Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Bad news for Palestinians & Israel
• By JONATHAN S. TOBIN
• April 14, 2013
The resignation of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is a pivotal moment in the history of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. His exit lays bare the collapse of what The New York Times called “Fayyadism” — the hope that Palestinian nationalism would be refocused on development and coexistence rather than violence. Without the fig leaf of responsibility that Fayyad provided, the idea that the PA is anything but a corrupt regime fatally compromised by connections with terror rings false.
Fayyad’s inability to either generate much public support among the people of the West Bank or to use his credentials as a respected international figure to outmaneuver PA President Mahmoud Abbas is a tragedy for the Palestinian people. His failure dooms them to a choice between the venal and incompetent cadres of Fatah or the bloody Islamist tyranny of Hamas.
Fayyad has always had the strong support of both the United States and of Israel, which despite its suspicions about the PA has seen him as an essential interlocutor and partner. His problem is that Abbas’ Fatah Party viewed him as an obstacle to both its drive for political hegemony in the West Bank as well as to the continuation of its crooked patronage schemes that diverted foreign-aid money into its leaders’ pockets.
Without a Fayyad (or someone like him), there is no pretense that what the peace processers seek to create in the West Bank is a state living in peace with Israel or its other Arab neighbors, rather than a kleptocracy run by terrorists. That is not only bad news for the Palestinian people, but also a guarantee that the terms of any peace deal signed with them will not be observed.
This conundrum goes to the heart of the original motivations behind the Oslo process that created the PA in 1993.
Shimon Peres conceived the Oslo process as a path to a “New Middle East” in which Israel and a Palestinian state led by Fayyads would create a Benelux-like enclave in the Middle East. The late Yitzhak Rabin, though, thought handing the territories over to Yasser Arafat would work because the old terrorist would be willing to settle for statehood in only part of the country and would then be free to quash Hamas and any other terrorists without the interference of a Supreme Court or gadfly groups that inhibited Israeli counter terror measures.
As it turns out, both were wrong. Peres’ hopes about what the PA would become were delusional. But the hard-boiled Rabin was just as wrong to think a Palestinian state led by corrupt terrorists isn’t antithetical to the entire concept of two states for two peoples living alongside each other in peace. This has already been amply demonstrated, first by Arafat’s use of terrorism and then by what has happened in Gaza where an independent Palestinian state in all but name already exists.
Fayyad’s tragedy was not just that both Fatah and Hamas wanted to be rid of him, but that he had virtually no support among ordinary Palestinians. So long as shedding Jewish blood is the main factor that gives a Palestinian political party credibility, men like Fayyad will have no chance no matter how much they are applauded by Americans or Israelis.
The collapse of his effort to change Palestinian politics is therefore a key moment that should signal to the world that it must dispense with the theories of both Peres and Rabin and cease ignoring reality in favor of illusions.