Salam Fayyad and the "Major Blow" to Peace
by Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, April 17, 2013
How can Salam Fayyad's resignation as Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority be considered a setback for the peace process when he had never been involved in the negotiations with Israel in the first place?
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas never consulted with Fayyad about the peace process with Israel. Over the past five years, the two men hardly even spoken to one other.
After Fayyad's resignation last Saturday, many Western journalists and political analysts rushed to describe the move as a "major blow to the Middle East peace process and US efforts to revive the stalled peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel."
One headline featured: "Salam Fayyad Resigns: Peace Process On Hold."
A BBC correspondent described Fayyad's resignation as a "major blow for US efforts to restart the long-stalled peace process with Israel."
Another British journalist, commenting on the resignation, said: "Mr. Fayyad's departure is a big blow to the peace process, which has been given fresh impetus in since last month's visit to the region of Barack Obama."
But those who are fearful about the future of the peace process clearly do not know what they are talking about.
As prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, Fayyad was never involved in any of the peace talks with Israel.
Fayyad himself once explained that ever since the signing of the Oslo Accords about 20 years ago, it was the PLO, and not the Palestinian Authority, that was conducting peace talks with Israel.
Moreover, Fayyad was never involved in the Palestinian leadership's decision-making process regarding the peace process.
The only people Abbas consulted with were PLO and Fatah loyalists. Decisions regarding the peace talks with Israel were always taken either by Abbas alone or in coordination with members of the PLO Executive Committee and the Fatah Central Committee.
Fayyad never belonged to any of these two Palestinian key-decision-making bodies.
The overall policies and strategies of the Palestinian Authority were never part of Fayyad's responsibility.
Important decisions were always taken only by Abbas and a handful of his trusted aides, who never deemed it necessary to consult with their prime minister.
Even when Fayyad opposed Abbas's bid for Palestinian statehood at the UN General Assembly in November 2012, no one in the Palestinian Authority took his stance seriously.
During the past five years, Abbas and his inner circle succeeded in turning Fayyad into a prime minister whose powers were limited only to economic issues; or as some Palestinians used to say, "Fayyad served more as a mayor than as a prime minister."
Even if Fayyad had stayed in office, there is no reason to believe that the chances of reviving the peace process would have been better.
How could Fayyad have salvaged the peace process when the decisions were made only by Abbas and his top aides?
Was anyone expecting Fayyad openly to challenge Fatah, the PLO and other Palestinians by returning to the negotiating table on his own?
The Americans and Europeans seem to have forgotten that Fayyad represents a political list that won only two seats in the 2006 parliamentary elections.
Although there are some who praise his efforts to build state institutions and a fine economy, they also seem to be turning a blind eye to Fayyad's lack of grassroots support among Palestinians.
Fayyad's departure from the scene will have no impact on the peace process because the decision on this issue was never in his hands.
Besides, Fayyad's credibility has been severely undermined by US and European efforts to keep him in power against the wishes of Abbas, Fatah and many Palestinians.
The claim that Fayyad's resignation is a major blow to the peace process is not only untrue, it is ridiculous. Such claims are intended to create the impression, totally false, that were it not for Fayyad's resignation, the peace process would have been salvaged.
The truth is that Abbas was the one who decided to boycott the peace talks until Israel meets his conditions, including a full cessation of settlement construction and recognition of the pre-1967 lines as the future borders of a Palestinian state.
Abbas has been boycotting not only Israel, but also his prime minister -- who finally grew tired of the Palestinian Authority president's efforts to undermine and discredit him.