Given that I’ve sung the praises (or drunk the kool-aid) of Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad in the past, I felt I’d be remiss if I didn’t reply to Nathan J. Brown’s thought-provoking obituary for the Fayyad era that recently appeared in Foreign Policy. The article, entitled “No Savior,” challenges the traditional view of Fayyad, that he is a new kind of Palestinian leader, an ex-technocrat instead of an ex-terrorist, a man who ignores deep factional disputes to get things done and make a Palestinian state a real possibility. Instead, Brown argues, Fayyad made minimal progress at developing institutions, and was merely quite good at keeping the old ones from collapsing. Most damningly, he argues that the West fundamentally misread Fayyad when it saw him as a new voice for Palestinian self-sufficiency, because Fayyad’s greatest talent was appearing competent enough to get the West to pour in buckets of aid money. Fayyad made Palestine “ready for independence” by deepening its dependence.
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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.
A. Formation of the Government:
Both Fatah and Hamas agree to form a Palestinian government and to appoint the Prime Minister and Ministers in consensus between them.
In other words, the days of the Palestinian grand coalition are back. Neither faction has clarified who will fill what roles in the Cabinet, though Fatah’s current occupation of the Presidency will make Hamas eager to take the Prime Minister’s spot from Salam Fayyad. The seriousness of this cannot be understated. Fayyad is very popular with the Israelis and with Western donors, who have flooded the West Bank with great sums during his tenure and launched a number of capacity-building initiatives that have made statehood a true possibility. For instance, there has been a US-sponsored effort to establish a fully independent and final court system in Palestine, so that Palestinians would not have to rely on the Israelis to provide an appellate system.