Commentary Magazine


Topic: Salam Fayyad

Fayyad Explains Why J Street Is Irrelevant

The left-wing lobby J Street didn’t turn out to be the Washington colossus its backers hoped it would be when Barack Obama entered the White House in 2009. Despite having a president who was clearly sympathetic to their point of view, the group has never been able to successfully challenge AIPAC in the contest to see which of them would speak for the pro-Israel community. Nor has it amassed much influence on Capitol Hill and it has often been marginalized by the White House, especially during the 2012 presidential election. But J Street did score a major public-relations victory this spring when the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations voted to exclude it from their ranks. While the vote exposed the resentment much of the organized Jewish world bears for a group that has, from its inception, sought to undercut other groups, it also allowed J Street to play the victim and made it easier for it to say that the mainstream Jewish groups are unrepresentative.

But when J Street convened its annual conference in San Francisco this past weekend, there seemed to be little evidence that it had either amassed the influence it once thought it might have or that its views favoring U.S. pressure on Israel to make concessions for peace were gaining traction. Instead, the group was forced to answer questions as to why anyone should take seriously a group whose views were so obviously out-of-touch with the reality of a Middle East peace process that had broken down again. While J Street may claim that if its positions were adopted, Israel might have been able to finally make peace, that position is given the lie by the Fatah-Hamas unity pact that effectively precludes the Palestinian Authority from ever making peace with Israel. But the real proof of just how clueless J Street is about Israel’s supposed peace partners came from the speakers list at their conference. One of the keynote speakers on the first evening of their conclave was former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who expressed pessimism about peace but urged J Street to persist in its efforts to pressure Israel.

While Fayyad is a Palestinian who is generally admired by mainstream Israelis as well as Americans who are knowledgeable about the Middle East, his presence at the J Street event is telling. While J Street is right to think that Fayyad would be a real partner for peace if he were still in office, his availability to fly to San Francisco tells us something about how representative his opinions actually are. His brand of pragmatism and opposition to both the violence of Hamas and the kleptocracy of Fatah marks him as a man without political constituency among a Palestinian population that prefers both of those two terror groups/political parties to “Fayyadism.” If J Street is to hang its hat on the notion that this person’s ideas are a guarantee that peace is possible, no wonder few in Israel or anywhere else take them seriously.

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The left-wing lobby J Street didn’t turn out to be the Washington colossus its backers hoped it would be when Barack Obama entered the White House in 2009. Despite having a president who was clearly sympathetic to their point of view, the group has never been able to successfully challenge AIPAC in the contest to see which of them would speak for the pro-Israel community. Nor has it amassed much influence on Capitol Hill and it has often been marginalized by the White House, especially during the 2012 presidential election. But J Street did score a major public-relations victory this spring when the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations voted to exclude it from their ranks. While the vote exposed the resentment much of the organized Jewish world bears for a group that has, from its inception, sought to undercut other groups, it also allowed J Street to play the victim and made it easier for it to say that the mainstream Jewish groups are unrepresentative.

But when J Street convened its annual conference in San Francisco this past weekend, there seemed to be little evidence that it had either amassed the influence it once thought it might have or that its views favoring U.S. pressure on Israel to make concessions for peace were gaining traction. Instead, the group was forced to answer questions as to why anyone should take seriously a group whose views were so obviously out-of-touch with the reality of a Middle East peace process that had broken down again. While J Street may claim that if its positions were adopted, Israel might have been able to finally make peace, that position is given the lie by the Fatah-Hamas unity pact that effectively precludes the Palestinian Authority from ever making peace with Israel. But the real proof of just how clueless J Street is about Israel’s supposed peace partners came from the speakers list at their conference. One of the keynote speakers on the first evening of their conclave was former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who expressed pessimism about peace but urged J Street to persist in its efforts to pressure Israel.

While Fayyad is a Palestinian who is generally admired by mainstream Israelis as well as Americans who are knowledgeable about the Middle East, his presence at the J Street event is telling. While J Street is right to think that Fayyad would be a real partner for peace if he were still in office, his availability to fly to San Francisco tells us something about how representative his opinions actually are. His brand of pragmatism and opposition to both the violence of Hamas and the kleptocracy of Fatah marks him as a man without political constituency among a Palestinian population that prefers both of those two terror groups/political parties to “Fayyadism.” If J Street is to hang its hat on the notion that this person’s ideas are a guarantee that peace is possible, no wonder few in Israel or anywhere else take them seriously.

J Street’s positions on the issues that were reiterated at their conference by its leader Jeremy Ben-Ami are a confusing blend of naïveté, leftism, and Zionism. Being “pro-Israel” and “pro-peace” can be a problem in a left-wing milieu where openly anti-Zionist groups like Jewish Voices for Peace are stealing J Street’s thunder. To his credit, Ben-Ami continues to insist that support for BDS (boycott, divest, and sanction) campaigns against Israel are something his group can never support. J Street walks a fine line that is not as attractive to its core constituency of radicals who are more comfortable with BDS than they are with Ben-Ami’s brand of left-wing Zionism.

To compensate for that, the group emphasizes the key points that helped bring it to life as a cheering squad for the Obama administration against the mainstream pro-Israel community. Thus, J Street is not only highlighting its support for continued efforts to revive the peace talks via pressure on Israel and backing the administration’s decision to embrace the Fatah-Hamas unity government. In addition to that it is also seeking to build support for any nuclear deal that Obama might cut with Iran and to oppose congressional efforts to force the administration to keep its word to avert the nuclear threat.

Ben-Ami’s pretense is that this makes J Street a moderate force rather than a Jewish rump of so-called progressive groups like the leftist Moveon.org. But that pose of moderation is just as absurd as clinging to the notion that Fayyad represents Palestinian opinion. As one of the other speakers at the J Street event noted, the Israeli public has repeatedly rejected leftists who agree with the American group and is likely to swing even further to the right in the future. The reason for this is that, unlike liberal American Jews, Israelis have been paying attention to the repeated PA rejections of peace offers and the fact that Fayyad is a man without a party or supporters among the Palestinian people. It’s not that most Israelis don’t want a two-state solution. They do want it. It’s just that they have come to accept the fact that the Palestinians don’t want one.

More than their disgraceful position on Iran or their slavish applause for Obama’s betrayal of Israel on Hamas, the presence of Fayyad at the J Street event shows that they are not only wrong on the issues, they are also irrelevant to any serious discussion about the Middle East.

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Obama’s Embrace of Hamas Betrays Peace

When Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas chose to scuttle peace talks with Israel this spring by deciding to conclude a pact with Hamas rather than the Jewish state, he was taking a calculated risk. In embracing his Islamist rivals, Abbas sought to unify the two leading Palestinian factions not to make peace more possible but to make it impossible. Since Palestinian public opinion–indeed the entire political culture of his people–regards any pact that would recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state as a betrayal of their national identity, bringing Hamas back into the PA fold illustrated that he would not take the sort of risks that peacemaking required.

But given the PA’s almost complete dependency on the United States and Europe for the aid that keeps its corrupt apparatus operating, there was a genuine risk that the unity pact would generate a cutoff of assistance that could topple his kleptocracy. U.S. law mandated such a rupture of relations, as did the officially stated policy of the Obama administration that rightly regards Hamas as a terrorist group, not a legitimate political player. But there was a chance that Washington would accept a Palestinian deception in which technocrats would be appointed to rule in the name of the Fatah-Hamas coalition in order to pretend that the terrorists were not in charge.

In the weeks since the unity pact was concluded it wasn’t clear which way the U.S. would jump on the question of keeping the money flowing to Abbas, though at times Secretary of State John Kerry made appropriate noises at the PA leader about the danger of going into business with Hamas. But today’s press briefing at the State Department removed any doubt about President Obama’s intentions. When asked to react to today’s announcement of a new Fatah-Hamas government in Ramallah, spokesperson Jen Psaki said that the U.S. would accept the Palestinian trick. As the Times of Israel reports:

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday that Washington believes Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has “formed an interim technocratic government…that does not include members affiliated with Hamas.”

“With what we know now, we will work with this government,” Psaki said. She did, however, warn that the US “will continue to evaluate the composition and policies of the new government and if needed we’ll modify our approach.” She later added that the administration would be “watching carefully to make sure” that the unity government upholds the principles that serve as preconditions for continuing US aid to the Palestinian Authority.

In recognizing the fig leaf of a “technocratic” government that is meant to distract the world from the reality that Hamas is now in full partnership with Abbas, the Obama administration may think it has put Israel’s government—which publicly called for the world not to recognize the Palestinian coalition—into a corner. But by discarding its own principles about recognizing unrepentant terror groups, Obama has done more than betrayed Israel. He has betrayed the cause of peace.

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When Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas chose to scuttle peace talks with Israel this spring by deciding to conclude a pact with Hamas rather than the Jewish state, he was taking a calculated risk. In embracing his Islamist rivals, Abbas sought to unify the two leading Palestinian factions not to make peace more possible but to make it impossible. Since Palestinian public opinion–indeed the entire political culture of his people–regards any pact that would recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state as a betrayal of their national identity, bringing Hamas back into the PA fold illustrated that he would not take the sort of risks that peacemaking required.

But given the PA’s almost complete dependency on the United States and Europe for the aid that keeps its corrupt apparatus operating, there was a genuine risk that the unity pact would generate a cutoff of assistance that could topple his kleptocracy. U.S. law mandated such a rupture of relations, as did the officially stated policy of the Obama administration that rightly regards Hamas as a terrorist group, not a legitimate political player. But there was a chance that Washington would accept a Palestinian deception in which technocrats would be appointed to rule in the name of the Fatah-Hamas coalition in order to pretend that the terrorists were not in charge.

In the weeks since the unity pact was concluded it wasn’t clear which way the U.S. would jump on the question of keeping the money flowing to Abbas, though at times Secretary of State John Kerry made appropriate noises at the PA leader about the danger of going into business with Hamas. But today’s press briefing at the State Department removed any doubt about President Obama’s intentions. When asked to react to today’s announcement of a new Fatah-Hamas government in Ramallah, spokesperson Jen Psaki said that the U.S. would accept the Palestinian trick. As the Times of Israel reports:

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday that Washington believes Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has “formed an interim technocratic government…that does not include members affiliated with Hamas.”

“With what we know now, we will work with this government,” Psaki said. She did, however, warn that the US “will continue to evaluate the composition and policies of the new government and if needed we’ll modify our approach.” She later added that the administration would be “watching carefully to make sure” that the unity government upholds the principles that serve as preconditions for continuing US aid to the Palestinian Authority.

In recognizing the fig leaf of a “technocratic” government that is meant to distract the world from the reality that Hamas is now in full partnership with Abbas, the Obama administration may think it has put Israel’s government—which publicly called for the world not to recognize the Palestinian coalition—into a corner. But by discarding its own principles about recognizing unrepentant terror groups, Obama has done more than betrayed Israel. He has betrayed the cause of peace.

It would be a mistake to waste much time debating whether the cabinet Abbas has presented to the world is not really affiliated with Hamas. The people he has appointed are nothing but stand-ins for the real power brokers in Palestinian politics—the leaders of Fatah who lord it over those portions of the West Bank under the sway of the PA and the Hamas chieftains who have ruled Gaza with an iron fist since the 2007 coup in which they seized power there. Just like Abbas’s previous attempt to swindle the West into thinking that the PA intended to embrace reform during Salam Fayyad’s ill-fated term as prime minister, the “technocratic” cabinet isn’t fooling anyone. Americans and Israelis may have lauded Fayyadism as a path to a responsible Palestinian government that would eschew corruption and try to actually improve the lives of its people. But Fayyad was a man without a political constituency and, despite the support he had in Washington, was thrown overboard by Abbas and the PA went back to business as usual without a backward glance.

