Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Fayyad resigns

The resignation of Salam Fayyad as PM of the Palestine Authority represents another nail in the coffin of peace prospects in the Middle East.  Fayyad has been considered the architect of the transition by the PA towards a realistic capability of developing  an actual state.  Although he was a moderate and a respected economist and not a member of either Hamas or Fatah, Fayyad was chosen by Pres. Abbas to lead the modernization of the PA.  He introduced transparency into the workings of the PA Government, he opposed corruption and focused on development of infrastructure.  Under his leadership the PA progressed and there has been a moderate improvement in the economic situation of the PA and its inhabitants.
However, over many months there has been friction between Abbas and Fayyad that came to the fore when Finance Minister Nabil Qassis resigned, Fayyad accepted his resignation, but Abbas refused to do so.  The reasons for this resignation and the clash between the two leaders is unclear, but it probably has to do with the PA budget that has recently been proposed by Abbas for the PA.  In this budget, amounting to ca. b$3.6, ca. 30% is assigned to security and military costs. This for an Authority that does not have enough money to pay its employees, who rioted last month when they were not paid, and that depends almost entirely on international donations, notably from the US, Canada and the EU.
When he was here last week Secty of State Kerry and before him Pres. Obama pressed Abbas not to fire Fayyad, since most Western leaders regard him as someone who they can deal with.  But, even as Canada stopped payment on m$300, because they are dissatisfied with the economic and political priorities of Abbas and strongly opposed the move he took to seek unilateral recognition at the UN, they also asked Abbas to retain Fayyad as PM, so the same day Fayyad submitted his resignation in face of withdrawal of support by Abbas.
It should be mentioned that although Fayyad is a favorite Palestinian technocrat in the West, he has very little political support among Palestinians, and so it is easy for Abbas, who controls Fatah and the PLO as well as the PA, to remove him. Various replacements are being considered, but none will have the status of Fayyad and most international donors will look hard (or should) before they continue to support the PA to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, much of which is definitely siphoned off by the leadership.  It should be remarked that money is fungible, so money donated to the PA, or indeed to Gaza where Hamas rules, that goes to subsidize civilian activities also frees funds for weapons and missile purchases that are used against Israeli civilians.  In this way Western countries are subsidizing the military activities of Hamas and Fatah against Isael.  These same countries claim that they are in favor of peace, but in effect they are providing funds that oppose peace.  The forced resignation of Fayyad will make the development of a peaceful Palestinian entity that much less likely.


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