More Fayyad Fallout

The BBC’s Jon Donnison reported, in his Fayyad article [labelled a “What next?” piece], that “When the 61-year-old again announced he was quitting on Saturday night, it was at least the third time he had resigned since he was first appointed to the job in 2007.  That is not to mention all the threats of resignation over the past six years.  And yet Mr Fayyad is still doing the job, at least in a ‘caretaker’ role”. This is posted here

Donnison lists the two previous Fayyad resignations as being in March 2009 and then in [May] 2011, both times to make way for a government of “national unity” or of “transition”, in order to “heal the political division between Fatah and Hamas — which may indeed be part of the reason again now.

[Fayyad also quit once before that, to run in the 2006 parliamentary elections’]

Meanwhile, Hugh Naylor wrote in The National that:

“Last month, the two leaders [Mahmoud Abbas + Fayyad — but Fayyad cannot really be called a “leader”] were at loggerheads over the resignation of Nabeel Kassis as finance minister. Mr Fayyad reportedly accepted it before consulting Mr Abbas, which caused acrimony.  An official in the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which Mr Abbas also chairs, said that spat encouraged the Palestinian president to accept Mr Fayyad’s resignation.  ‘I also think Abu Mazen was tired of Fayyad resigning every two months’, said the official, referring to Mr Abbas by his nickname. ‘But I also think Abu Mazen saw Fayyad’s threatening to resign as a bargaining chip to leverage power’…” This piece is published here.

Ah, yes, power — for, the scenario now being acted out was, and is, a classic power struggle between the two men, who otherwise are not really enemies. Abbas may well even feel some sympathy for Fayyad at the moment.

After all, Mahmoud Abbas himself was the previous champion of resignation [see our page on that, on this blog], when he served as Palestine’s first Prime Minister, an institution created at donor insistence to curb Yasser Arafat’s freeranging power. In a continuation of that paradigm, Fayyad was supposed, in some way, to be a “check + balance” to Abbas, who has since consolidated his hold on all reins of Palestinian power, and who has stayed in office beyond the expire-by date of his mandate until the next elections which only he has the power to proclaim, and which he also has the power to cancel.

Abbas does not seem uncomfortable at all in ruling by decree [at the encouragement of donors who believe in democracy only when all actors are “good guys”], in the absence of a functioning parliament [the Palestine Legislative Council], which closed up shop, at least in the West Bank, not long after the surprise election of Hamas [after Hamas did, for those 2006 elections, what everybody had called on it to do, which is to convert itself into a political party and contest the vote].

Donnison also reports, in his BBC piece, another theory [one of the standard Palestinian templates]: “One Palestinian official told me he believes Mr Fayyad has bigger ambitions, possibly to replace Mr Abbas, and wants to leave the job of prime minister in order to try and build his personal popularity”.

At the same time, Donnison reports, a “Palestinian official” told him that: “Over the years the West supported the status quo but they never supported what Salam Fayyad wanted: the end of Israel’s occupation”.

Which is one reason why U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s collegial support looked so bad, viewed from the ground here, as Donnison writes:

“[L]ast week, State Department officials were reportedly hitting the phones to Ramallah trying to get Mr Fayyad to stay. One Palestinian official, who did not want to be named, told me the Americans had handled things badly if they wanted Mr Fayyad to remain in the job. ‘On the contrary, the American strategy didn’t help Fayyad. They made a mistake’. He said that by so publicly declaring their support for the prime minister and declaring him ‘their man’, they made it difficult for President Abbas to keep him without appearing to be “in the pocket” of the Americans”. Ahmed Aweidah agrees. ‘Abbas had to act so as not to be seen as a US lackey’, he says”.

Now, this has been one of the standard American rules-of-thumb for at least two decades, since at least the end of the Cold War: don’t support anyone too publicly.  But, this time, it happened — why?  It seems, simply because Palestine is viewed as too dependent, as not-yet-adult or not-yet-a-state… perhaps also because it may have been seen as a warning to the Israelis to cooperate and let up on the sanctions against Palestine, and against the nearly-nightly IDF incursions into Area A , including downtown Ramallah, which Fayyad was the most outspoken about.

