arafat a political leader who could articulate and realize this
Until his last day, Arafat remained the mediocre military
commander who always wore a keffiyeh.
He was extremely talented at
spewing nationalistic demagoguery every chance he had and was quite adept at
giving commands (or worse: not giving them) to terrorist cells. Even after his
security chiefs warned him that his lack of determination and failure to make
decisions would lead to anarchy and a deterioration in relations, he did
nothing, preferring to fly around in his plane from country to country to
participate in useless political meetings. More than once, Dahlan and Rajoub
complained that Arafat’s lack of involvement and his failure to make necessary
decisions would inevitably lead to the collapse of the PA and to
Arafat chose to ignore these requests and to let fate take its
He simply did not know how to do anything else.
was time, Abbas took up the post from lack of choice. The Palestinians had no
viable alternative to Arafat and Abbas was the only natural
Abbas has a bland personality, no charisma or determination
whatsoever, and to top it off no management or leadership skills. The only hope
was that he would let the operational body he headed promote Palestinian
interests properly. And so, the appointment of Salam Fayyad as prime minister
was an excellent idea.
Fayyad, who was born in the West Bank, is an
experienced academic, an esteemed economist, and a politician with Western
backing. He created a strategic plan to build infrastructure in the PA, raised
funds and even prepared a political negotiation plan. However, lacking the
support and understanding of the Palestinian leadership (read: Abbas) there was
little chance that Fayyad would succeed in implementing his plan.
month, Fayyad finally had had enough and resigned. He subsequently – and for the
first time – said publicly what many PA leaders have been thinking for years:
There is no leadership, no vision, no direction. Fayyad is not the only one who
will suffer from this loss. It is a loss for the entire Palestinian people, as
well as for all of those living in the region. Our fates will always be
irretrievably entwined together.
The writer is a former brigadier-general
who served as a division head in the Shin Bet (Israel Security
Translated by Hannah Hochner.