The not often reported side of the Israel-Palestine stop/start negations includes men who have made careers in the West only to find a decrepit and nearly nonexistent economy at home. Fayyad, the disputed Prime Minister appointed by Abu Mazen, made a career as an economist and presenting himself and his image as that of the nonthreatening Palestinian man who seeks reconciliation with Israel. Fayyad has been Finance Minister in the recent past, and joined the PNA after spending years with the US Federal Reserve of St. Louis, and the International Monetary Fund (or IMF).
Fayyad’s job title is as disputed as the land he wants to build a country on. The other prime minister is Ismail Haniyeh, leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
In very visceral terms, Haniyeh is everything Fayyad is not. Haniyeh’s group continues to call for the destruction of Israel and has rebuked Palestinian leaders who call for Hamas’ setting down of arms and recognition of Israel.
Fayyad has consistently used extremism to frame his conversation. When he speaks of the threat of instability in the country, he is often citing Hamas.
Fayyad, who suffered a brief heart attack earlier this week while visiting his son’s graduation in the US, has sought to put a friendly face on the label Palestinian National Authority. He seeks a bi national-state solution and an end to armed conflict. Fayyad’s gamble would be heavily financed by US goodwill and billions in aid over the next generation in order to jump start heavy industry and commerce. A move Israeli policymakers oppose and have voiced serious misgivings about.
Tom Friedman has praised Fayyad’s work, noting that he has developed theories over the creation of a state without focusing on its interloping neighbor, Israel.
So where does that leave us?
Fayyad is essentially trying to fit Palestine into an already full bed where the lovers, The United State Israel, see no more room for a menagis et toue. Also deeply troubling is Fayyad’s proposal also depends heavily on US goodwill in the form of billions of dollars over decades that could very well show little to no substantive progress in the way of bettering palestinain lives.
Its important that the Palestinan Authority do things for themselves, but as Rashid Khalidi pointed out in a lecture in 2007, there has been no meeting of equals when it comes to Palestines relationship with the Israeli governemt. Khalidi notes that Palestinian government officials are on an even keel with their counterparts in Tel Aviv. Instead, it is a relationship that depends largely on the good nature of whatever party is currently running the Knnesset. Netenyahu’s premiership has been particularly bad for pro-Palestinian right advocates, as “Bibi” got himself into an ugly and ill advised spat with the President over Obama’s request (that’s really all the US can do at this point) that Israel and Palestine sit down over a map, swap land and begin with the 1967 borders as an OUTLINE for peace.
Fayyad’s ideology is enchanting to members of the USA who find this affable well dressed man a solution to the ugly politics of recent memory.
It remains to be seen whether Fayyad’s impact on policy will be able to turn itself into a veritable ATM of sorts.
In the mean time, the occupation continues, and Washington prepares for a long summer of back and forth with two rivals who don’t seem to be going anywhere.