Money, hungry hawks behind Palestinian PM’s resignation

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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A Palestinian affairs' expert commented on the resignation of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad saying, “The issue has absolutely nothing to do with the land, the cause or politics; it is about money!”

It was not the first time that Fayyad announced his resignation, but this time it has come at one of the most important junctures in 12 years. International attention to the Palestinian cause ceased after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. It only started to regain its importance last month when U.S. President Barack Obama visited the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel, and he hinted at a new peace initiative when he delivered his speech in Jerusalem.

Fayyad was known as the honest financial accountant. International donors' funds spent mostly to meet Palestinians' needs were safeguarded by him. He reformed the reputation of Fatah, the biggest Palestinian party, which was previously well-known as a party that badly manages funds. The majority of Palestinians voted for Hamas and not for Fatah during the 2006 parliamentary elections due to the corruption within the latter.

Distancing Fayyad

Fayyad's battle is not with the hungry hawks in Ramallah. It is with Hamas and the Israelis.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Since most funds come from the European Union and the United States, they set the condition that the finance minister be someone whose integrity and competence are trusted - two characteristics that distinguished Fayyad. Yet these characteristics have always caused him problems with the Palestinian Authority's leaders who were used to late president Yasser Arafat's exploitation of money for political interests.

Fayyad's rivals want to sideline and distance him, maybe not for corruption purposes but in order to use funds for political goals.

They may actually think that without political funds, Hamas, which uses Arab and Iranian donors' funds to gain political support, will infiltrate the Palestinians. But there is also a party that holds on to Fayyad because it fears corruption if he leaves, and it sees Fayyad, as a premier, will protect the funds of the Palestinians who struggle to survive under the Israeli siege.

Fayyad's battle, however, is not with the hungry hawks in Ramallah. It is with Hamas and the Israelis. And the reason is one. Fayyad is the one who truly granted the Palestinian government a good reputation.

Israel launched a fierce battle against him because he established and supported many small Palestinian institutions that strengthened the Palestinians' local economy and gave hope to people who would otherwise immigrate or work under humiliation building Jewish settlements on their stolen land.

Fayyad is an economic expert and his agenda is establishing real institutions for the Palestinian people.

As for Hamas, it knows that the Palestinian Authority's good reputation will be behind its loss in any upcoming elections. Ever since it seized power, it did not fight, it did not make peace and it did not add anything to Gaza. This is why all it does is stall and stall.

Abbas’ defects

What about the president himself, Abbas? We know him as a calm reasonable man who does not like battles and conspiracies. These characteristics are not in harmony with the nature of the political atmosphere that includes political arguments and disputes. But his weaknesses are what distinguish him. They made him a model similar to Fayyad. In the West Bank, he ensured the Authority's stability and continuity against the conspiracies of Israel and Iran which are always seeking to either dominate or sabotage the Palestinian situation to serve their own interests. Many have noticed the recent fierce battle within Hamas although the latter denied it. This battle reflected the struggle between what is called the Iranian option, like Zahhar and Khaled Meshaal and the Western-Qatari option. Perhaps Iran will fail to manage Hamas on both the foreign and the domestic level. This will increase the chances of reconciliation and the unity of all Palestinians under one command.

So now Fayyad resigned. Or to be more accurate he was pushed to resign by the hungry hawks who used political justifications we all know are weak. In the end, the hawks will push down President Abbas who has always seen in Fayyad a safeguard for him and who has always blamed Fayyad for his problems.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on April 15, 2013.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

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