Nor is there any use arguing about whether it is Hamas that has been co-opted by Abbas and Fatah rather than the other way around. The two rival parties have very different visions of Palestinian society with Hamas hoping to eventually install the same kind of theocratic rule in the West Bank that it established in the independent Palestinian state in all but name in Gaza. But at the moment there is no fundamental difference between the two on dealing with Israel. Despite its unwillingness to recognize Israel even in principle and its refusal to back away from its charter that calls for the Jewish state’s destruction and the slaughter of its people, Hamas doesn’t want an open war with Israel anymore than Fatah. But by the same token, Fatah has demonstrated repeatedly over the last 15 years that it is as incapable of making peace with Israel, even on terms that would have gained it sovereignty over almost all of the West Bank and a share of Jerusalem, as Hamas. The two parties are genuinely unified in their desire to keep chipping away at Israel’s international legitimacy and to avoid peace at any cost.

Admitting this would be a bitter pill for an Obama administration that has invested heavily in Abbas, a man they have wrongly portrayed as a peacemaker even as they have vilified Netanyahu as an obstacle to a deal. So rather than honestly assessing their policy and owning up to the fact that five and a half years of attempts to appease Abbas and tilt the diplomatic playing field in his direction have done nothing to make him say yes to peace, the administration will go along with the PA’s deception.

That’s a blow to Israel, which now finds itself more isolated than ever. But the real betrayal doesn’t involve Obama’s broken promises to the Jewish state or to pro-Israel voters. By buying into the myth that Hamas isn’t involved with the new PA government, the president is putting a spike into the last remote chances for a peace deal in the foreseeable future. So long as the Palestinians are allowed to believe that there is no price to be paid for rejecting peace, there will be no change in their attitudes. By allowing American taxpayer dollars to flow to a government controlled in part by Hamas, Obama is violating U.S. law. But he’s also signaling that the U.S. has no intention of ever pressuring the Palestinians to take the two-state solution they’ve been repeatedly offered by Israel and always rejected. For a president that is obsessed with his legacy, that’s a mistake for which history ought never to forgive him.

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Nakba Day and Plausible Peace Plans

The market for new Middle East peace plans is pretty much like that available for diets. Just as there will never be a shortage of schemes offering you a way to lose weight by various means, the supply of “new” solutions to the conflict in the Middle East is a well that never runs dry. The latest entry to what is a growing genre comes from Israeli journalist and author Ari Shavit, whose book—My Promised Land—on the conflict got generally favorable reviews in the United States. Writing in the New Republic, Shavit offers what he claims is not only a new approach but a “plausible” one that seeks to learn from the mistakes made by the peace processors in the more than 20 years since the Oslo Accords.

Like that book (which was subjected to a thorough and withering takedown by the irreplaceable Ruth Wisse), whose superficial evenhandedness endeared it to both liberal Jewish friends of Israel and many who are not its friends, Shavit’s plan sounds smart and also avoids the clichés about Israelis needing to search their souls or having to be saved from themselves by wise foreigners. Indeed, there is much to recommend it. Shavit counsels that we should forget about what he calls “Old Peace” with its obsession with crafting grand agreements and promoting White House ceremonies and instead concentrate on “New Peace”—an idea that will focus on Palestinian economic development and reform as a way to transition them and their Israeli neighbors to accepting a two state solution that will be based on ending the conflict rather than merely pausing it. But the idea isn’t new. Though he gives the back of his hand to Israel’s current government as being part of the problem rather than the solution, this concept of fostering change on the ground as the foundation for genuine reconciliation is what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been advocating for years even as he has accepted a two-state solution as the basis for agreements.

But as smart as this may be, the problem with Shavit’s “New Peace” is pretty much the same as the shortcomings with the old variety. And the evidence of the impractical nature of his plan is very much on display today as the Palestinians and their cheerleaders around the world celebrate “Nakba Day.” May 15 is the anniversary of Israel’s Independence in 1948, an event that Palestinians refer to as the “disaster” or nakba. The parades, speeches, and vows of eliminating the Jewish state that are echoing throughout the political culture of the Palestinians today are proof that, at least for the foreseeable future, such practical plans as that of Shavit, which require them to put aside their historic grudges and focus on building a productive future, haven’t got a chance.

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The market for new Middle East peace plans is pretty much like that available for diets. Just as there will never be a shortage of schemes offering you a way to lose weight by various means, the supply of “new” solutions to the conflict in the Middle East is a well that never runs dry. The latest entry to what is a growing genre comes from Israeli journalist and author Ari Shavit, whose book—My Promised Land—on the conflict got generally favorable reviews in the United States. Writing in the New Republic, Shavit offers what he claims is not only a new approach but a “plausible” one that seeks to learn from the mistakes made by the peace processors in the more than 20 years since the Oslo Accords.

Like that book (which was subjected to a thorough and withering takedown by the irreplaceable Ruth Wisse), whose superficial evenhandedness endeared it to both liberal Jewish friends of Israel and many who are not its friends, Shavit’s plan sounds smart and also avoids the clichés about Israelis needing to search their souls or having to be saved from themselves by wise foreigners. Indeed, there is much to recommend it. Shavit counsels that we should forget about what he calls “Old Peace” with its obsession with crafting grand agreements and promoting White House ceremonies and instead concentrate on “New Peace”—an idea that will focus on Palestinian economic development and reform as a way to transition them and their Israeli neighbors to accepting a two state solution that will be based on ending the conflict rather than merely pausing it. But the idea isn’t new. Though he gives the back of his hand to Israel’s current government as being part of the problem rather than the solution, this concept of fostering change on the ground as the foundation for genuine reconciliation is what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been advocating for years even as he has accepted a two-state solution as the basis for agreements.

But as smart as this may be, the problem with Shavit’s “New Peace” is pretty much the same as the shortcomings with the old variety. And the evidence of the impractical nature of his plan is very much on display today as the Palestinians and their cheerleaders around the world celebrate “Nakba Day.” May 15 is the anniversary of Israel’s Independence in 1948, an event that Palestinians refer to as the “disaster” or nakba. The parades, speeches, and vows of eliminating the Jewish state that are echoing throughout the political culture of the Palestinians today are proof that, at least for the foreseeable future, such practical plans as that of Shavit, which require them to put aside their historic grudges and focus on building a productive future, haven’t got a chance.

Shavit’s plan requires Israel to enact a total freeze on building in those Jewish settlements in the West Bank that are beyond the security fence. That’s a measure that wouldn’t inconvenience Israel all that much since almost all of the new housing beyond the 1967 lines is in Jerusalem and the settlement blocs that are inside the fence and would be kept by Israel in any peace agreement. But Shavit also says that Israel should withdraw completely from large swaths of the West Bank and that each such area would become an economic opportunity zone for Palestinian entrepreneurs where a free-market economy would grow without the debilitating corruption of the current Palestinian Authority.

The zones would be aided by the Arab states and the European Union and overseen by the United States. This new spirit of growth would foster a different civil political culture that would replace the old Palestinian one in which national identity is inextricably tied to war to the death against Zionism. Only by recreating themselves in this manner will Palestinians ever be willing to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders would be drawn. As Shavit writes:

The new Palestinian moderates can grow and prosper within the protective greenhouse of a New Peace structure that will expand the Palestinian geographic, political, and economic space—year by year, quarter by quarter. If at any given point in time the Palestinians are better off than in the previous point in time, there is hope. A new generation of modernized and globalized West Bankers may find reconciliation with their Israeli neighbors essential—and feasible. Over time, a benign Palestine may be established and a two-state steady-state may come to be.

Anyone who cares about Israel or the Palestinians should hope it someday becomes a reality. But the problem with what Shavit calls “Fayyadism”—named for the reform-minded former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad—was amply illustrated by his failure. Despite the praise showered on him by Americans, Europeans, and Israelis and the aid they sought to give him, Fayyad and other like-minded Palestinians have no discernible constituency among their own people. The corrupt kleptocrats of Fatah and the terrorists of Hamas and Islamic Jihad may have nothing to offer Palestinians but more of the same blood, privation, and failure they’ve been giving them throughout the century-old conflict over the land with the Jews, but they remain the only viable factions.

Shavit’s reference to his opportunity zones as a “greenhouse” is telling. It should be remembered that when Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, wealthy American Jews bought the greenhouses built by Jewish settlers in order to give them to local Arabs who could then build their economy. But the greenhouses were destroyed in a paroxysm of Palestinian rage against anything connected to the Jews hours after the Israelis left. Much as Shavit might hope that Israeli withdrawals in the West Bank will produce a different result, there is no reason to think that any land abandoned to the Palestinians will not be converted to terrorist hotbeds, much as the independent Palestinian state in all but name in Gaza soon became.

Unlike most foreign critics of Israel, Shavit understands that Israelis have become disillusioned with the peace process not because they want to rule over the Palestinians but because every previous peace deal has resulted in a trade of land for terror, not peace. He’d like the next time to be different, but offers no safeguards for that other than vague talk about American supervision. But does he really think Americans wish to take up the job of counter-terrorism in the West Bank currently done by Israelis just when they’ve tired of fighting counter-insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Shavit knows that Palestinians must change if they are ever to have peace or sovereignty. But the idea that this change can be imposed upon them from the outside or be the result of foreign investment projects is to engage in the same kind of magical thinking that has sunk every “Old Peace” venture in the last generation. The sea change in Palestinian political culture that will finally give up the fight to reverse the verdict of the Nakba must come from within. Until it does, Shavit’s peace plan, like every other one proposed by Americans or Israelis from the left, right, and center, is a waste of time.

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Kerry’s Regime-Change Fantasy

Despite the attention received by yesterday’s scoop from the Daily Beast’s Josh Rogin, in which we learned that Secretary of State John Kerry raised the specter of Israeli apartheid, it probably deserves a bit more. That’s because there was more to Kerry’s comments than the apartheid claim, and they demonstrate the extent of Kerry’s ignorance on Middle Eastern politics. As Rogin notes:

It wasn’t the only controversial comment on the Middle East that Kerry made during his remarks to the Trilateral Commission, a recording of which was obtained by The Daily Beast. Kerry also repeated his warning that a failure of Middle East peace talks could lead to a resumption of Palestinian violence against Israeli citizens. He suggested that a change in either the Israeli or Palestinian leadership could make achieving a peace deal more feasible. He lashed out against Israeli settlement-building. And Kerry said that both Israeli and Palestinian leaders share the blame for the current impasse in the talks.

The key part in that parade of nonsense is: “He suggested that a change in either the Israeli or Palestinian leadership could make achieving a peace deal more feasible.” The most harmful effect of such comments is not that they insult Israeli and Palestinian leaders–they do, but Kerry doesn’t care, and they’re all adults anyway and can roll with the punches. The real danger here is that Kerry is revealing that he doesn’t know anything about Israeli or Palestinian politics if he thinks that “regime change,” so to speak, on either side might get him closer to his Nobel Prize.

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Despite the attention received by yesterday’s scoop from the Daily Beast’s Josh Rogin, in which we learned that Secretary of State John Kerry raised the specter of Israeli apartheid, it probably deserves a bit more. That’s because there was more to Kerry’s comments than the apartheid claim, and they demonstrate the extent of Kerry’s ignorance on Middle Eastern politics. As Rogin notes:

It wasn’t the only controversial comment on the Middle East that Kerry made during his remarks to the Trilateral Commission, a recording of which was obtained by The Daily Beast. Kerry also repeated his warning that a failure of Middle East peace talks could lead to a resumption of Palestinian violence against Israeli citizens. He suggested that a change in either the Israeli or Palestinian leadership could make achieving a peace deal more feasible. He lashed out against Israeli settlement-building. And Kerry said that both Israeli and Palestinian leaders share the blame for the current impasse in the talks.

The key part in that parade of nonsense is: “He suggested that a change in either the Israeli or Palestinian leadership could make achieving a peace deal more feasible.” The most harmful effect of such comments is not that they insult Israeli and Palestinian leaders–they do, but Kerry doesn’t care, and they’re all adults anyway and can roll with the punches. The real danger here is that Kerry is revealing that he doesn’t know anything about Israeli or Palestinian politics if he thinks that “regime change,” so to speak, on either side might get him closer to his Nobel Prize.

