Once upon a time, there was a moderate Palestinian leader who pointed the way toward genuine peace with Israel as well as democracy and development for the Palestinians. His name was Salam Fayyad, an American-educated economist was named prime minister of the Palestinian Authority in 2007. He was the darling of U.S. liberals like New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. The journalist was so enamored of him that he coined a term “Fayyadism” to describe a path toward modernity for the Palestinians that rejected the old paradigm of terrorism, endless war against Israel, and the corruption of the Fatah movement led first by Yasir Arafat and then Mahmoud Abbas. But Fayyad’s promise was unfulfilled. A man without a party, he was powerless to change a Palestinian political culture that revolved around death and hate. Both Fatah and its Hamas rivals despised him, and few Palestinians mourned when he resigned in 2013.
But Fayyad is back now with a new plan that would both ease a path to peace with Israel as well as to end the logjam between Fatah and Hamas. He announced it at an event in Ramallah on Tuesday, and it’s no surprise to learn that, as the Times of Israel reported, the same forces that worked to ensure he would fail as Palestinian PM don’t like it. But what’s really interesting about this is the reason they’re appalled by his idea: it’s based on both the PA and Hamas agreeing to a hudna or truce with Israel that would end all terrorism. And that, 23 years after the Oslo Accords that were predicated on that same idea, was signed, tells us everything we need to know about why the peace process failed.
According to Fayyad, the hudna would enable the reorganization of the Fatah-run West Bank and the Hamas-ruled Gaza and lead to elections for a Palestinian parliament and its presidency. With terrorism ended and the Palestinians finally speaking with one voice, Fayyad thinks peace with Israel based on the 2002 Arab peace initiative would be possible.
He’s probably right about that. If the Palestinians were prepared to agree to a real peace that would end the conflict for all time and if the government of the state to be created alongside the Jewish state was reformist and peaceful, it’s likely that Israelis would revert to their 1993 Oslo mindset and offer again the generous terms that the Palestinians rejected in 2000, 2001 and 2008.
But neither Fatah nor Hamas wants any part of the plan, and it’s easy to see why.
First of all, neither group has the least interest in giving up power. In the West Bank, the Fatah kleptocracy made sure the reform-minded Fayyad was unable to halt the widespread corruption that is the basis for the Abbas model of government. The Islamist tyrants of the Gaza Hamasistan are equally reluctant to give up control of what is for all intents and purposes an independent Palestinian state in all but name. Hamas might welcome new elections thinking it might prevail. But Abbas, who is currently serving the 11th year of the four-year term as president of the PA to which he was elected in 2005, and Fatah want no part of them.
But what is also driving their opposition to the Fayyad unity plan is that hudna. It was denounced in an editorial published by the official PA news agency Wafa. It deplored the idea of a temporary truce with Israel because they saw it as a betrayal of “the Palestinian struggle.” Lest anyone doubt that hate that still is the foundation of their conception of Palestinian nationalism, Wafa, which was speaking for Abbas and his government, accused Fayyad of acting in a manner that would lead to the “Judaization” of Jerusalem.
If Fayyad had any sort of constituency, his proposal might encourage hope for progress toward peace. But the problem remains that Fayyad’s fan base is largely composed of Americans and Europeans with no sign that supporters of Fatah or Hamas have any interest in an alternative. Though Friedman wrongly blamed Israel for Fayyad’s failure, the problem for him has always been the fact that he is operating under different assumptions than that of the mainstream Palestinian movements. So long as Fatah is in charge in Ramallah, U.S. and European aid to the PA has always been a de facto subsidy for terrorism. Abbas and Fatah pretend to be for a two-state solution in the presence of Western journalists, but, in their own media, they made no such pretense, honoring and encouraging terrorism, and broadcasting incitement to hatred against Israelis and Jews. They continue to refuse to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. But they have no plan B. They are content to keep the conflict simmering, confident that sooner or later Israel will lose Western support and collapse.
Sadly, that foolish faith in something that will never happen is in accord with the Palestinian public’s support for terror and intransigence. That’s why Fayyad is bound to fail again. Until the Palestinian people rise up and throw off their corrupt and violent Fatah and Hamas overlords, Israelis will continue to stand their ground and wait for the day when someone like Fayyad will speak for more than just himself.