Fayyad defends PA amid growing criticism, protests

PA prime minister accepts responsibility for economic crisis; sources say he is prepared to resign over issue.

Palestinian protesters (370) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian protesters (370)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Beleaguered PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced Thursday his government was doing its utmost to solve the economic crisis in the Palestinian territories.
Fayyad’s announcement came amid growing criticism among Palestinians over his government’s handling of the crisis, especially in wake of a recent increase in the price of fuel and basic goods.
Over the past few days, Palestinians have taken to the streets in several West Bank cities to protest the high cost of living.
Most of the demonstrations have turned into anti-Fayyad protests, with Palestinians burning effigies and portraits of the prime minister and demanding his resignation.
During a meeting in Ramallah with Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, Fayyad blamed the economic woes of the Palestinians on Israel.
Fayyad complained that Israel was obstructing the PA government’s efforts to develop Area C of the West Bank, which is under exclusive Israeli control.
He said the Palestinians were unable to control their resources in this area because of Israeli restrictions, and the Israeli blockade on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip was also hindering the development of the Palestinian economy.
Fayyad appealed to the donor countries (including North America, the European Union and some Arab countries) to provide the Palestinians with financial aid to help them overcome the crisis.
Earlier, Fayyad told the PA’s Voice of Palestine radio station that the PA was hoping that Congress would approve the US administration’s request for $200 million in aid to the Palestinians.
Fayyad said that he would not try to avoid responsibility for the current crisis. He said that he was also prepared to resign if such a move would help solve the problem.
Some Palestinians said that Fatah was exploiting the crisis to incite against Fayyad.
Tawfik Tirawi, a senior Fatah official in the West Bank, blamed the Fayyad government for plunging the Palestinians into huge debts. He said that the PA government’s debts have reached $4 billion.
“The demands of the people are legitimate and natural,” Tirawi, a former head of the PA’s General Intelligence Service in the West Bank, said.
“I’m with the people and one of the first to protest against the policies of the government, which is leading us to the abyss.”
Tirawi said that the Fayyad government has failed in a number of fields, including violence against women, freedom of expression and nepotism.
Tirawi also added his voice to demands to scrap the 1994 Paris Agreement between the PLO and Israel, which is also known as the Protocol on Economic Relations.
Palestinians have in the past few days strongly condemned the pact, which they argue is mostly beneficial to Israel’s economy.
The Paris Agreement regulates economic relations between the two sides in four sectors: labor, trade relations, fiscal issues and monetary agreements.
Tirawi said that he was in favor of cancelling parts of the agreement that hinder the development of the Palestinian economy.
Mohamed Shtayyeh, a member of the Fatah Central Committee who is closely associated with Abbas, described the crisis as “extremely dangerous.”
Shtayyeh said that the PA was unable to solve the crisis and called for dialogue between the Fayyad government and representatives of various sectors to discuss ways of improving the economic situation.
Shtayyeh was quoted by the Ma’an News Agency as saying that unemployment in the West Bank had reached 20 percent, while in the Gaza Strip it was at 30 percent.
On Thursday, hundreds of Palestinians continued to demonstrate against the high cost of living for the third day in a row. Protests took place in Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarm, Hebron, Bethlehem and Ramallah, where demonstrators demanded Fayyad’s resignation, holding him responsible for the economic crisis.
Sources close to Fayyad told the Palestinian news agency Quds Net that he has already taken a decision to quit. They claimed that he would submit his resignation to PA President Mahmoud Abbas when the latter returns from his visit to Egypt.