On the Israeli side, the idea of helping to collapse Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition to get more obedient peaceniks in office is an ongoing farce during the Obama presidency. Even the president’s staunch defenders noticed quite early on that he was intent on spending energy and political capital trying to compel change in the Israeli coalition so he could get what he wanted. (This is the same administration that legitimized Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “election” “victory” in Iran.)

Barack Obama’s irrational hatred of Netanyahu was mirrored by the left in general, so he didn’t get quite the pushback such a scheme deserved. Putting aside the moral implications of destabilizing an ally in order to control it, the Obama administration should have learned by now that it would fail anyway. There has been an election since Obama’s early Mideast foibles, and that election produced a governing coalition that reflected precisely what I talked about last week: There is a broad political consensus in Israel, especially regarding the peace process, and Israeli democracy, however imperfect, tends to keep that consensus in office.

What the Obama administration wants for Israel is not what the Israeli people want for their country. The beauty of democracy is that this can be expressed at the ballot box for all to see. Kerry, then, has no excuse. We all know he’s wrong about Israeli politics, and thanks to regular parliamentary elections there’s no hiding it. Kerry, for obvious reasons, did not have much credibility on this issue to begin with; he would be foolish to bury whatever’s left of it with such pronouncements.

He is no less wrong about the Palestinians, but for different reasons. I can understand any frustration he might have with Mahmoud Abbas. The PA leader demanded pricey preconditions even to participate in talks, and then abandoned them to run into the arms of Hamas. Though it should have been obvious from the beginning that Abbas was not going to make peace and that he was playing Kerry, it probably still stings.

But who, exactly, does Kerry think is waiting in the wings to replace Abbas? Palestinian society is shot-through with hatred for Jews and anti-Semitic propaganda, and the high-profile alternative to Abbas’s crew has always been the more extreme Hamas. Additionally, Salam Fayyad’s exit from the PA government proved that the Palestinian Authority couldn’t even tolerate a reformer whose hands they had already tied. The mere presence of a man with liberalizing ideas was enough for the antibodies to attack the infection.

The Fayyad fiasco shows something else: it’s not true that there aren’t Palestinian moderates or Palestinians who want peace (or would at least prefer it to their leaders’ bombs-and-poverty governance). But they do not appear to be in the majority and, even more significantly, they do not reside in a democracy. Abbas governs by suffocating authoritarianism. There is simply no institutional structure to empower moderates.

This is one reason Fayyad’s departure was so deeply mourned in the West. Even when stymied by his rivals, Fayyad accomplished something modest by simply existing within the Palestinian bureaucracy. Though he couldn’t put his ideas into practice, he could infuse the internal debate with them and perhaps even hire likeminded staffers who, in the future, would be nearer the levers of power and greater in number. It might have been a long shot, but it was something.

As the American aid to the PA and Israeli military cooperation with it demonstrates, the alternatives to Abbas currently are unthinkable as peace partners and almost uniformly more enamored of violence. Abbas is no hero, but if Kerry thinks a change in Palestinian leadership would benefit his quest for peace, he’s even more confused than he appears.

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Hamdallah, We Hardly Knew Ye

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas thought he was getting a pliant, user-friendly prime minister when he appointed Rami Hamdallah to replace Salam Fayyad. But two weeks after Abbas replaced the Western favorite who tried to rid the PA of corruption with what was thought to be a reliably pro-Fatah academic, he now finds himself looking for another replacement. Hamdallah quit today and, according to Reuters, posted an explanation on his Facebook page that said the decision was due to “outside interferences in his powers and duties.” In other words, even though, unlike Fayyad, Hamdallah was a Fatah Party member with no known political ambitions of his own, he still found it impossible to act as a façade for the PA kleptocracy.

Contrary to the slant of the Reuters piece, the main complication of this event for the PA isn’t the fact that Secretary of State John Kerry will be going back to the Middle East soon in his quixotic effort to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The Palestinians aren’t going to go back to the table to negotiate with Israel no matter who is their prime minister and everyone except Kerry knows it. Abbas’s problem is finding a respectable front man for the PA in order to keep foreign aid pouring in to his government. With Fayyad, who was the first Palestinian leader to ever try to improve the lot of his people, there was a hope that the PA could be transformed from the corrupt fiefdom created by Yasir Arafat. Without him, all Abbas has to offer the West are Fatah functionaries who know their only job is to make sure the theft and graft that Fayyad tried to stop resumes.

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Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas thought he was getting a pliant, user-friendly prime minister when he appointed Rami Hamdallah to replace Salam Fayyad. But two weeks after Abbas replaced the Western favorite who tried to rid the PA of corruption with what was thought to be a reliably pro-Fatah academic, he now finds himself looking for another replacement. Hamdallah quit today and, according to Reuters, posted an explanation on his Facebook page that said the decision was due to “outside interferences in his powers and duties.” In other words, even though, unlike Fayyad, Hamdallah was a Fatah Party member with no known political ambitions of his own, he still found it impossible to act as a façade for the PA kleptocracy.

Contrary to the slant of the Reuters piece, the main complication of this event for the PA isn’t the fact that Secretary of State John Kerry will be going back to the Middle East soon in his quixotic effort to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The Palestinians aren’t going to go back to the table to negotiate with Israel no matter who is their prime minister and everyone except Kerry knows it. Abbas’s problem is finding a respectable front man for the PA in order to keep foreign aid pouring in to his government. With Fayyad, who was the first Palestinian leader to ever try to improve the lot of his people, there was a hope that the PA could be transformed from the corrupt fiefdom created by Yasir Arafat. Without him, all Abbas has to offer the West are Fatah functionaries who know their only job is to make sure the theft and graft that Fayyad tried to stop resumes.

There’s no telling what Hamdallah might have accomplished had he stayed in office and tried to follow in Fayyad’s footsteps. But even before, as scholar Jonathan Schanzer said on Twitter, New York Times pundit and Fayyad cheerleader Thomas Friedman got a chance to write a column praising Hamdallahism, the new PM realized that he was there to play the fool for Abbas and his cronies and wouldn’t play along.

But before we waste too much time lamenting yet another lost opportunity for the Palestinians to change their lives, let’s understand that Hamdallah would have faced the same problem that sunk Fayyad had he stayed in office. The Palestinian political culture remains one in which a focus on good government or transparency is a minor concern. Fayyad was a man without a party or a political constituency when he tried to change the West Bank. That doesn’t just mean that he was without the support of a major faction such as Fatah. It means that by stopping corruption he placed himself in a position where he threatened the vast network of no-show and no-work jobs (paid for with foreign contributions) that employ a significant percentage of the Palestinian workforce. Not only could Fayyad not count on any organization or grass roots groups with Palestinian society to support him, he knew all too well that the organizations and people that run things were determined to stop him. No amount of Israeli or American support could have saved Fayyad, and the same would have been true of Hamdallah.

A PA that is too belligerent and too weak to make peace with Israel is a bad bet for foreign donors, but don’t expect that to stop the Europeans and perhaps even Kerry from continuing to try to bribe the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table or to create a viable government. It won’t work. As Fayyad and Hamdallah learned, the point of Palestinian politics is to perpetuate the conflict with Israel and to enrich Fatah officials. Anyone who gets in the way of that will last as long as Hamdallah did. 

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The End of Palestinian Reform

Many in the West have been in denial about the demise of the one genuine moderate in Palestinian politics. But it’s no longer possible to deny that Fayyadism is officially dead and buried. The long anticipated replacement of Salam Fayyad as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority finally happened yesterday. PA head Mahmoud Abbas named Rami Hamdallah as Fayyad’s successor. But not even those news outlets most dedicated to publishing happy talk about the PA and downplaying its endemic corruption could pretend that this is anything but a retrograde move. Far from continuing the American-educated technocrat’s policies aimed at stopping corruption and facilitating development, even the New York Times admits that Hamdallah is likely to keep foreign donations “in the family” and return the PA back to the bad old days when Yasir Arafat and his cronies were pocketing billions intended to better the lives of ordinary Palestinians.

Some Palestinians questioned the effect of Mr. Hamdallah’s appointment on the confidence of foreign donor nations whose funds keep the Palestinian Authority functioning. Some also suggested that Mr. Hamdallah’s closeness to Fatah meant that there would be fewer checks and balances. Mr. Fayyad was a political independent that was often at loggerheads with Fatah. The Palestinian Parliament has not functioned since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, a year after winning Palestinian elections.

One Palestinian expert, speaking on the condition of anonymity to talk frankly, said that Mr. Abbas had appointed a prime minister “from within the family,” harking back to the era of Yasir Arafat, Mr. Abbas’s predecessor. Then, the expert said, things were run “like a family business, and that was not healthy.”

The Fayyad experiment in reform was largely the result of pressure from the Bush administration to democratize the PA and to get it working on improving the lives of Palestinians in order to strengthen its case for independence. But by appointing Hamdallah, Abbas is showing that he not only doesn’t give a damn what the Obama administration thinks but that he believes a return to Arafat’s ways won’t bring about any consequences from Washington.

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Many in the West have been in denial about the demise of the one genuine moderate in Palestinian politics. But it’s no longer possible to deny that Fayyadism is officially dead and buried. The long anticipated replacement of Salam Fayyad as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority finally happened yesterday. PA head Mahmoud Abbas named Rami Hamdallah as Fayyad’s successor. But not even those news outlets most dedicated to publishing happy talk about the PA and downplaying its endemic corruption could pretend that this is anything but a retrograde move. Far from continuing the American-educated technocrat’s policies aimed at stopping corruption and facilitating development, even the New York Times admits that Hamdallah is likely to keep foreign donations “in the family” and return the PA back to the bad old days when Yasir Arafat and his cronies were pocketing billions intended to better the lives of ordinary Palestinians.

Some Palestinians questioned the effect of Mr. Hamdallah’s appointment on the confidence of foreign donor nations whose funds keep the Palestinian Authority functioning. Some also suggested that Mr. Hamdallah’s closeness to Fatah meant that there would be fewer checks and balances. Mr. Fayyad was a political independent that was often at loggerheads with Fatah. The Palestinian Parliament has not functioned since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, a year after winning Palestinian elections.

One Palestinian expert, speaking on the condition of anonymity to talk frankly, said that Mr. Abbas had appointed a prime minister “from within the family,” harking back to the era of Yasir Arafat, Mr. Abbas’s predecessor. Then, the expert said, things were run “like a family business, and that was not healthy.”

The Fayyad experiment in reform was largely the result of pressure from the Bush administration to democratize the PA and to get it working on improving the lives of Palestinians in order to strengthen its case for independence. But by appointing Hamdallah, Abbas is showing that he not only doesn’t give a damn what the Obama administration thinks but that he believes a return to Arafat’s ways won’t bring about any consequences from Washington.

The most credible observer of Palestinian politics, Khaled Abu Toameh, was even more pointed than the Times:

For Abbas and Fatah, Fayyad, a widely respected economist, posed a real problem and threat. As long as Fayyad was prime minister, it was almost impossible for Abbas and Fatah to lay their hands on hundreds of millions of dollars of international aid. …

Yet more important than getting rid of Fayyad was finding an uncharismatic and inexperienced figure that would play the role of the loyal and dutiful servant of Abbas and Fatah leaders. …

In this regard, Hamdallah will not be different from any official working in Abbas’s office. In fact, some Palestinians reacted jokingly to the appointment by saying that a secretary in Abbas’s office has more powers than the new prime minister.

Fayyad’s intentions as far as changing the political culture of the Palestinians were clear. He wanted to clean up the PA’s act and create a new constituency for policies oriented toward prosperity and peace, rather than the perpetual war fever and hatred for Israelis and Jews that keep both Fatah and Hamas afloat. But rather than being sandbagged by the U.S. and Israel, as Fayyad and some of his foreign supporters falsely claimed, his problem was always Abbas and the Fatah Party that bitterly resented his interference in their plans to keep foreign money from falling into the hands of the party and its leaders as had been the case when Arafat ruled.