And also, it was just seen as a nice, collegial, supportive thing to say…

In any case, as Donnison’s piece says:
“Initially, President Abbas’s office said a new appointee would be named within a matter of days. The projected time span has already officially increased to two to three weeks and privately Palestinian officials are saying it could take up to two months…’Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose‘, [French, for ‘the more things change, the more they are the same’] says Ahmad Aweidah, the multi-lingual chief executive of the Palestinian Stock Exchange. ‘Let’s wait two or three weeks. In fact, lets wait two to three years, I imagine Mr. Fayyad might still be in the job’, he says. ‘People forget that Salam Fayyad was already a caretaker prime minister at the head of a caretaker government and has been for years’…[And] Salam Fayyad’s appointment was never approved by the Palestinian parliament, which has been unable to sit since the Fatah-Hamas split…”

All this will be hugely enjoyed, as a kind of a good ironic joke.

The Christian Science Monitor’s Jerusalem Bureau Chief< Christa Case Bryant, wrote here that “The weekend resignation of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad calls into question not only the political career of a Western darling, but also the paradigm he pioneered: self-empowerment instead of victimhood”…

Unfortunately, this seems adopt a standard Israeli paradigm, to accuse Palestinians of indulging in “victimhood”.

But what resonates perhaps even more in that opening paragraph is the term “Western darling”, which Fayyad certainly was. It is how he was imposed. How was he a “darling”? Though he opposed Israel’s occupation from personal experience, Fayyad agreed with the Quartet on important matters, such as the economic model that was promoted, which was earlier said to show “the benefits of peace” but later came to be known as the “Ramallah bubble”.

It was, and is, a catastrophe: open lines of credit to Palestinian Government employees — which they could not afford when the major donors turned off the tap, starting last year, to punish Palestinians for moves to act like the State they have wanted to be, the State they proclaimed in 1988, a State like any other — including the State that was created following the United Nations 1947 resolution to partition the British Mandate into two states, one Jewish and one Arab.

Unbridled capitalism, at the behest of Tony Blair and the Portland Trust, was on display, particularly in the de facto West Bank capital, Ramallah. It allowed ostentatious displays of Palestinian wealth [Did anybody seriously think that this was an incentive, and would encourage others to think that if they keep quite and go along with the system, without rocking the boat, then they, too, can become rich and apolitical and arrogant?]

Fayyad’s 2009 Plan [to end the occupation and move towards the State of Palestine] was overly-praised as an unprecedented and never-before-seen work of brilliance about creating functioning government institutions. It read, however, more like the kind of two-year work plan of the type that professional employees of international organizations are now required to produce, under the wholesale adoption of American-style management which believes in setting goals and measuring achievements along the way to their possible implementation. It is not unlike the role of the football coach in the locker room. And, if it doesn’t work, then everybody must analyze the shortfalls as “lessons learned”… And then produce more plans with more goals and more measurable achievements…

The best thing about Fayyad’s 2009 Plan is that he presented it to a meeting in the Qalandiya Refugee Camp, just opposite the monstrous Qalandiya Checkpoint that was built up in the past decade between Jerusalem and Ramallah [but that also divides one part of Jerusalem, which is the part that Israel wants, from another part of Jerusalem, which Israel does not want — but to which Israel has not cut its administrative ties and from which Israel still collects municipal taxes, or Arnona].

Fayyad knew the resonance of the symbolism, and occasionally tapped into it [see his Facebook posts for his sporadic adventures, accompanied by a security escort, to demonstrations against The Wall or to plant an olive tree, etc.].  What he simply did not understand was how the imposed, imported economic model he was enforcing left too many people poor and outside the loop, at least in the present generation.

Fayyad also seemed not to understand the unfair, nepotistic or politically-connected employment practices that continue to exist in the Ministries that he, as Prime Minister, was supposed to be in charge of, and that he is falsely praised  for making “transparent” , have continued an oppressive and undemocratic system of privilege based not on merit but instead on craven cultivations of connections — and fear.

