Saturday,24 March, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1144, 18 - 24 April 2013
Saturday,24 March, 2018
Issue 1144, 18 - 24 April 2013

Ahram Weekly

Villain or scapegoat?

The resignation of Salam Fayyad signals the end of a long-running feud in the Palestinian leadership and the opening of new challenges as the search for a replacement begins, writes Khaled Amayreh in Ramallah

Al-Ahram Weekly

The bad chemistry and lack of concordance between Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and his prime minister, Salam Fayyad, culminated this week with the resignation of the latter.

The resignation, which was accepted by Abbas, was viewed as a sort of good riddance by Fatah and many ordinary Palestinians who largely viewed Fayyad as an agent of Western powers, bent on making Palestinians succumb to Israeli designs.

Fayyad was also often accused of putting economic and financial matters at the top of his agenda while relegating the Palestinian national cause to a secondary status.

Tension between Abbas and Fayyad had been simmering for sometime, especially since Fayyad accepted the resignation of Finance Minister Nabil Qassis a few weeks ago, largely against Abbas’s wishes. Abbas voiced anger at Fayyad, asking him to either reinstate Qassis or himself resign. Fayyad viewed Abbas’s remarks as insulting and decided to submit his resignation once and for all.

The United States reportedly tried to “mediate” between the two but to no avail. Abbas reportedly felt that American interference was inappropriate and demeaning to Palestinian national dignity, which made him more determined to fire Fayyad.

Last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly urged Abbas in a telephone call to keep Fayyad as premier. One Palestinian official described the call as the “straw that broke the camel’s back”.

Fayyad, too, felt that the American interference on his behalf was a liability rather than an asset and that caricatured him as being at the Americans’ beck and call.


CANNON FODDER: According to insiders within the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) leadership, Abbas found himself increasingly languishing between Fatah’s hammer and the anvil of the US and donor countries, through their “man in Ramallah”, Prime Minister Fayyad.

One Fatah politician who asked for anonymity said: “Abbas didn’t wish to enter into a confrontation with Fatah. He chose the easier way to overcome the crisis, namely by sacking Fayyad.”

Some pundits believe Abbas used Fayyad as cannon fodder to absorb the indignation and disillusionment of Palestinians with severe austerity measures and a high cost of living that has driven into impoverishment large sectors of the Palestinian masses.

These policies and their painful effects on ordinary people were blamed on Fayyad when in fact he was only implementing instructions from the PA/PLO leadership, specifically Abbas.

Indeed, on several occasions, Abbas himself intervened in favour of Fayyad, telling protesters that Fayyad was carrying out the policies of the Palestinian Authority and the PLO and that all criticisms ought to be directed at the PLO leadership, not the prime minister.

However, disparaging criticisms of Fayyad and his government continued unabated as critics from various quarters kept pummelling the premier, holding him responsible for a host of problems and crises, including the current financial crisis and failure of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.

It is quite possible that Fayyad eventually came to realise that he was being used by the PLO leadership as a scapegoat. This, coupled with a host of other troubles, including health problems and tensions with Fatah, seems to have convinced the outgoing premier that his time at the top of government was over.


NOT QUITE A GOOD RIDDANCE: In the final analysis, Fayyad was asked to be at the helm of a government that had to function with very limited abilities and tools, being under Israeli military occupation. He faced virtually impossible challenges, trying to see to it that Israel allows the Palestinians to conduct normal economic activity, but to no avail.

According to some of his confidants, Fayyad would often appeal to the Europeans and the Americans to pressure Israel to give the Palestinians a semblance of freedom to function and achieve some measure of economic prosperity. But the Israelis wouldn’t relent, even despite American and European intervention.

It is uncertain who the new Palestinian prime minister will be. Two names have been circulating in the local Palestinian media: Rami Al-Hamdallah, president of An-Najah National University in Nablus, and Mohamed Mustafa, head of the Palestinian investment fund.

Al-Hamdallah is often described as a rubber stamp in Fatah’s hands, anti-Islamist and lacking the independent-mindedness needed for a successful premiership. The other potential candidate, Mustafa, has been a long-time economic adviser of Abbas and is widely considered a skilled financial manager whose hands have not been stained by corruption.

However, neither professional qualifications nor proximity to Fatah would be sufficient for the new premier. According to one Palestinian commentator, the most important credential for the new Palestinian premier is “American and Israeli backing”.

In addition, the new premier would have to enjoy popular backing from the Palestinian street, especially the Fatah movement. Furthermore, there would have to be a semblance of coexistence between the next government in Ramallah and the de facto Hamas authority in Gaza.

Needless to say, forming a government that would meet all these requirements will be very difficult for the Palestinian leadership.


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