Is Salam Fayyad Serious About Resigning?

Article Summary
Hani al-Masri questions the credibility of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s apparent threat to resign, but suggests it might serve as a genuine warning to other Palestinian factions — if they repeat their criticism of his government, then he would quit and force them to face a grave, and maybe worsening, situation without him.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad threatened to resign and demanded the formation of a factional government — in which top-tier leaders would participate — to confront the repercussions of the upcoming period, especially if Palestine were granted observer-state status [by the United Nations] and the Palestinians refused to be influenced by American and Israeli threats.

What are the factors behind this threat to resign?

It has become clear that Fayyad is upset with the factions that constitute the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), especially Fatah, whose government he supposedly heads. This is particularly true following the popular demonstrations — accompanied by slogans and harsh criticisms against his cabinet — as a result of the rise in the prices of goods and the tardiness in paying employees.

Fayyad is worried that these demonstrations and criticism could spread if the American administration and Israeli government carried out their threats to break their relationship with the Palestinian Authority and refrain from transferring aid and customs revenues, thus making the economic crisis even worse.

Fayyad’s message to the PLO’s factions is clear: Either fully support my government, or I will resign, regardless of the negative repercussions on an already precarious situation.

Is the aforementioned proof that the threat to resign is credible? I think not. Especially considering that Fayyad denied making such a threat, and following reports that the president had agreed with his prime minister to postpone discussing this issue until after Palestine is granted observer status.

Had Fayyad really wanted to resign, he would have done so after the reconciliation accord was signed, or following the Doha Declaration, which included an agreement pertaining to the formation of a consensual government headed by the president. This in itself was a message aimed at Fayyad that he was not suitable for leading in the reconciliation phase, which made him look as if he were one of the causes for the deep-rooted divisions.

In my estimation — which might be right or wrong, as any estimation can be —  Fayyad will not easily resign because he is ambitious and has an agenda of his own which he considers to be the only valid one for the welfare of the country. What helped Fayyad submit a comprehensive proposal that included the threat to resign was his knowledge that the president and Fatah’s need for him had increased, now that the goal of achieving unity had been postponed.

This can be confirmed by an analysis of the local election results, which proved that the factions’ influence — with the exception of Fatah — was modest, and, according to Fayyad, did not allow them to oppose the government in which most of them were represented. This is because they cannot be part of the cabinet and oppose it at the same time.

It is true, on the other hand, that Fatah won the elections, albeit it being a hollow victory because it did not face any serious competition and in light of the good results that electoral lists — both those affiliated with Fatah and those that are not — had over the official Fatah list in major cities such as Ramallah, Nablus and Jenin. Furthermore, participation in the cities was disconcertlingly light and deserves further analysis.

The degree to which the elections were boycotted was not due to Hamas’ boycott demand, for all surveys estimate that Hamas’s influence affects no more than 20% of the population, but came as a result of a popular feeling of general frustration.

In addition, Fayyad was never enthusiastic about the idea of resorting to the United Nations, despite his acknowledgement that doing so was a Palestinian right, in light of the opposition that such a move garners from the Americans, Israelis and some of the major European countries. The latter oppose this move because being granted observer status would not add anything substantial to what the Palestinians already possess.

Moreover, it would cause extensive damage, the repercussions of which could be impossible to control. What then drove Fayyad to put his resignation on hold?

First: It was not really a resignation, but rather a threat to resign. Also, Fayyad denied resigning, both directly to the president and through his spokesman.

Second: He sent the factions the message that he wanted them to hear; if they repeated their criticism of his government, then he would resign and drive the ball into their court, forcing them to face a grave, and maybe worsening, situation without him.

Bolstering Fayyad’s position is the fact that the move to resort to the UN, despite November already having started, does not seem to be certain yet. However, the president [Mahmoud Abbas] has grown more determined to resort to the UN following the wave of overwhelming criticism to his last statement about the right of return (to the occupied lands), and his personal stance regarding his right to visit but not return to his home town of Safed.

This is despite the objections of many Arab and European countries, some of which, like France for example, last year conditionally backed the move to resort to the UN, but now categorically oppose it.

Opponents to the idea of presenting the draft resolution to the UN now argue that the Palestinians have waited for a long time, and they can wait a little longer until after the Israeli elections next January. This is especially true if Barack Obama wins the American presidential elections [which he did], because his victory might give an edge to the less extremist parties to win in Israel.

Being granted observer status could be an important step if it came as part of a comprehensive strategy and if it was accompanied by all the necessary preparations. But if it came as a reactionary move born out of desperation then it could lead to a Palestinian state (nonmember at the UN) under occupation, which would have to unconditionally resume negotiations under the pretense that the legal and political status of the Palestinians had changed.

This in fact is not true, for, under international law, the Palestinian territories of 1967 are under occupation, and if Palestine were granted observer status, it would then be an observer nation under occupation.

Fayyad is right in his opinion about the value of resorting to the UN at a time when Palestinians are deeply divided and the United States, Israel and some major European countries object to such a move, especially if Obama wins the elections.

This opinion is given credence by some Arab countries’ rejection of the step, and by Arab regimes in general not giving priority to the Palestinian issue, due to their preoccupation with the events taking place in Syria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and possible future events in Lebanon, Jordan and all other Arab countries, as a result of the wave of change still sweeping across the region.

After 20 years of negotiations, the Palestinians today find themselves in the worst of situations without any prospect for negotiations. This is despite the fact that history has proven that negotiations born out of weakness and lacking any change to the balance of power can only lead to never-ending concessions — reaching the point of surrendering the right of return — as we have noticed in the president’s recent statements.

He gave up this right without anything to show for that renunciation, except a failed attempt to influence an Israeli public opinion that is completely oblivious to anything that the Palestinians might say or do, to the point where Palestinian threats to Israel have become inconsequential, as one recent Israeli report pointed out.

Furthermore, Palestinians today have been stripped of their resistance movement. For the resistance has been put on hold following Gaza’s takeover by Hamas, which is solely focused on maintaining and strengthening its rule. Causes related to Palestine and Jerusalem have been abandoned until the Islamic giant gains its footing and begins its march towards liberating Palestine.

Giving priority to institution building has been fruitless, and has made the victim seem as if it were responsible for the continued occupation, because it is unworthy and does not possess the institutional requirements [for independence]. This then forces the Palestinians into a situation where they endlessly need to try to prove their worthiness.

Resorting to the UN will also prove futile if it comes as the result of the presently espoused strategy. And it will be pointless to call for elections in Gaza because doing so will only consecrate the divisions and transform them into a real separation, especially in light of the rise in Hamas’ acceptance in the Arab world, Israel and internationally.

There is no substitute for the adoption of a new path and strategy. If the [current] leadership and factions are incapable of changing their strategies, then they should refrain from hindering the formulation of new ones.

Found in: salam fayyad, palestinian question, palestinian, plo, hamas

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