Is it self-pitying “victimhood”, or is there some objective truth in Palestinians saying — as Fayyad himself has said — that they could simply not achieve all the nice goals, because of the Israeli occupation?

To be fair, Fayyad himself made a nod at the “victimhood” paradigm [though without using the derogatory term], as the former New York Times Bureau Chief in Jerusalem, Steven Erlanger, wrote here in August 2007:

“Although he is appointed, and though the Palestinian legislature is not functioning and there is no democratic oversight, Mr. Fayyad has decided to press ahead, as he says, ‘to undo, as best and fast as we can, the damage sustained over the last two years’, both financially and institutionally. [n.b. – the last two years?  Arafat died at the end of 2004, Abbas was elected in early 2005…] ‘This is about putting things right, about doing things right’. The Palestinians, he said, have work to do. ‘The Palestinians have to show up’, he said. ‘You can sit there and say how unfair the world is. Or you try to do something about it’.”

The problem is, even under Fayyad’s government, and despite Fayyad’s awareness and his coaching, energizing jargon — the Palestinians still couldn’t do anything about it, in part, because the apparatus he created in his Ministries was as limiting as ever, if not even more so.

Christa Case Bryant wrote in her piece published in the Christian Science Monitor:

“Abdullah Abdullah,  a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council that urged Abbas to replace Fayyad earlier this month – likely precipitating his resignation – says it wasn’t personal, and it wasn’t a power grab.  ‘We understand of course, that our [Palestinian] Authority is almost without authority. We know that Israel controls our economy, our movement, our land – everything’, he says, but adds that a wave of strikes amid the ongoing economic crisis demonstrated the need for a new government with new policies. ‘We as a popular movement have to take into account the sentiments of the people…. This government did not meet their requirements’.”

And, as she also reported, there were the “politics” and “power” issues:

“While Abbas was technically his boss, the Western tendency to always talk about Abbas and Fayyad as a unit ‘upgraded the prime minister’s position to be equal to that of the president’, says Dr. [Mahdi] Abdul-Hadi [of PASSIA in East Jerusalem]. Various Fatah factions began to chafe under his government, which initially excluded Fatah altogether and then slowly introduced some members – but generally those seen as too mild to challenge Fayyad. Last year, Fatah pushed Fayyad to relinquish the portfolio of finance minister, which he had held in addition to the premiership, arguing that it was unhealthy for democracy to have such a concentration of power. In May 2012, Fayyad complied, and political independent Nabeel Kassis was chosen for the job. Though smart and likeable, Mr. Kassis was a nuclear physicist by training and was buffeted by what some said was the most severe Palestinian economic crisis since the PA was created in 1994. Protests swept the West Bank and the PA repeatedly failed to pay its employees for weeks after their salaries were due. Last month, Mr. Kassis resigned, saying politicians and unions had rejected his proposed austerity measures to stave off a projected $1.4 billion deficit for 2013. Some say that that Kassis quit after a showdown with Fayyad, who was used to running things himself and was reluctant to hand over the reins. ‘It really signaled to Abbas that this guy has kind of gone rogue, and also that he’s never going to allow anybody to work with him’, says someone close to Abbas who requested anonymity due to an increasing crackdown on dissent in the West Bank”…

Where Fayyad may have gone “rogue” was in the extremely sensitive area of the security domaine, where responsibility has been split between the Prime Minister [supported by the donors] and the President, who controls and is backed by the main political faction and the overall Palestine Liberation Organization, as well as the present “State” apparatus.

For, the final showdown occurred when Kassis apparently proposed a major cut in the ranks of the Palestinian Security — which Palestinians feel protects only Israel and Israeli settlers in the West Bank, but not them, or their families — and Fayyad sharply opposed this.

The donors, in particular the U.S., and the Israeli security apparatus, either certainly also did oppose this as well, or would have…

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