Fayyad’s activities were also a threat to Abbas’s continued refusal to negotiate with Israel since the development plans he championed were predicated on the notion of a two-state solution. Without him, Abbas can continue to talk about peace to Western audiences while continuing to fuel the fires of hatred among Palestinians with no worries about Fayyad’s efforts undermining his strategy.

Without Fayyad, the pretense that the PA is anything but a kleptocracy is now gone. So, too, should the flow of American and European money to Abbas.

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What the West Should Learn from the Fayyad-Cohen Spat

The spat between New York Times columnist Roger Cohen and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad must be afflicting liberals with severe cognitive dissonance. But there’s a very important lesson to be drawn from it.

The contretemps began when Cohen published a column on Friday that included numerous direct quotes from Fayyad, many of which were highly unflattering to the Palestinian Authority’s ruling party, Fatah. “This party, Fatah, is going to break down, there is so much disenchantment,” Cohen quoted Fayyad as saying. “Our story is a story of failed leadership, from way early on. It is incredible that the fate of the Palestinian people has been in the hands of leaders so entirely casual, so guided by spur-of-the-moment decisions, without seriousness. We don’t strategize, we cut deals in a tactical way and we hold ourselves hostage to our own rhetoric.”

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The spat between New York Times columnist Roger Cohen and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad must be afflicting liberals with severe cognitive dissonance. But there’s a very important lesson to be drawn from it.

The contretemps began when Cohen published a column on Friday that included numerous direct quotes from Fayyad, many of which were highly unflattering to the Palestinian Authority’s ruling party, Fatah. “This party, Fatah, is going to break down, there is so much disenchantment,” Cohen quoted Fayyad as saying. “Our story is a story of failed leadership, from way early on. It is incredible that the fate of the Palestinian people has been in the hands of leaders so entirely casual, so guided by spur-of-the-moment decisions, without seriousness. We don’t strategize, we cut deals in a tactical way and we hold ourselves hostage to our own rhetoric.”

Fayyad promptly issued a denial. “The statements in the article are just journalist Roger Cohen’s personal impressions, and certainly not the words of Fayyad, who did not make any statements or conduct interviews for the New York Times or any other newspaper or agency since his resignation,” his statement declared. He also accused the paper of “forgery that carries political dimensions with the goal of causing damage and fomenting strife in order to serve positions that are hostile to the Palestinians and their national project at this sensitive and critical phase.”

So to put it bluntly, either the star columnist for America’s leading liberal newspaper fabricated quotes and put them in the mouth of a man he never even spoke with, or America’s favorite Palestinian leader just told a bald-faced lie.

To anyone familiar with the Palestinian scene, it’s not hard to conclude that the liar is Fayyad: He’s the one whose life is literally on the line. One Fatah legislator has already called for indicting him on charges of “crimes against the Palestinian people.” But the more serious danger is that Fatah has plenty of experienced killers with no qualms about shooting fellow Palestinians who upset them: See, for instance, the assassinations and attempted assassinations of a senior PA security officer, a Fatah legislator and a governor of Jenin, all attributed by Palestinians to a power struggle between rival Fatah groups.

But this incident ought to give pause to anyone who is quick to believe every Palestinian atrocity story about Israel. Fayyad has bodyguards; he enjoys the protection of being in the international spotlight; and international credibility is his essential stock-in-trade. Thus, if even he feels threatened enough to risk his credibility by telling bald-faced lies to protect himself, that’s all the more true of ordinary Palestinians, who lack Fayyad’s protections and don’t care about their overseas credibility.

For a Palestinian, it’s always safest to accuse Israel of brutality and abuse, even if the accusations are completely false, because Israeli soldiers won’t kill him for such libels–whereas Palestinian gunmen very well might murder him as a “collaborator” if he went on record as saying, for instance, that Israeli soldiers treated him decently.           

So perhaps next time, Westerners should stop and think before uncritically accepting Palestinian atrocity tales as truth. For if Fayyad could so brazenly lie about Cohen, then other Palestinians could just as easily be lying about Israel.

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The Misleading Fayyad Blame Game

The political demise of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad continues to drive much of the discussion about the dead-in-the-water Middle East peace process in the media. Thus, it’s no surprise that Fayyad’s No. 1 fan at the New York Times would weigh in today on the paper’s op-ed page to perform his own postmortem on the death of “Fayyadism.” Thomas Friedman, who modestly takes credit for coining the term, writes today that there is plenty of blame to go around for his favorite’s failure. He rightly notes that both PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah Party and their Hamas rivals always wanted to get rid of Fayyad–the factor that I wrote last week was the main reason Fayyadism was doomed from the start. But Friedman also puts forward a theory about the American and Israeli responsibility for Fayyad’s failure.

According to this line of argument, which is rapidly being incorporated into the catechism of Israel-bashers, the cutoff of U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority by Congress as well as the withholding of various revenues by the Israelis precipitated Fayyad’s end. In this telling, without the cash to keep the Palestinian economy afloat, Fayyad’s reform agenda and administration rapidly collapsed, allowing his enemies to force him out. This narrative holds that it was these cuts, which were implemented to punish the PA for its decision to go to the United Nations to pursue independence rather than to negotiate for it in peace talks, were counterproductive and ultimately responsible for the exit of the only Palestinian leader who could be said to care about his people or peace.

But while this way of looking at things is convenient for those who always prefer to blame the Israelis and the pro-Israel community in the United States for everything that happens in the Middle East, it is completely illogical.

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The political demise of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad continues to drive much of the discussion about the dead-in-the-water Middle East peace process in the media. Thus, it’s no surprise that Fayyad’s No. 1 fan at the New York Times would weigh in today on the paper’s op-ed page to perform his own postmortem on the death of “Fayyadism.” Thomas Friedman, who modestly takes credit for coining the term, writes today that there is plenty of blame to go around for his favorite’s failure. He rightly notes that both PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah Party and their Hamas rivals always wanted to get rid of Fayyad–the factor that I wrote last week was the main reason Fayyadism was doomed from the start. But Friedman also puts forward a theory about the American and Israeli responsibility for Fayyad’s failure.

According to this line of argument, which is rapidly being incorporated into the catechism of Israel-bashers, the cutoff of U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority by Congress as well as the withholding of various revenues by the Israelis precipitated Fayyad’s end. In this telling, without the cash to keep the Palestinian economy afloat, Fayyad’s reform agenda and administration rapidly collapsed, allowing his enemies to force him out. This narrative holds that it was these cuts, which were implemented to punish the PA for its decision to go to the United Nations to pursue independence rather than to negotiate for it in peace talks, were counterproductive and ultimately responsible for the exit of the only Palestinian leader who could be said to care about his people or peace.

But while this way of looking at things is convenient for those who always prefer to blame the Israelis and the pro-Israel community in the United States for everything that happens in the Middle East, it is completely illogical.

As even Friedman admits, Fayyad was adamantly opposed to the PA’s UN gambit that was nothing more than a way to evade peace talks since Abbas was unable and/or unwilling to ever make a deal with the Israelis. By placing the full force of U.S. policy on the same side as Fayyad, the Obama administration, Congress and Israel were backing up the PA prime minister, not undermining him. The PA remains completely dependent on foreign aid from the West, and using this leverage was the only way for President Obama and the Israelis to convey to Abbas that he should listen to Fayyad rather than make a grand gesture at the UN that would do nothing for the Palestinian people.

Fayyad was, of course, completely right. Abbas’s end run around the U.S.-sponsored peace process did nothing for the Palestinians. Though, after more than a year of effort, they got the UN General Assembly to pass a symbolic measure that upgraded the PA’s observer status at the world body, that did not bring them the independence that could only be won by ending the conflict with Israel.

But instead of admitting that Fayyad was correct, the Fatah Party blamed him for the collapse of the kleptocracy that was funded by foreign money. Palestinian woes were not the fault of Fayyad’s austerity policies but the fruit of a system in which no-work and no-show jobs for a vast army of Fatah backers was the backbone of the West Bank’s economy. For all of Fayyad’s much-praised efforts to improve the PA’s government and to create economic growth, he remained unable to change that fundamental fact of Palestinian life. The so-called “diplomatic tsunami” that was supposed to overwhelm Israel as a result of this debate also fizzled.

Friedman acknowledges that there is no hope for the Palestinians so long as “there is no place” for a man like Fayyad in their government. But he fails to draw the proper conclusions from this point. The Fatah party that had no use for a person who was an obstacle to their corrupt practices sabotaged Fayyad. But the reason why they could get away with this is that Fayyad had no political constituency of his own. That was not just because he was more of a technocrat than a politician. The lack of any appreciable support for Fayyad demonstrates that the Palestinian political culture remains hostile to his message of development and coexistence. Though left-wing critics of Israel continue to pretend that Palestinians want peace, terror-oriented groups like Fatah and Hamas can count on a virtual monopoly of public support in both the West Bank and Gaza.

While Friedman admits that Arab dissatisfaction with autocrats like Hosni Mubarak or Mahmoud Abbas won’t inevitably lead to liberalism, he still holds to the idea that if Fayyad had been given enough foreign support, he might have prevailed. In fact, he did have the support of the U.S. and Israel, but there isn’t enough money in the United States or Israel to buy Fayyad a loyal base of Palestinian supporters. Blaming the pro-Israel community in the United States—Friedman’s favorite whipping boy that he alleges has “bought” Congress—for seeking to hold the PA accountable for its actions is absurd.

If the two-state solution to the Middle East conflict is dead, it is not because some Israelis and Americans have not tried hard enough to help a friendly Palestinian. It is because that favored Palestinian hadn’t the support at home to keep him going. Until there is a sea change in Palestinian culture to allow a Fayyad to succeed, no amount of U.S. aid or Israeli diplomatic concessions will create a viable partner with whom the Jewish state can make peace. 

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Fayyad and the Failure of U.S. Foreign Aid

The departure of Salam Fayyad from the Palestinian government presents an easy trap for outside observers to fall into: because nothing much will change once he’s gone, it will be assumed that nothing much would have changed had he stayed. That may be true, but American officials would be gravely mistaken to believe it was inevitable.

In truth, the great tragedy of “Fayyadism”–technocratic reform and the building of functional state institutions–is not that it failed but that it never existed. As Nathan Brown wrote for his report on Fayyadism for the Carnegie Endowment, state building under Fayyad was a mirage. Brown’s report has been widely cited ever since, but it’s worth pointing out the part of Brown’s diagnosis that was so widely ignored in favor of blaming only Israel or PA factional politics. Brown wrote:

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The departure of Salam Fayyad from the Palestinian government presents an easy trap for outside observers to fall into: because nothing much will change once he’s gone, it will be assumed that nothing much would have changed had he stayed. That may be true, but American officials would be gravely mistaken to believe it was inevitable.

In truth, the great tragedy of “Fayyadism”–technocratic reform and the building of functional state institutions–is not that it failed but that it never existed. As Nathan Brown wrote for his report on Fayyadism for the Carnegie Endowment, state building under Fayyad was a mirage. Brown’s report has been widely cited ever since, but it’s worth pointing out the part of Brown’s diagnosis that was so widely ignored in favor of blaming only Israel or PA factional politics. Brown wrote:

The focus on Fayyad’s personal virtues has obscured a series of unhealthy political developments and mistakes honest administration for sound politics. The entire program is based not simply on de-emphasizing or postponing democracy and human rights but on actively denying them for the present. The effect of this approach—taken perhaps more out of necessity than conviction—is not merely troubling but also deeply debilitating and self-defeating.

