Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is a favorite of both American diplomats and Israeli officials. His dedication to improving the lives of Palestinian Arabs on the West Bank and his support for security cooperation with Israel is seen as stepping-stones to a viable two-state solution. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is so enamored of him that he elevated Fayyad to a one-man ideology called “Fayyadism,” whose future depends on elevated levels of support from the United States and Israel. But the problem with Fayyad and his “ism” is its main constituency is not Palestinian but rather American and Israeli. So when Hamas asked Fayyad’s boss PA President Mahmoud Abbas to dump him as part of the unity pact with the Islamist group, there was little resistance.
Fayyad is hanging on in Ramallah until the pact is completed, but anyone wanting to get a better idea of why Fayyad has so little political support among his people should read this interview with the PA prime minister in Britain’s JC. In it, he discusses how he shares Israel’s fears of a nuclear Iran, wishes the Iranians would shut up about the Israel-Palestinian conflict, registers dismay at the way Turkey has abandoned its alliance with Israel and generally dismisses the possibility that the popular Fatah-Hamas unity pact will ever be consummated. With this sort of a platform, he’d probably have an easier time getting elected to the Knesset than to the Palestinian parliament.
While Fayyad is not the only Sunni Muslim to be wary of Iran’s influence and its nuclear ambitions, his litany of policy concerns aptly demonstrates why he was never able to develop his own power base in Palestinian politics. He is a genuine Palestinian moderate. Unlike Abbas’s Fatah Party, which only pretends to expound moderation and peace with Israel, Fayyad is the rare Palestinian politician who means it. Though Hamas may be distancing itself from its longtime ally and sponsor in Tehran in favor of its new Turkish sugar daddy, their desire to purge Fayyad along with his “ism” is a major aspect of their plan to use the unity pact to extend their influence on the West Bank.
One can only hope his sanguine dismissal of the possibility that Hamas-Fatah unity will ever become a reality is vindicated by events. If he’s wrong, he will be out of a job and the already slim theoretical chances of peace will evaporate. Given Fayyad’s failure to develop any broad-based Palestinian support, it’s unlikely that a desire to keep him in office will be a major sticking point.