Fayad exit will weaken Palestinian Authority
In a dramatic development, the Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad rendered his resignation last week after his relationship with President Abbas strained. All attempts to bridge the gap between Fayad and the Abbas failed. Obviously, their relationship reached a dangerous low particularly after Abbas and his Fatah organization began to see Fayad as a political rival who must be cut down to size.
It remains to be seen how Abbas will handle the post-Fayad situation especially with the new American dedication to jumpstart a new peace process. It is estimated that the American Secretary of State John Kerry will spend the next two months investing in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Kerry is a big fan of Fayad. In a phone call with President Abbas, Kerry urged him not to scapegoat Fayad.
For many, Fayad — and not Abbas — was the cornerstone in shaping the American approach to the Palestinian Authority. Even for the European Union, which provides the much needed financial aid for the Palestinians, Salam Fayad was the go-to man. His past experience in the International Monetary Fund and the Western trust in his approach made him not only the epitome of good governance, but also the best one to launch a campaign against corruption in the Palestinian Authority.
Over the last few years, Fayad has tried to build the institutions of a future independent state. There has been much international backing to his bottom up efforts to bring about this independent state. Some even drew a parallel with Ben Gurion during the British Mandate. But alas! Fayad's apparent success in his mission invited envy and resentment from members of Fatah.
If anything, Fayad's resignation is a further proof of the Palestinians' chronic fragmentation that has not brought them any favor. Undoubtedly, Abbas and his advisors have kept their eyes on the growing popularity of Fayyad in the West. The man gained reputation of being fair and clean, something that irked the rest of the Fatah leadership. He enjoyed a better access to the Western capitals and proved to be more capable than the rest to make the case for Palestinian aid.
Not surprisingly, for many in Fatah, Fayad was the one who called the shots. He blocked their promotion and therefore he was seen as the only impediment for their ambitions. While Abbas does not like Fayad, the former was only looking for a chance to sack him. The deteriorating economic conditions of the Palestinians provided Abbas a lot of ammunitions to direct public anger toward Fayad.
At the heart of the conflict between the two was politics. Fayad opposed Abbas's decision to declare an independent state at the United Nations unless it would be within the context of an agreement with the Israeli government. Fayad feared the negative side of declaring a state as it would only enrage the Israelis.
Israel was quick to respond as its government ceased transferring the Palestinians tax revenue, a measure that further deepened the economic crisis. Implicit in Fayad's disagreement with Abbas is a conviction that Abbas's diplomacy has only brought the Palestinian economy to a state of near bankruptcy.
Whether the international community will maintain the same level of financial aid to the Palestinian Authority after Fayad's departure is not certain. Abbas will have to indeed think twice in the near future over how to deal with the situation. While the international community has seen Fayad as an asset to the Palestinian Authority, Abbas has yet to find someone with the same caliber and international respect.
And yet, the departure of Fayad must come as a relief for Netanyahu’s government. The respect that Fayyad enjoyed by the international community and the American administration had made him a trustworthy partner for peace.
His plan to create the necessary infrastructure for an independent Palestinian state has irked many rightwing politicians in Israel. It is always easier for Israelis to pass the buck of failure in peace on the Palestinian side. Now with the departure of Salam Fayad, the Israeli government is in a position to tell the American administration that the Palestinians are not yet ready for peacemaking.
In a nutshell, the Palestinian Authority is now weaker without Fayad. Forcing him to resign may not resonate well with the Palestinians in months to come.