Salam Fayyad was 55 years old when they found him six years ago. “They” are the secretary of state and the European donors who wanted to help the Palestinian Authority in its hour of trial, but did not want to see their contributions diverted by corrupt Fatah officials into numbered Swiss bank accounts. The Palestinian Authority (PA) was run by the Fatah Party, founded by Yassir Arafat. The Fatah Party was in shambles. They had just lost Gaza to the well-organized Hamas. Prior to the Gaza coup, Fatah had lost its majority in the Palestinian parliament. In many districts, two Fatah rivals stood against one Hamas delegate. Fatah voters were divided, which allowed the Hamas delegate to win with a plurality, not a majority. Thus, Hamas won a majority of seats with less than a majority of votes. The Parliament has not met for many years and the scheduled elections can not be held while Fatah and Hamas are at each others’ throats. Adding to the confusion in the West Bank was the all-important fact that Fatah officials continued to rule as they always had when Arafat was alive. A small percentage of every transaction landed in their pockets. Chaos prevailed in the streets of Ramallah and other West Bank cities. Unless things were cleaned up, Hamas would take over and war with Israel would intensify.
So, six years ago they found Salam Fayyad, a 55-year-old economist with many years experience in the World Bank. They created a job for him—that of prime minister. Yassir Arafat ruled without a prime minister and Mahmoud Abbas did the same. But under pressure, Mr. Abbas accepted him. Fayyad had three main tasks. The first was the economy. He proceeded to replace the Fatah grafters and made many enemies. He made the economy attractive to foreign investors. A huge success was the deal with Qatar, which is constructing an entire suburb outside of Ramallah. His second important task was security. He had to replace the ragtag Palestinian police force who were also on the take. He had to replace Arafat’s fighters and suicide bombers with honest cops. He accomplished this task slowly but surely with the cooperation of the American administration and the Israeli army. Young men were recruited and shipped to Jordan to undergo intensive training by American officers. As a brigade was organized and trained, it took over a Palestinian city. The first was Nablus, then Hebron until all of the 40 percent of the West Bank controlled by the PA had a spanking new police force.
Fayyad’s third task was to train staff for government offices in the future Palestinian state. In 2011, he said he was ready for a state, but the state never appeared. Obama was already campaigning for re-election and would not intervene. Now Secretary of State Kerry is making up for lost time. He is devoting time and prestige to shuttling back and forth between Jerusalem and Ramallah. So why has Salam Fayyad resigned? News analysts say that attacks by Fatah leaders headed by President Abbas have become unbearable. I think it is a ploy. He will remain at his post until a new government is formed, and that is a long way off. Because negotiations are ongoing for a reconciliation with Hamas. And one of the conditions that Hamas has always demanded is Fayyad’s resignation. But he has already resigned. As far as the barbs from Fatah officials, he can say: They can’t hurt me. I have resigned. So we can expect that Fayyad and Fayyadism will prevail in the West Bank for a long time. The end.
J. Zel Lurie, a journalist specializing in promoting peace in the Middle East, is a founding editor of the Palestine Post which later became the Jerusalem Post.
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