A functional Palestinian state that will accept a two-state solution, as Jonathan wrote yesterday, cannot be created through the will and declaration of a despot. The Palestinians must create a state before they can have a state. But as Brown’s report makes clear, the lack of any democratic character will impede the process of state building so effectively as to make it futile. Brown conceded that Fayyad has been able to manage the institutions currently in place since the reign of Arafat, but “he has done so in an authoritarian context that robs the results of domestic legitimacy.” Fayyad, therefore, isn’t blameless in his unpopularity.

But someone like Fayyad, who is less corrupt and much more supportive of peaceful measures than the clowns to the left of him and the jokers to his right, is still far preferable to any alternatives. Which raises the question: what is the American role in all this? The U.S. gives hundreds of millions of dollars a year to the Palestinian government, yet the institutions don’t get built, and the Palestinian government gets no more democratic from year to year. (If anything, the opposite happens, since every year that passes puts Mahmoud Abbas one year further from when his term legally ended.)

The answer is not to de-fund the Palestinian Authority, since that would only empower Hamas in the West Bank. It turns out there are some very good strings attached to U.S. aid to the PA–but not nearly enough. According to the Congressional Research Service:

USAID’s West Bank and Gaza program is subject to a specialized vetting process (for non-U.S. organizations) and to yearly audits intended to ensure that funds are not diverted to Hamas or other organizations classified as terrorist groups by the U.S. government. This vetting process has become more rigorous in recent years in response to allegations that U.S. economic assistance was indirectly supporting Palestinian terrorist groups, and following an internal audit in which USAID concluded it could not “reasonably ensure” that its money would not wind up in terrorist hands.

This is important, and hopefully it has been successful. Vetting the money for security purposes, however, is necessary to the aid process–but not sufficient. Back to that Congressional Research Service report:

In assessing whether U.S. aid to the Palestinians since the June 2007 West Bank/Fatah-Gaza Strip/Hamas split has advanced U.S. interests, Congress could evaluate how successful aid has been in

• reducing the threat of terrorism;

• inclining Palestinians towards peace with Israel;

• preparing Palestinians for self-reliance in security, political, and economic matters;

• promoting regional stability; and

• meeting humanitarian needs.

The CRS lists five categories for judging the success of aid to the PA; the first passes the test–terrorism from the West Bank is down, though how much of that is because of American aid is certainly debatable, to say the least. But even if we grant that, the other four are clear failures. By the CRS’s metrics, only anti-terrorism funds have been useful; everything else has been a waste.

That’s just not good enough. And it’s representative of a broader failure in the region. The Washington Free Beacon reports on a prominent Egyptian opposition blogger who briefed the press before meeting with State Department officials in Washington. American aid to the Islamist regime of Mohamed Morsi is enabling torture, repression, and state violence. The blogger offered a piece of advice for American financial support to Egypt: “Make it conditional on political reform. At least do something good with it.”

That should be a new working motto for the organizations tasked with distributing American foreign aid. Fayyad has been in office for nearly six years, and those six years–along with billions of dollars–have been mostly wasted. Fayyad’s resignation should be a wake-up call to the U.S., as should Morsi’s violent consolidation of power. The failure of the current American foreign aid strategy in the Middle East cannot be plausibly denied, nor harmlessly ignored.

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Fayyad’s Exit Signals Oslo’s Bankruptcy

The resignation of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is a pivotal moment in the history of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Given that it is the product of an internal Palestinian political struggle rather than one in which Jews and Arabs are grappling for power, that may seem an exaggeration. But its significance should not be underestimated. The exit of the Palestinian technocrat 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 for the PA, the idea that it is anything but the same corrupt regime fatally compromised by connections with terror rings false.

The inability of Fayyad 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 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 (which has always regarded the banishment of Fayyad from office as a precondition for any unity scheme with Abbas and the PA). That is unfortunate. The only question is whether those pushing Israel to further empower the now Fayyad-less PA will draw the only possible conclusion from these events and understand that the two-state solution that could conceivably solve the conflict must await a sea change in Palestinian politics that will allow another Fayyad to emerge and succeed.

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The resignation of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is a pivotal moment in the history of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Given that it is the product of an internal Palestinian political struggle rather than one in which Jews and Arabs are grappling for power, that may seem an exaggeration. But its significance should not be underestimated. The exit of the Palestinian technocrat 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 for the PA, the idea that it is anything but the same corrupt regime fatally compromised by connections with terror rings false.

The inability of Fayyad 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 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 (which has always regarded the banishment of Fayyad from office as a precondition for any unity scheme with Abbas and the PA). That is unfortunate. The only question is whether those pushing Israel to further empower the now Fayyad-less PA will draw the only possible conclusion from these events and understand that the two-state solution that could conceivably solve the conflict must await a sea change in Palestinian politics that will allow another Fayyad to emerge and succeed.

There will be those who will inevitably blame Israel for Fayyad’s resignation since many in the world are incapable of interpreting any event that is construed as negative without seeing it as a manifestation of the malign influence of the Jewish state. But this is nonsense. Fayyad has always had the strong support of both the United States (under both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations) and of Israel, which despite its suspicions about the PA has seen him as an essential interlocutor and partner. His problem is that Abbas’s Fatah Party viewed him as an obstacle to both their drive for political hegemony in the West Bank as well as to the continuation of their crooked patronage schemes that diverted foreign aid money into the pockets of their leaders. As Jonathan Schanzer, who understands Palestinian politics as well as anybody writing about the subject in the West, wrote on the Foundation for Defense of Democracies blog this week as events unfolded:

With the most powerful faction in the West Bank gunning for Fayyad, it is likely a question of when, not if, the Palestinian premier departs.  This would be a blow to Palestinian reform efforts, but also shine a spotlight on the leadership deficit in the West Bank.

 It should be conceded that for those who see the question of Israeli-Palestinian peace solely from the frame of reference of the Jewish state’s problems in controlling large numbers of Arabs, the question of who runs a Palestinian government has always been considered irrelevant. Peace Now and other groups that venerated the Oslo Accords and the peace process were perfectly willing to hand over territory to a murderer and thief like Yasir Arafat and opposed all efforts to hold him accountable. So it should be anticipated that they, and others who push for Israeli withdrawals in order to weaken the Jewish state rather than to supposedly strengthen it by ending the “occupation,” will not care much whether the face of Palestinian nationalism is Fayyad, Abbas (currently serving the ninth year of the four-year term as president that he was elected to) or one of Hamas’s Islamists.

But the lack of a Fayyad matters because without him or someone like him, there is no pretense that what the peace processers seek to create in the West Bank is not a state living in peace with Israel (no matter where its borders are drawn) or its other Arab neighbors but a kleptocracy run by terrorists. If it is the former, then there is no doubt that a majority of the Israeli people would be willing to make painful compromises to achieve peace. If it is the latter, that is not only bad news for the Palestinian people who must suffer the depredations such tyrants will impose on them but it is 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 may have 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 went along with Peres’s Oslo gambit from a different point of view. He thought handing the territories over to 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 like B’Tselem that inhibited Israeli counter-terror measures.

As it turns out, both of these men were wrong. Peres’s 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. That was just as true for the slightly more presentable Abbas and his Fatah colleagues as it was for Arafat. 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 was a man with 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.

That is something that groups and governments determined to keep funneling cash into the coffers of the PA and to push Israel to make concessions to it must understand. Until they do, the discussion about the peace process will continue to be a tragic waste of time and effort.

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The Palestinians Never Wanted Fayyadism

There was one point on which both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations as well as the Israeli governments of Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu all agreed upon. All four thought Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was someone who wanted to be a partner for peace with Israel and ought to be encouraged. Fayyad earned almost universal praise from both peace process cheerleaders and skeptics who saw the American-educated technocrat as someone who was devoted to reforming the corrupt and incompetent PA and giving his people something they were denied under the rule of both Yasir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas: good government and economic development.

That Fayyad failed in his efforts is not a matter that most people think is worth debating. The only question is why he didn’t succeed. To that query, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen provides the answer that is his catch-all excuse for anything that goes wrong in the Middle East: Israel. That this onetime apologist for an anti-Semitic Iranian regime prefers to focus on the supposed evils of the Netanyahu government is hardly surprising. But his inability to understand just how isolated Fayyad was in Palestinian society speaks volumes about why most Israel-bashers are clueless about Arab rejectionism.

The most important thing to understand about Fayyad’s place in Palestinian politics is that he has always been a man without a party. In a political culture in which membership in one of the two main terror groups — Fatah and Hamas — or one of the smaller splinter organizations like Islamic Jihad has been keystone to identity and the ability to get ahead, Fayyad is that rarest of Palestinian birds: a true independent. In a society in which the ability to shed Israeli and Jewish blood has been the only true indicator of street cred, Fayyad has always come up short. Though Abbas and others recognized his ability as well his ability to charm the Americans into keeping U.S. aid flowing to Ramallah, he has never had anything that remotely resembled a political constituency. Palestinians may long for good government and the rule of law as much as any other people, but Fayyad’s platform of cooperation with Israel and peace lacked support.

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There was one point on which both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations as well as the Israeli governments of Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu all agreed upon. All four thought Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was someone who wanted to be a partner for peace with Israel and ought to be encouraged. Fayyad earned almost universal praise from both peace process cheerleaders and skeptics who saw the American-educated technocrat as someone who was devoted to reforming the corrupt and incompetent PA and giving his people something they were denied under the rule of both Yasir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas: good government and economic development.

That Fayyad failed in his efforts is not a matter that most people think is worth debating. The only question is why he didn’t succeed. To that query, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen provides the answer that is his catch-all excuse for anything that goes wrong in the Middle East: Israel. That this onetime apologist for an anti-Semitic Iranian regime prefers to focus on the supposed evils of the Netanyahu government is hardly surprising. But his inability to understand just how isolated Fayyad was in Palestinian society speaks volumes about why most Israel-bashers are clueless about Arab rejectionism.

The most important thing to understand about Fayyad’s place in Palestinian politics is that he has always been a man without a party. In a political culture in which membership in one of the two main terror groups — Fatah and Hamas — or one of the smaller splinter organizations like Islamic Jihad has been keystone to identity and the ability to get ahead, Fayyad is that rarest of Palestinian birds: a true independent. In a society in which the ability to shed Israeli and Jewish blood has been the only true indicator of street cred, Fayyad has always come up short. Though Abbas and others recognized his ability as well his ability to charm the Americans into keeping U.S. aid flowing to Ramallah, he has never had anything that remotely resembled a political constituency. Palestinians may long for good government and the rule of law as much as any other people, but Fayyad’s platform of cooperation with Israel and peace lacked support.

That Fayyad would blame the Israelis rather than his own people for his failure is understandable since to do otherwise would be a death sentence. But his complaints about Israeli settlements or security measures in the West Bank lack credibility. The fact that Israelis have continued to build in Jerusalem and the suburban settlement blocs that everyone understands would remain within Israel in the event of a peace deal renders the charge that they will prevent the creation of a Palestinian state elsewhere absurd. As for Israeli incursions into the West Bank, were Abbas’ security forces interested in foiling terror or stamping out Hamas cells as they are obligated to do under their Oslo commitments, they wouldn’t be necessary. If Israel has sought to exert pressure on the PA it is because Abbas remains determined to avoid peace talks and his governments remains a font of anti-Semitic incitement that lays the foundation for endless conflict.

Cohen’s claim that Netanyahu really doesn’t want peace despite his repeated embrace of a two-state solution to the conflict is merely an attempt to cover up the fact that has always been the Palestinians who have turned down peace and continue to refuse to negotiate with him.

Fayyad claims with Cohen’s approval that the movement to reconcile Fatah and Hams is a sign that the Palestinians are giving up their war on Israel’s existence. But Cohen omits one very relevant fact from his column that undermines the notion that it is Israel that has been Fayyad’s undoing. Fatah and Hamas may never consummate the unity deals they have signed. But the one point on which Abbas has always been ready to concede to Hamas has been firing Fayyad. If Hamas ever does become part of the PA government it will mean the American favorite is toast. The fact is the rise of Hamas, backed as it is by the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt, marks the death knell of any slim hope that Fayyadism has a future.

