Hamas dropped a bombshell today, announcing that it “will not accept” current Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as the new PM, and that it will also not accept him in the cabinet as a junior minister. This is an extremely bad sign for the character of the emerging unity government, and it is a step backwards for the average Palestinian. As I have written before, Fayyad is, unlike so many past Palestinian leaders, acceptable to Israel and the West. He has a reputation as a technocrat, not an ideologue, someone who will work for the interests of the Palestinians without excessive grandstanding and without being too stubborn. This is why Hamas hates him–or, more accurately, this is why Hamas resents him. They have seen how successful he has been. Without Fayyad, the Palestinian statehood bid this fall would not be taken seriously. Fayyad’s popularity with the West and Israel enabled him to secure large donations and assistance projects that have beefed up Palestine’s institutions–the court system, for instance, has been a key area of progress.
The advances made under Fayyad, and his moderate reputation, have assuaged the fears of outside powers that a Palestinian state will be a basket case or a rogue state. That made the Palestinian diplomatic initiatives of the past several months credible–hence, the possibility of UN recognition in the fall. Israel often derides Palestine for having terrorists as national heroes. Fayyad could have changed that–he was a man of peace, diplomacy, and national development. Hardly an exciting figure, yes–he is a Johnson, not a Kennedy, a Khamenei, not a Khomeini, a Common, not a Kanye West–but he represented a new, mature view of Palestinian politics. Hamas does not want to compete with this narrative, because Hamas represents the old way–rejectionism, radicalism, and “resistance.”
Hamas’ insistence on Fayyad’s exclusion shows that they are not interested at all in progress if it means any form of cooperation with Israel and the West. They would choose death, poverty, and institutional chaos over peace and prosperity if the only way to that peace and prosperity ran through Tel Aviv. They know that removing Fayyad entirely will jeopardize many ongoing cooperative efforts, yet they persist. This demonstrates what many have suspected all along–that Hamas’ apparent moderation in recent months has not been serious.
Hamas is thus flexing its muscles, showing that it will not be in the background of the new Palestine, and that it is not interested in achieving a lasting peace. With Hamas on one side and the Likud/Yisrael Beiteinu coalition on the other, a long stagnation in the peace process is upon us.