The Deceptively Controversial P.M.
Salam Fayyad tries to build a state
It was December when Tablet Magazine’s Michael Weiss wondered if Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is “the Palestinian Ben-Gurion.” That meme gained a great deal of steam in February, when none other than Israeli President Shimon Peres—the closest living link to the “Israeli Ben-Gurion” i.e., Ben-Gurion—similarly anointed him thus. But the past several days have shown that if folks in the West, especially on the more left side of the spectrum, are increasingly inclined to see Fayyad in this saintly light, others, especially in the West Bank, may not share this rosy view. And by others, I mean Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other senior members of Fatah—of which, it’s worth bearing in mind, Fayyad is not himself a member.
Fayyadism is a project of statehood semi-disguised as a product of nation-building. It is about constructing the necessary preconditions of a sovereign country—right down to physical infrastructure, though it’s also about building a culture of independence—so that, two years down the road (Fayyad has specified 2011), the West Bank Palestinians can, if talks fail, even perhaps declare independence. Which would be a pretty big deal indeed.
It sounds inspiring, and many find it so. In yesterday’s International Herald Tribune, columnist Roger Cohen—who may safely be described as a left-wing Zionist—gave Fayyad the full laudatory treatment. “He’s getting things done, improving people’s lives, and Palestinians are tired of going nowhere,” Cohen writes.
To some extent, how can you be against Fayyad? He is literally, concretely, making West Bank Palestinians’ lives better (Israel also gives him high marks for improving security). It’s hard not to agree with the Jerusalem Post’s headline of an AP profile, “A New Style of Politics in the West Bank.”
Then again, if you read Haaretz’s headline of the same article, you’ll learn that “Not All Palestinians Buy Fayyad’s Vision of State by 2011.” And among these is Abbas himself. “We stand by agreements,” he said on TV, opposing the notion of unilateral statehood. More recently, Fatah officials have suggested that Abbas rescind some of Fayyad’s authorities. These officials explicitly accused Fayyad of trying to siphon away some of Fatah’s power.
So there is real dissension in the ranks of the Palestinians’ West Bank leadership. And I haven’t even mentioned Gaza … .
Abbas, Fayyad Clash on Statehood [Arutz Sheva]
‘Take Key Ministries Away From Fayyad’ [JPost]
Fayyad’s Road to Palestine [IHT]
Related: The Pragmatist [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: Peres Passes Peace Torch to Fayyad