The Palestinians are choosing, as they have always chosen, to refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. Having come into existence solely in order to oppose the return of the Jews to the country, Palestinian nationalism appears incapable of redefining itself in such a way as to give Fayyad a chance. The example of the independent Palestinian state in all but name in Gaza — which has become a platform for terrorism — makes it impossible for Israel to consider further withdrawals that would duplicate that situation in the West Bank.

Were it in the power of either the United States or Israel to make Fayyad the leader of the Palestinians they would do so. But his constituency has always been in Washington, Jerusalem and the international media not among Palestinians. Someday they may be ready for a Fayyad, but that day is not in the foreseeable future.

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Money Alone Won’t Bail Out the West Bank

As I noted yesterday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is on the road this week attempting to persuade Arab countries to give him money. Unfortunately for Abbas, his upgrade at the United Nations last month hasn’t made his panhandling act any more popular with those who voted to upgrade his status at the world body. In fact, the Palestinian Authority is broke. Though this isn’t the first time the PA has had cash flow problems, the current shortage is especially acute and enough to provoke a stern editorial from the New York Times blaming the problem primarily on Israel. But while Israel has withheld some tax revenue from Abbas, the problem in the West Bank goes a lot deeper than the current dispute between the Netanyahu government and the PA.

The Times is right that it is in no one’s interest that the PA collapse, but its call for more money from Israel, the United States, the Arab world and the international community to be poured into Abbas’s coffers misses the point about what is going on in the West Bank. No amount of foreign aid can fix a government and a society that is completely dysfunctional. The issue of the PA’s insolvency is directed related to its steadfast refusal to make peace. Though a Palestinian government that isn’t a basket case is needed to make a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict work, the issue here isn’t just that the PA is corrupt and incompetent. It is corrupt and incompetent in large measure because the political culture of Palestinian society is still more interested in perpetuating the conflict with Israel than in building a state.

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As I noted yesterday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is on the road this week attempting to persuade Arab countries to give him money. Unfortunately for Abbas, his upgrade at the United Nations last month hasn’t made his panhandling act any more popular with those who voted to upgrade his status at the world body. In fact, the Palestinian Authority is broke. Though this isn’t the first time the PA has had cash flow problems, the current shortage is especially acute and enough to provoke a stern editorial from the New York Times blaming the problem primarily on Israel. But while Israel has withheld some tax revenue from Abbas, the problem in the West Bank goes a lot deeper than the current dispute between the Netanyahu government and the PA.

The Times is right that it is in no one’s interest that the PA collapse, but its call for more money from Israel, the United States, the Arab world and the international community to be poured into Abbas’s coffers misses the point about what is going on in the West Bank. No amount of foreign aid can fix a government and a society that is completely dysfunctional. The issue of the PA’s insolvency is directed related to its steadfast refusal to make peace. Though a Palestinian government that isn’t a basket case is needed to make a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict work, the issue here isn’t just that the PA is corrupt and incompetent. It is corrupt and incompetent in large measure because the political culture of Palestinian society is still more interested in perpetuating the conflict with Israel than in building a state.

Though the Arab and Muslim states that profess to support the Palestinians have done little to help them, throughout the nearly 20 years of its existence, the PA has been the recipient of vast sums of aid from Israel, the United States and the international community. For the most part, this money has been either stolen or wasted. The portion of it that did filter its way down to the Palestinian public was often spent on backing terrorist groups or on a vast scheme of public employment. That did little to develop the economy of the West Bank but it did serve to solidify the loyalty of those getting no-show or no-work jobs to first Yasir Arafat and then his successor Abbas.

In recent years, as the Times notes, there has been an effort by PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to actually serve his people and to foster development as well as good government. The problem is that as much as the Americans and Israelis would like to help Fayyad, his efforts are still the exception to the rule. The unpopular Fayyad has little real influence over the PA’s future. He will also be sidelined if the Fatah-Hamas merger ever is brought to fruition.

More importantly, the failure of the West Bank economy is due to the refusal of Abbas to talk or make peace with Israel. Had he done so in 2008 when Ehud Olmert offered him statehood, things would be very different today. That is also true of Arafat’s refusal of Ehud Barak’s peace offers in 2000 and 2001. The second intifada that he launched ruined the West Bank’s economy.

The plain truth is that there is no assurance that the money that the United States, Israel or the Europeans are asked to hand over to Abbas will do anything more than prop up a failed regime. It may be that subsidizing failure is a better alternative than the chaos that would ensue if the PA completely collapsed, but it is not the answer to the problem.

What the PA really needs is not so much a handout as a sea change in its culture that would allow Abbas or a successor to end the conflict and to start the business of building a stable society that is not obsessed with violence against Israel. So long as that doesn’t happen, the Palestinians will continue to be beggars and the Israeli public will never support a withdrawal that might lead to the West Bank becoming a terrorist launching pad the way Gaza has become since 2005.

The PA’s bankruptcy is as much moral as it is financial. Until the Palestinians and those like the Times who want to help them realize this, aid to them will continue to be a case of throwing more money down the rabbit hole.

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Palestinians Joining the Arab Spring?

The Arab Spring has made reporters understandably excitable at the first sign of popular discontent in the Arab world, especially in places previously unaffected by the revolutionary wave. And so the Associated Press report out of Hebron yesterday took the step of repeating for readers just how unprecedented the Palestinian anti-government protests were. It began with this sentence: “Palestinian demonstrators fed up with high prices and unpaid salaries shuttered shops, halted traffic with burning tires and clashed with riot police in demonstrations across the West Bank on Monday— the largest show of popular discontent with the Palestinian Authority in its 18-year existence.”

Seven paragraphs later, the reporters made explicit the comparison, and in an attempt to ward off the dismissal of the analogy repeated again the rarity factor at work here: “The unrest was reminiscent of the mass demonstrations of the Arab Spring that topped aging dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, and sparked civil war in Syria. While there is no sign that the protests are approaching that level, they nonetheless are the largest show of popular discontent with the governing Palestinian Authority in its 18-year history.” Yes, the AP is right: the protests have reached unprecedented levels. But the more interesting aspects of the public unrest are not the parallels with the Arab Spring, but the contrasts.

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The Arab Spring has made reporters understandably excitable at the first sign of popular discontent in the Arab world, especially in places previously unaffected by the revolutionary wave. And so the Associated Press report out of Hebron yesterday took the step of repeating for readers just how unprecedented the Palestinian anti-government protests were. It began with this sentence: “Palestinian demonstrators fed up with high prices and unpaid salaries shuttered shops, halted traffic with burning tires and clashed with riot police in demonstrations across the West Bank on Monday— the largest show of popular discontent with the Palestinian Authority in its 18-year existence.”

Seven paragraphs later, the reporters made explicit the comparison, and in an attempt to ward off the dismissal of the analogy repeated again the rarity factor at work here: “The unrest was reminiscent of the mass demonstrations of the Arab Spring that topped aging dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, and sparked civil war in Syria. While there is no sign that the protests are approaching that level, they nonetheless are the largest show of popular discontent with the governing Palestinian Authority in its 18-year history.” Yes, the AP is right: the protests have reached unprecedented levels. But the more interesting aspects of the public unrest are not the parallels with the Arab Spring, but the contrasts.

First of all, as the AP story notes, some of the rioting was the outgrowth of what I’m sure had seemed like a brilliant idea to the Fatah party apparatchiks who hatched it. They wanted to stir up trouble against Salam Fayyad, the only Palestinian leader with good relations with the West, as part of the intra-party scheming that goes on inside the Palestinian Authority instead of governing. It turns out that most of the Fatah leaders are more corrupt than Fayyad, so the protesters soon aimed their fire more generally at the PA itself, including, but not limited to, Fayyad.

The Palestinians were also protesting recent tax hikes and the lack of living-wage jobs in the West Bank. Fatah party leaders passed the buck onto the international community for failing to follow through on donor funds the PA says it is owed. But what do they do with that money when it comes in? As I wrote recently, the money seems to fund Abbas’s lifestyle and that of his family, while a good chunk goes to paying terrorists. (Can you imagine the PA’s chutzpah in pocketing donor funds instead of passing it along to poor Palestinians, and then taxing those Palestinians?)

Meanwhile, in Gaza, Hamas is trying desperately not to laugh its face off. At the same time, they have big plans of their own. Jonathan Schanzer reports that Hamasniks are in secret talks with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi over the possibility of Gaza declaring independence. On paper, it seems to be slightly less crazy than one would think. Egypt would love the tax revenue and GDP boost from opening a legal trade route with Gaza, but they don’t love the idea of letting Israel off the hook. (It would be difficult to blame Israel for the “occupation” of a fully independent state.) Schanzer notes that Israelis might like the idea of being rid of Gaza once and for all–a real disengagement, this time—but are wary of the dangers of allowing Hamas free rein to import whatever it wants, which would likely include more advanced weaponry, not just cookies and cigarettes.

But there is one obstacle Hamas has not found a way around, and it would doom this project from the start: Hamas is still listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and others, making trade with the West illegal. One Hamasnik proposed a solution, and it is utterly ridiculous:

In hopes of avoiding sanctions or other roadblocks, unaffiliated businessmen in Gaza are now working to create an independent corporation to manage the Rafah crossing. According to a Gaza entrepreneur who wishes to remain anonymous, it is slated to be called the “Palestine Company for Free Trade Zone Area.”

Good luck with that. But while Gaza will not be seceding from the Palestinian territories just yet–for one thing, their troublemakers on the ground in Hebron will keep stoking the flames in hopes that one day Hamas can take over the entire West Bank as well–the detailed planning that has taken place demonstrates that Hamas still has other ways to expand its reach and influence. The Times of Israel reports that Egypt has agreed to allow Hamas to relocate its abroad-headquarters to Cairo.

Since Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Brotherhood now runs Egypt, increased ties between the two were inevitable. This entails a political challenge for the U.S. and probably a bit of a security challenge for Israel, but nobody stands to lose more than Abbas, whose government is asleep at the wheel and whose population is finally awake to the raw deal they’re getting.

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Palestinian Politics Jenin Style

In today’s New York Times, new Israel correspondent Jodi Rudoren writes of how the recently deceased Palestinian governor of the city of Jenin is being viewed as a “martyr” in the fight against gangs and the symbol of the failing struggle to transform the Palestinian Authority into a viable state. Qadoura Moussa, who died of a heart attack following an assassination attempt that is interpreted as part of the battle in which control of the streets is at stake, helped create the idea that there was a “Jenin model” in which good government would replace the mafia-style corruption and violence that had heretofore characterized Palestinian life.

Moussa’s death is rightly seen as yet another blow to Fayyadism, the term that Times columnist Thomas Friedman attached to the efforts of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to transform Palestinian society so as to allow for the rise of a rational modern state. But, as the insightful journalist Khaled Abu Toameh wrote just a day earlier on the website of the Gatestone Institute, the truth about the reality of life in Jenin has been apparent for years. The problem is, the foreign and Palestinian press was far too intimidated to report that the illusion of law and order in Jenin was always a lie.

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In today’s New York Times, new Israel correspondent Jodi Rudoren writes of how the recently deceased Palestinian governor of the city of Jenin is being viewed as a “martyr” in the fight against gangs and the symbol of the failing struggle to transform the Palestinian Authority into a viable state. Qadoura Moussa, who died of a heart attack following an assassination attempt that is interpreted as part of the battle in which control of the streets is at stake, helped create the idea that there was a “Jenin model” in which good government would replace the mafia-style corruption and violence that had heretofore characterized Palestinian life.

Moussa’s death is rightly seen as yet another blow to Fayyadism, the term that Times columnist Thomas Friedman attached to the efforts of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to transform Palestinian society so as to allow for the rise of a rational modern state. But, as the insightful journalist Khaled Abu Toameh wrote just a day earlier on the website of the Gatestone Institute, the truth about the reality of life in Jenin has been apparent for years. The problem is, the foreign and Palestinian press was far too intimidated to report that the illusion of law and order in Jenin was always a lie.

