Fayyad’s resignation

From the beginning there were ominous signs that Fayyad’s pragmatic approach to state-building would fail.

Salam Fayyad (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Salam Fayyad
(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 State.”
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 terrorism.
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 technologies).
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 Palestinians.”
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.
Still, 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.
Fayyad’s 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.