Israel’s Man in Palestine
By Stephen Lendman
Salam Fayyad is the appointed Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
His resume includes a University of Texas economics Ph.D., a teaching position at Jordan’s Yarmouk University, and economic research at the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank. From 1987 – 1995, he also served as a World Bank and IMF official, and until 2001, was IMF’s man in Palestine, serving as Yasser Arafat’s finance minister.
In Palestine’s 2006 legislative elections, his Third Way party got 2.4% of the votes, a clear renunciation. Yet after Fatah’s coup d’etat co-opted the PLO, PA and West Bank, President Mahmoud Abbas illegitimately appointed him prime minister.
The New York Times calls him "a political independent who gained the confidence of the West and is largely respected in Israel." In fact, he’s a political opportunist, Israel’s man in Palestine. Also Washington’s. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Nathan J. Brown calls him "indispensable to US diplomacy….confusing a useful individual with sound policy." He’s mainly improved security, providing enforcer services for Israel against his own people.
Moreover, there’s "no separation of powers; instead there is an increasing concentration of authority in the executive branch. There is no legislative branch. Court orders have been ignored; judges have bowed out of sensitive political issues; and the independence of the judiciary is hardly guaranteed. The fact remains, of course, that….security is synonymous with the attempt to suppress Hamas" and other opposition groups.
Senior officials, including Abbas and Fayyad, have neglected or unilaterally decreed other measures. As CEO, Fayyad has maintained earlier institutions and made a few of them more efficient. "But he has done so in an authoritarian context that robs the results of domestic legitimacy." As appointed prime minister, of course, he has no legitimacy beyond Israeli and Washington power backing him.
Writer Nathan Thrall says he’s "criticized at home for many of the same reasons he is lauded abroad." He condemns violence against Israel, ignores Palestinian persecution, is instrumental in furthering it, and says diaspora Palestinians can resettle in a future Palestinian state, not Israel or their settlements, exceeding 40% of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Backing him is a 25,000-strong security force, trained, equipped, vetted and perhaps run by America’s Lt. General Keith Dayton, US security coordinator (USSC) for Israel and the PA. Under his command, thousands of Palestinians complete 19 weeks of training at Jordan’s International Police Training Center, built with US funds in 2003 to instruct Iraqi police.
Throughout the West Bank, Dayton’s in charge of building and renovating garrisons, training colleges, Interior Ministry facilities, and security headquarters. In recent years, Washington has spent around $400 million to institutionalize hard-line control, supplementing Israel’s own efforts.
Fayyad is titular CEO under Abbas. According to Michael Oren, Israel’s US ambassador, "….expanding what Dayton is doing in the security realm to other sectors of Palestinian governance and society is really the only viable model for progress." "Progress," of course, is repressive military occupation, no opposition allowed.
Evaluating the PA under Abbas and Fayyad
In a December 20 article, titled "The Palestinian Authority and the Problem of Reform under the Occupation," Dr. Moshen Mohammed Saleh asked if it’s possible. "Or is (it) simply a matter of ‘dancing to the Occupation’s tune?"
Indeed the latter after Arafat’s Oslo Accords abdication. He ignored core issues, including Palestinian sovereignty, fixed borders, settlement expansions, the right of return, ending Israel’s occupation, and establishing a unified government for all Palestinians.
"In short," said Saleh, "the way (the PA) was established looked more like a ‘trap’ than a solution or a way out; and the route it took was more akin to wandering aimlessly in a ‘labyrinth’ than walking naturally and logically towards independence….The current situation (resembles a prison under an) assigned warden" empowered to enforce repression for disobedience.
The PA/PLO-led Fatah "found itself alone facing widespread opposition from nearly 10 Palestinian factions," notably Hamas. "As a result, the institutions of the Authority were mainly staffed by" Fatah members or supporters, including "shameless opportunists and exploiters" like Abbas and Fayyad. As CEO, Fayyad represents Israel and the West, "demand(ing) full concessions from Palestinians" with nothing committed in return.
"Moreover (his) government paid heavy political prices (for) committ(ing) itself (to) cracking down upon Hamas and other Palestinian resistive factions as well as neutralizing" the legislative assembly’s role. His survival, fact, depends on sustaining divisions and no unified Palestinian platform.
On December 28, Saleh again evaluated Fayyad and his government in an analysis titled "Evaluating Salam Fayyad’s government in Ramallah," saying:
It’s sustained by maintaining Palestinian divisions and keeping Israeli, Washington, and Arab leadership support. Fatah’s leadership also backs him, yet he’s "exploited his position so as to channel funds to his government and thereby consolidate his political base."
At the same time, he and Abbas renounced armed resistance, instead adopting "reconciliation with Israel as (their) project." On June 17, 2007, his new government included himself as prime minister, 11 ministers, two independent politicians and another technocrat besides himself, a trained economist. All opposition ministers were excluded.
Then on July 13, 2007, Abbas raised the ministerial total to 16, including Fayyad. On January 22, 2009, Fayyad created a new government under Abbas. By May, it had 24 ministers, mostly technocrats. Opposition factions, excluding Hamas, were represented by one minister each. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) refused to participate. The entire process lacked legitimacy. Abbas bypassed legalities "by legislating by decree," letting "Fayyad’s government….operate (by) presidential mandate."
In fact, "this government, which is supposed to represent the will of the people, vigorously opposed the political party (Hamas) which democratically represents the will of the majority, (and has) legally been entrusted with the mandate to represent them."
For his part, Fayyad’s management style has been devisive. He’s excluded many Fatah members from civil service and security force positions, coerced some into retirement, and appointed others "ideologically close to him" to key posts. Moreover, he’s monopolized financial resources for his own purposes, and remains subservient to Israel and Washington against the interests of his own people.
Opposition Fatah members face exclusion. As a result, some, like Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Hatem Abdel Qader, resigned "with criticism of the government for its failings." In virtually all respects, Israel has control, including over economic issues, unjustly restricting Palestinian imports and exports, as well as imposing "restrictions and impediments on the free movement of people and goods."
Absent Abbas/Fayyad opposition, Israel also expropriates Palestinian land, expands settlements, extends its Judaization agenda, consumes most West Bank resources, especially water, and maintains hard-line control together with Dayton-trained forces.
As a result, from June through August 2007 alone, West Bank Hamas members were subjected to 1,007 attacks, both by security forces and Fatah members. They "included 639 arrests and kidnappings, thirty-six (shooting) incidents….and 175 assaults on institutions and organizations, including centers of Qur’anic learning, charitable organizations, media institutes, press offices," nursery and other schools. In addition, 156 raids targeted private properties belonging to Hamas and supporters.
Thereafter, thousands more Hamas members and facilities were targeted. Hundreds of arrests were made, and numerous demonstrations and protests against occupation, Gaza’s siege, and Israel’s Separation Wall were attacked. Fayyad dutifully enforces Israel’s no opposition policy. Israeli forces, of course, do much of it themselves.
As prime minister, Fayyad’s future depends on satisfying Israel and Washington and their agendas of divide and conquer, solidifying occupation, continuing settlement expansions, entirely Judaizing Jerusalem, dominating the West Bank’s economy, and containing all opposition factions.
A Palestinian future, however, depends on ending Israel’s occupation, achieving unity, fulfilling real sovereignty under a government serving them, and an integrated Palestine or one nation serving all its citizens equitably, fairly and democratically. That vision, however, remains nowhere in sight, Fayyad and Abbas in charge to keep it that way.
– Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: [email protected] and visit his blog at: sjlendman.blogspot.com.