The notion that Jenin, which was the hub of Palestinian terror during the second intifada and the site of a pitched battle between gunmen and the Israeli Defense Force in 2002, had become a PA success story was an attractive theme for journalists eager to paint a more attractive picture of the Palestinians. But as Toameh, who knows more about the politics of the territories than anyone else writing in English, points out, the “Jenin model” was always a myth. The anarchy and lawlessness in the region was not happening in spite of the efforts of the Western-trained PA security forces but in no small measure because of them.

The problem goes deeper than just a few cases of corruption or the fact that many of those recruited into the Palestinian security services are former criminals and killers who quickly revert to their old habits for profit. Rather, it is that Palestinian political culture still treats violence as legitimate. The line between the terrorist groups that double as political parties such as Fatah and Hamas and the armed gangs and clans that the PA fights in the streets of towns like Jenin is razor thin. That’s why any expectation that Fatah or even Hamas can foster law and order other than by their own reign of terror at their rivals’ expense is farcical.

Genuine moderates who desire real change like Salam Fayyad are the outliers, not the criminals. Men like Fayyad also lack a political constituency. That means they are not just outnumbered but outgunned.

Yet this is a tale that has generally been ignored by the Western press that has, as Abu Toameh notes, feared to tell the truth about the Palestinians. The result is that Western governments continue to pour in vast amounts of cash and aid that has done little to help. Fayyadism is a nice idea, but the problem is that it is more popular in American newsrooms than in the streets of Palestinian towns. Though Rudoren’s article in today’s Times gives some belated attention to this problem, it still fails to go to the heart of the cancer eating away at the PA. The rationale for Palestinian statehood as well as for more Israeli territorial withdrawals to further empower these gangsters and terrorists seems more farfetched than ever.

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Fayyad Acknowledges Palestinians Are “Losing the Argument”

While it’s true the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, their “friends” don’t do them any favors either. From the conspiracy theorists ranting about the “Israel Lobby” to “peace studies” intellectuals who inevitably turn out to be vicious anti-Semites to the proudly ignorant activists who debase the Civil Rights movement and the struggle against South African apartheid by using those terms in vain, pro-Palestinian advocates have been manifestly unable to mount a serious intellectual argument for their cause. And failed Prime Minister Salam Fayyad seems to know it.

Reuters interviewed the hapless technocrat, and he couched his failure in terms more sensible than his allies ever offer:

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said on Tuesday the Palestinians may have “lost the argument” on the international stage for an independent state but cautioned that continued Israeli occupation was unsustainable….

He also warned his administration’s future was clouded by severe financial strains and said the Palestinians had failed to galvanize a distracted world behind their cause.

“I think we are losing the argument, if we have not already lost the argument. But that doesn’t make our position wrong,” said the former World Bank economist, a political independent who has had strong support amongst Western powers.

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While it’s true the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, their “friends” don’t do them any favors either. From the conspiracy theorists ranting about the “Israel Lobby” to “peace studies” intellectuals who inevitably turn out to be vicious anti-Semites to the proudly ignorant activists who debase the Civil Rights movement and the struggle against South African apartheid by using those terms in vain, pro-Palestinian advocates have been manifestly unable to mount a serious intellectual argument for their cause. And failed Prime Minister Salam Fayyad seems to know it.

Reuters interviewed the hapless technocrat, and he couched his failure in terms more sensible than his allies ever offer:

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said on Tuesday the Palestinians may have “lost the argument” on the international stage for an independent state but cautioned that continued Israeli occupation was unsustainable….

He also warned his administration’s future was clouded by severe financial strains and said the Palestinians had failed to galvanize a distracted world behind their cause.

“I think we are losing the argument, if we have not already lost the argument. But that doesn’t make our position wrong,” said the former World Bank economist, a political independent who has had strong support amongst Western powers.

Yes, they are losing the argument, and have been for quite some time. Statehood in the real world is not something you’re granted for pitching a fit and kicking dirt at the United Nations. The toxic mix of cowards and criminals who make up the “flotilla” movement won’t convince anyone you’re ready to be treated like a responsible actor on the world stage. And brainwashing young minds to hate your “peace partners” isn’t the strongest case for independence.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which exists to keep poor Palestinians penned up in refugee camps to radicalize instead of educate them, has contributed its own acid to the steady corrosion of the prospects for a peaceful settlement. And never permitting, let alone encouraging, a sense of moral responsibility on the part of the Palestinians is the opposite of being pro-Palestinian–it shows, as Bret Stephens pointed out in his review of Peter Beinart’s new book, “an unwitting, but profound, contempt” for the Palestinians by assigning them “no moral agency.”

Fayyad seems to understand that a myopic focus on Israel keeps people talking about Israel. But it would behoove the Palestinians and their defenders to talk a bit about the Palestinians and their cause. Is there a case for Palestinian statehood? I’m sure there is, but Fayyad may now understand that the global left cannot be relied upon to make it.

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Fayyadism 2012: Censorship Not Freedom

In 2010, when Nathan Brown concluded his report on the Palestinian Authority’s “state-building,” he declared “Fayyadism”–the idea that Salam Fayyad was building essential governing institutions–for the mirage it was. The impression on the ground was that Fayyad was merely managing the decay of the institutions Yasser Arafat had built. Crucially, Brown wrote: “To the extent that Fayyadism is building institutions, it is unmistakably doing so in an authoritarian context.” Translation: whatever it is Fayyad is doing would be impossible in a democratic setting.

Brown’s report echoes back this week as Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, reports that the Palestinian Authority has now added a new element to its authoritarianism:

According to a report from Ma’an News published today, the Palestinian Authority has ordered the blocking of websites belonging to eight news outlets critical of President Mahmoud Abbas.  The report states that technicians at PalTel—the largest ISP in the West Bank—tweaked their proxy server and web cache daemon to block the sites, while other ISPs are using similar setups. The blocking is inconsistent across ISPs, with at least one failing to block certain sites on the list…

Prior to these latest developments, Internet under the Palestinian Authority (PA) has been relatively unfettered, with only one site—Dounia Al Watan, a news site that was reporting on corruption within the PA—ever reported as blocked in the West Bank.  Gaza’s Internet is considerably more restricted, with sexually explicit websites blocked.

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In 2010, when Nathan Brown concluded his report on the Palestinian Authority’s “state-building,” he declared “Fayyadism”–the idea that Salam Fayyad was building essential governing institutions–for the mirage it was. The impression on the ground was that Fayyad was merely managing the decay of the institutions Yasser Arafat had built. Crucially, Brown wrote: “To the extent that Fayyadism is building institutions, it is unmistakably doing so in an authoritarian context.” Translation: whatever it is Fayyad is doing would be impossible in a democratic setting.

Brown’s report echoes back this week as Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, reports that the Palestinian Authority has now added a new element to its authoritarianism:

According to a report from Ma’an News published today, the Palestinian Authority has ordered the blocking of websites belonging to eight news outlets critical of President Mahmoud Abbas.  The report states that technicians at PalTel—the largest ISP in the West Bank—tweaked their proxy server and web cache daemon to block the sites, while other ISPs are using similar setups. The blocking is inconsistent across ISPs, with at least one failing to block certain sites on the list…

Prior to these latest developments, Internet under the Palestinian Authority (PA) has been relatively unfettered, with only one site—Dounia Al Watan, a news site that was reporting on corruption within the PA—ever reported as blocked in the West Bank.  Gaza’s Internet is considerably more restricted, with sexually explicit websites blocked.

Ma’an reports that the new round of censorship was the brainchild of the Palestinian attorney general, who cracks down on such freedom from time to time, chipping away at whatever temporary semblance of personal liberty Palestinians in the West Bank enjoy.

Usually these crackdowns earn some form of public protest, but that seems to be lacking in this case. Ma’an explains that this is because no one will risk even talking about participation in the program:

By contrast, the blocking has gone largely unnoticed. Mada, a press freedom group, raised the issue of Milad and Amad, while U.S. blogger “Challah Hu Akbar” reported extensively about In Light Press, but many Palestinians remain unaware the Internet is censored. This is partly because providers have not acknowledged their cooperation nor have subscribers been told any websites are off limits.

Even at private Internet companies, employees fear losing their jobs or worse if they discuss the program. “Sorry, but I’m not going to jail,” said one PalTel technician when asked for a list of the websites.

“Sorry, but I’m not going to jail” isn’t a very encouraging slogan for Fayyadism, but it is more accurate than pretending he is competently serving the Palestinian people.

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Friedman’s Clueless Middle East Twofer

After so many years of being wrong about the Palestinians being ready to make peace with Israel, it is difficult to take New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s Middle East advice columns seriously. But his latest effort in this genre contains some whoppers that got our attention even if they only provide more proof  the veteran writer is still hopelessly out of touch with reality.

Today’s “twofer” of Friedman gems starts out with praise for imprisoned Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti. Friedman gives a testimonial to Barghouti as an “authentic leader” and describes his call from prison for a new campaign of “non-violent” protest against Israel as just the ticket to bring peace. But what Friedman doesn’t understand is what makes Barghouti “authentic” to Palestinians is his role in the murder of Israeli civilians (for which he is currently serving five life sentences), not his notions about a switch to Gandhi-style activism.

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After so many years of being wrong about the Palestinians being ready to make peace with Israel, it is difficult to take New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s Middle East advice columns seriously. But his latest effort in this genre contains some whoppers that got our attention even if they only provide more proof  the veteran writer is still hopelessly out of touch with reality.

Today’s “twofer” of Friedman gems starts out with praise for imprisoned Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti. Friedman gives a testimonial to Barghouti as an “authentic leader” and describes his call from prison for a new campaign of “non-violent” protest against Israel as just the ticket to bring peace. But what Friedman doesn’t understand is what makes Barghouti “authentic” to Palestinians is his role in the murder of Israeli civilians (for which he is currently serving five life sentences), not his notions about a switch to Gandhi-style activism.

Friedman advises Palestinians to take up Barghouti’s plea for “non-violence” (which according to Friedman includes the throwing of lethal rocks at Israelis as well as a campaign of economic warfare against the Jewish state) but to accompany it with specific maps showing what peace terms they will accept from Israel. On the surface that makes sense, because as Friedman says, Israel would then be faced with a tangible peace proposal that it would likely accept. Yet Friedman ignores the reason why the Palestinians have never made such a practical proposal and are unlikely to do so now.

The problem from the Palestinian point of view with Friedman’s advice to throw rocks wrapped in maps showing possible territorial swaps is that to do so means recognizing the legitimacy of a Jewish state. And that is something no Palestinian leader has ever had the courage to do no matter where Israel’s borders would be drawn or how many settlements would be uprooted.

Let’s remember that Barghouti’s mass murder spree took place in the immediate aftermath of an Israeli peace offer that was not much different from the scheme Friedman now thinks the Palestinians will accept. PA leader Yasir Arafat turned down Ehud Barak’s offers of a state in 2000 and 2001 and answered it with a terror war that cost more than 1,000 Israelis their lives courtesy of killers like his Fatah cohort Barghouti. Arafat’s successor Mahmoud Abbas walked away from another such offer in 2008. With the Islamists of Hamas now joining Abbas in a new coalition, the odds that the PA will be able to accept a similar offer are zero.

Yet Friedman still thinks the Palestinians can make Israelis “feel morally insecure” about holding onto territory by another bout of rock throwing. But the reason why Israelis don’t “feel morally insecure” is because, unlike Friedman, they aren’t prepare to ignore the results of two decades of Middle East peace processing during which they have traded land and received terror instead of the peace pundits like the columnist promised. He’s right that Prime Minister Netanyahu believes the Palestinians won’t make peace because he “thinks it’s not in their culture.” The problem for Friedman is they have already proven many times that it isn’t.

