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Salam Fayyad: Obstacle to Peace?

Geoffrey Aronson reviews the fortunes of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who is now considered by Israel an obstacle to peace.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (C) attends the opening session of an international conference of solidarity with Palestinian and Arab prisoners and detainees in Israel's prisons, in Baghdad December 11, 2012. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani (IRAQ - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)

Salam Fayyad, the extra-constitutional prime minister of the West Bank rump of the Palestinian Authority (PA), has come full circle. The international technocrat was catapulted by US President George W. Bush into the top ranks of the Palestinian leadership, becoming first finance minister in 2002 and then prime minister in June 2007 in a constitutionally dubious sleight of hand after Hamas’ expulsion of Fatah forces in Gaza.

But no matter — together with Mahmoud Abbas, the duo formed America’s Palestine tag team — marginalizing the power of President Yasser Arafat, then suffering an ignominious confinement in the ruins of the Muqata at the hand of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Fayyad in particular offered Americans and Europeans an attractive alternative to the embattled and friendless Arafat. He was an IMF economist, trained in Texas. When Bush looked him in the eye he saw a Texan. Fayyad, together with Abbas, promised to accommodate Bush’s demands for competent governance. They worked with Israel to crush an armed revolt that terrorized Israelis, destabilized Palestinian life throughout the West Bank and made the Gaza Strip ungovernable during the Second Intifada. In return, Washington, so it was hoped, would force Israel to spit out the occupied territories and the state of Palestine would be born.

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