What makes this discussion so pointless is that the Palestinians don’t need a change in tactics. They don’t have to throw rocks or promote boycotts even if those activities are more attractive to their foreign supporters than suicide bombings. All they have to do is negotiate. Netanyahu has already said he’d accept a two-state solution and, as Friedman understands, the vast majority of Israelis would support him if he were presented with a deal that ended the conflict. Just as in 1977 when Egypt’s Sadat went to Jerusalem, the Israelis are ready to deal. The problem is not whether the Palestinians realize how best to make Israelis “morally insecure” — a point that is as meaningless today as it was 35 years ago — but that, unlike Sadat, they aren’t actually willing to live in peace alongside the Jewish state.

The other whopper in Friedman’s column is his second suggestion: a proposal that Israel assist in the creation of a viable secular Palestinian state in the West Bank that would promote a free-market economy that would be a model to the Middle East. He thinks this is essential, because if violence erupts, the new Islamist leadership in Egypt will exacerbate it.

For years, Friedman has been promoting Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and “Fayyadism” as the coming wave of Palestinian politics. But Fayyad’s name isn’t mentioned once in Friedman’s column. That’s because the moderate, who is a favorite of both the U.S. and Israel, has no constituency among his own people and is being chucked out of office by Abbas to appease his new Hamas partners. Israel would like nothing better than a free market-trading partner in the West Bank led by a man such as Fayyad as opposed to another Islamist wasteland such as currently exists in Gaza. The problem is the Palestinians prefer Hamas to Fayyad or the advice of the clueless Friedman.

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Middle East Peace Won’t End Terrorism

Just as there was a certain segment of the intelligentsia which claimed after 9/11 that the U.S. “had it coming,” so too there will no doubt be some who claim that the Jews somehow had it coming because the Toulouse gunman, Mohammed Merah, cited the plight of the Palestinians along with other issues (e.g., the public ban on the veil in France) to justify his murderous rampage. The best riposte to this despicable line of argument comes from none other than Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad who says as Jonathan noted yesterday: “It is time for these criminals to stop marketing their terrorist acts in the name of Palestine and to stop pretending to stand up for the rights of Palestinian children who only ask for a decent life.”

This will not, of course, silence the anti-Israel lobby which will claim that Israeli “occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza will continue to drive would-be terrorists around the bend until a real Palestinian state is established. The argument, plausible on its face, falls apart at the slightest examination.

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Just as there was a certain segment of the intelligentsia which claimed after 9/11 that the U.S. “had it coming,” so too there will no doubt be some who claim that the Jews somehow had it coming because the Toulouse gunman, Mohammed Merah, cited the plight of the Palestinians along with other issues (e.g., the public ban on the veil in France) to justify his murderous rampage. The best riposte to this despicable line of argument comes from none other than Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad who says as Jonathan noted yesterday: “It is time for these criminals to stop marketing their terrorist acts in the name of Palestine and to stop pretending to stand up for the rights of Palestinian children who only ask for a decent life.”

This will not, of course, silence the anti-Israel lobby which will claim that Israeli “occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza will continue to drive would-be terrorists around the bend until a real Palestinian state is established. The argument, plausible on its face, falls apart at the slightest examination.


Just imagine that Fayyad and his boss, Palestinian Authority President Mohammed Abbas, had actually reached a “final status” deal with the Israelis. I know: it’s hard to imagine but suspend disbelief for a second. No one knows exactly what such a deal would entail but it’s safe to guess that, to be acceptable to any Israeli government, it would have to maintain Israeli sovereignty over much of Jerusalem and the large settlement blocs in the West Bank which are next to Israel’s pre-1967 boundaries. This would mean incorporating perhaps 5% of the West Bank into Israel proper with possible offsets elsewhere. The settlement would also presumably require Palestinians to recognize Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, to agree to live in peace with Israel, and (hardest to swallow) to renounce any right of return. Moreover Israel would probably insist–and rightly so–that any future Palestinian state be prevented from acquiring certain military capabilities (e.g., no anti-aircraft missiles that could shoot down jetliners landing at Ben Gurion Airport) and that Israel maintain some kind of security presence along the border between Jordan and the West Bank. Whatever happens with the Palestinians, the Golan Heights would remain under Israeli control at least pending a deal with Syria, which at the moment seems impossible to imagine.

Again, there is no realistic prospect of such a deal being done anytime soon; there is, for example, the inconvenient fact that Gaza is under the control of Hamas which won’t recognize Israel’s right to exist. But even if such a deal were done and the “peace processers” were to succeed beyond their wildest dreams—even if that were to occur, does anyone imagine that future Mohammed Merahs would react by saying: “I give up my jihad and am reconciled to the state of Israel. The Jews are now my friends.” The thought is absurd. What the Merahs of the world would say instead is: “An apostate regime of traitors has sold out the Palestinian birthright to avaricious sons of apes and I will never accept this sacrilege. The Jews remain my enemies.” In short what the Merahs object to is the existence of the state of Israel under any conditions, not its existence under its post-1967 borders.

To me this is so obvious that it barely needs saying. Yet a significant portion of the foreign policy establishments in the U.S. and Europe still don’t seem to get it. There is nothing wrong with pressing for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement; a deal, if it is a good one, is in the best long term interests of both sides. But no one would should imagine that any deal will deny extremists the ability to exploit the Palestinian cause to justify their own killer rage at the world in general and Jews in particular.

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The Palestinian Excuse for Terror

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad issued a call today to foreign terrorists to stop using the plight of the Palestinians as an excuse for their crimes. In condemning the Toulouse massacre two days after the killings, Fayyad said, “Extremists must stop pretending to stand up for the rights of Palestinian children who only ask for a decent life.” This was in reaction to the news that Mohammed Merah, the arrested suspect in the Toulouse shootings, claimed that the atrocity was done in part to exact revenge on the Jews for their supposedly poor treatment of the Palestinians.

Fayyad is right that “solidarity” with the Palestinians ought not to be used as a reason to commit murder. But as much as that is good advice for those, like Merah, who have links to al Qaeda and other Islamist groups, it would be even better if Fayyad’s own people — including those affiliated with the PA government that he still runs — would heed his plea. Palestinian groups like Hamas (soon to become part of the PA), PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s own Fatah Party, as well as more extreme groups such as Islamic Jihad, have been using their complaints against Israel as justification for crimes just as horrible as those committed in Toulouse for decades.

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Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad issued a call today to foreign terrorists to stop using the plight of the Palestinians as an excuse for their crimes. In condemning the Toulouse massacre two days after the killings, Fayyad said, “Extremists must stop pretending to stand up for the rights of Palestinian children who only ask for a decent life.” This was in reaction to the news that Mohammed Merah, the arrested suspect in the Toulouse shootings, claimed that the atrocity was done in part to exact revenge on the Jews for their supposedly poor treatment of the Palestinians.

Fayyad is right that “solidarity” with the Palestinians ought not to be used as a reason to commit murder. But as much as that is good advice for those, like Merah, who have links to al Qaeda and other Islamist groups, it would be even better if Fayyad’s own people — including those affiliated with the PA government that he still runs — would heed his plea. Palestinian groups like Hamas (soon to become part of the PA), PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s own Fatah Party, as well as more extreme groups such as Islamic Jihad, have been using their complaints against Israel as justification for crimes just as horrible as those committed in Toulouse for decades.

Fayyad condemned the Toulouse shootings as an “attack on innocent lives” and a “cowardly terrorist act.” But how would he describe the missile attacks on Israeli civilians carried out by Palestinians on a regular basis to this very day from Gaza. How would he describe the routine attacks on Jews in the West Bank? And what words can he conjure him to adequately depict the depravity of the campaign of suicide bombings carried out by leaders of the ruling Fatah Party only a few years ago during the second intifada? Were the Jewish infants slaughtered at a Jerusalem pizza restaurant, or the Jewish teens blown up at a Tel Aviv discotheque or those killed in dozens of other incidents less human, less innocent than the children killed in France this week?

The Palestinians more or less invented the modern variant of terrorism in the 1970s and have always justified their policy of trying to murder as many Jewish civilians as possible because of what they say is their plight under Israeli occupation. Though the current leadership of the Palestinian Authority says it opposes terror, it continues to honor terrorists in every way possible including its television broadcasts.

Fayyad is himself one of the rare Palestinian political figures who have never been implicated in terrorism. That’s to his credit but it’s also the reason why he has virtually no constituency among his own people. Were he linked to some murders of Jews, he might not be on the way out of office since Hamas has demanded Fayyad’s ouster as part of the price for joining the PA.

The Palestinians should be worried about the Toulouse attack because it should serve as a reminder to Europeans that their delegitimization of Jewish life and Jewish self-defense in Israel cannot be separated from attacks on Jews elsewhere.  Though the Palestinian issue is merely a pretext for the revival of anti-Semitism, the killings in France could shock some on the continent enough to make them understand that killing Jews anywhere — be it in Toulouse or in the Middle East — is merely a function of that same old hatred that the Palestinians have embraced.

As much as some, such as EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, have tried to draw a slanderous comparison between Israeli self-defense in Gaza and the Toulouse crime, the real analogy is to the actions of the Palestinians. Until the Palestinians renounce their war on Israel and give up violence for good, Salam Fayyad’s statement can be put down as the rankest form of hypocrisy.

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The Palestinian Authority’s ATM

In a further sign of the ascent of radicalism in Palestinian politics, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told the Washington Times he would not run for the post of president. Fayyad, a favorite of the West due to his preference for nation building and improving the lives of ordinary Palestinians rather than promoting terror and hatred of Jews and Israel, is on the chopping block as prime minister because Hamas insists the unity pact with Fatah will not be fulfilled until his ouster. Fayyad knows better than to try his luck with the Palestinian electorate. Despite an unparalleled record of fighting corruption and promoting prosperity, he hasn’t a chance against the gunslingers of both Fatah and Hamas.

Even more interesting is his insistence he will not serve as finance minister, the job he held previous to his current post. To his credit, he doesn’t like the idea of being a front for a Hamas government whose respectability would be pimped abroad in order to continue the flow of aid from the United States and Europe.  “I do not really view myself as an ATM for the Palestinian Authority,” said Fayyad.

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In a further sign of the ascent of radicalism in Palestinian politics, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told the Washington Times he would not run for the post of president. Fayyad, a favorite of the West due to his preference for nation building and improving the lives of ordinary Palestinians rather than promoting terror and hatred of Jews and Israel, is on the chopping block as prime minister because Hamas insists the unity pact with Fatah will not be fulfilled until his ouster. Fayyad knows better than to try his luck with the Palestinian electorate. Despite an unparalleled record of fighting corruption and promoting prosperity, he hasn’t a chance against the gunslingers of both Fatah and Hamas.

Even more interesting is his insistence he will not serve as finance minister, the job he held previous to his current post. To his credit, he doesn’t like the idea of being a front for a Hamas government whose respectability would be pimped abroad in order to continue the flow of aid from the United States and Europe.  “I do not really view myself as an ATM for the Palestinian Authority,” said Fayyad.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what a man like the American-educated Fayyad would be in a Fatah-Hamas unity government. Though their Palestinian apologists and western cheerleaders would have us believe Hamas has become a non-violent political organization, Fayyad senses that Palestinian unity bought at such a price will lead to more conflict and doom for his development projects. Moreover, he understands that Hamas is unlikely to ever make peace with Israel or give up terrorism.

Though Hamas’ Palestinian and foreign apologists are trying to persuade the West to view it as no different from the ruling party of Turkey whose leader is so chummy with President Obama, any move that would bring it to power would mean an end to all hope of peace in the Middle East. That the Obama administration views this possibility with so little alarm says a lot about how little Washington understands the Palestinians or the region. But once Fayyad is gone, those who seek to keep American taxpayer dollars flowing to a government that subsidizes hate, such as Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, will have to find a new local front for their ATM.

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