Our Man in Palestine

Our Man in Palestine by Nathan Thrall | The New York Review of Books:

Dayton, meanwhile, was overseeing the recruitment, training, and equipping of Abbas?s rapidly expanding security forces. Khaled Meshaal, chief of Hamas?s politburo, delivered a fiery speech denouncing "the security coup" as a "conspiracy" supported by "the Zionists and the Americans" — charges Fatah denied. In February 2007, on the brink of civil war, Fatah and Hamas leaders traveled to Mecca, where they agreed to form a national unity government, a deal the US opposed because it preferred that Fatah continue to isolate Hamas. Fayyad became finance minister in the new government, despite, he says, American pressure not to join. The Peruvian diplomat Alvaro de Soto, former UN envoy to the Quartet, wrote in a confidential ?End of Mission Report? that the violence between Hamas and Fatah could have been avoided had the US not strongly opposed Palestinian reconciliation. "The US," he wrote, "clearly pushed for a confrontation between Fateh and Hamas."
One month before Gaza fell to Hamas in June 2007, Hamas forces attacked USSC-trained troops at their base near Gaza's border with Israel, killing seven and withdrawing only after three Israeli tanks approached. Testifying before Congress the following week, Dayton claimed that the attack had been repulsed and denied that Hamas was on the rise — a prediction not borne out during the following weeks. "It took [Hamas] just a few days," said Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, "to flush away a 53,000-strong PA security apparatus which was a fourteen-year Western investment."

 Read the whole thing.

More on Fayyad

A commenter left a question about yesterday's links, regarding my reservations about Ali Abunimah's post on Noam Chomky's attitude towards Salam Fayyad. There's an excellent article addressing Fayyad's difficult position in The Economist:

A PORTLY official from the office of the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, planted a kiss on Musa Abu Mariya’s right eye, enveloped him in a bear hug and sped off in his sport utility vehicle trailing a cloud of dust. Mr Abu Mariya organises protests in Beit Omar, a town on the West Bank, against Israel’s appropriation of land for settlements and security walls that can cut through Palestinian farms and hurt the villagers’ livelihood. As official visits go, it was better than most. But the kiss left Mr Abu Mariya squirming. These days he no longer knows whether the pre-dawn knock on his door heralds Israeli or Palestinian security men. In recent weeks, both have hauled him off to their prisons.

The Palestinian official’s visit illustrates the dilemma faced by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Mr Fayyad. Publicly, the PA celebrates Mr Abu Mariya’s peaceful protests beneath Israel’s concrete watch-towers. His sit-downs in Beit Omar, on the main road that Jewish settlers use between Jerusalem and Hebron, the biggest Palestinian city in the southern part of the West Bank, chime with the PA’s own boycott of anything to do with the settlements. The PA recently gave the 25,000-odd Palestinians who work in them until the end of the year to give up their jobs or face up to five years in jail. And both the protesters and the PA share the common aim of ending the occupation in the 80% of the West Bank, known as Areas B and C, that are controlled directly by the Israeli army.

Yet the increasingly vocal protests by Mr Abu Mariya and others like him are disturbing the quiet that the PA has preserved since Israel crushed the Palestinians’ second intifada(uprising) some four years ago and that has given Mr Fayyad the space to start building a state from the bottom up. While the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, looks to American-mediated negotiations, which have just resumed indirectly, to bring about a future Palestinian state, Mr Fayyad has used the calm to try to resuscitate the economy and train security forces. Should protests, now concentrated in the rural parts of the West Bank and numbering around 40 a week, turn violent, Israel may once again feel obliged to rumble in and upset the PA’s plans. “Things are happening outside the cities beyond our control,” says a PA security official. “You can ride the tiger, but you have no idea where it is heading.”

Read more of the article for the impossible situation Fayyad is in, as well as some of the security provision he provides for the Israelis. The lesson I would take from it is that, with the failure of the political process almost certain, West Bankers should not rush, but make the next intifada one that counts (like the first before it was subverted by Arafat and Fatah and unlike the second, which led nowhere.) There needs to be strategic as well as tactical thinking.

Avishai: Fatah Dictatorship + Israeli Occupation = Doubleplusgood

Bernard Avishai looks on the bright side of things when discussing Salam Fayad and Benyamin Netanyahu's "economic peace" concept:
Fatah held its first general convention in almost twenty years in Bethlehem on August 4, and a young guard more determined to cooperate with Hamas is now challenging President Abbas’s sorry diplomatic record. Behind the scenes, however, it is Ramallah’s business elites who are positioning themselves. Fayyad is not the only seasoned manager now taking a role in the PA: the new economics minister is Dr. Bassem Khoury, the former CEO of generic drugmaker Pharmacare; Dr. Mohammad Mustafa, another former World Bank official, now runs the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF), Palestine’s $850 million sovereign wealth fund, put together with painstaking transparency from monies Yasir Arafat once controlled with virtually no oversight. Even outside the PA, the influence of senior telecom executives such as Paltel’s Sabih Al-Masri and Abdul Malik al-Jaber, or private-equity magnates such as Sayed Khoury, is gossiped about, counted on. One sees the makings of a quiet revolution. Sam Bahour, an Ohio-born management consultant who was instrumental in setting up Palestine’s first telecommunications company and who, subsequently, pushed through construction of Ramallah’s first shopping center and supermarket during the darkest days of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, does not approve of Fayyad’s American-trained police force’s peremptory jailing of Hamas cadres and their curtailment of civil liberties. But he does appreciate the law-and-order government Fayyad has established in West Bank cities, which the Israeli army tends to avoid. This is a kind of dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, Bahour admits, but the alternative is an Islamist command-state, like the one in Gaza, which offers no real hope and thrives on the uncertainties and brutalities of the occupation. We are sitting in a café, nicely appointed in Art Deco style, which, Bahour tells me proudly, is the first of a chain, a kind of aspiring Palestinian Starbucks. But everywhere on the walls outside are pictures of young people, “martyrs.” “Pictures of the Israeli army’s innocent victims merge into pictures of suicide bombers and real armed fighters, looking sincere and ready for sacrifice,” Bahour says. “This kind of thing works on our young people. When Israel attacked Gaza, my kids were on Facebook every night showing solidarity. We are surrounded by morbid memorials on every corner. We have got to create another reality fast.” Bahour means a Palestinian state that Palestinian entrepreneurs themselves create in the womb of, and in spite of, the occupation, much as Zionism created a state within the British Mandate occupation. He is on the board of Birzeit University. He is also part of a business delegation that’s been petitioning the Israeli Defense Forces to open the crossings to Gaza, so that West Bank enterprises can get in. (“Put a real Palestinian store next to a Hamas-controlled tunnel, and the store will win every time.”) One green shoot of “another reality,” Bahour notes, is the surprisingly robust Palestine Securities Exchange, whose companies’ market capitalization exceeds $2.3 billion.
Helena Cobban has ruminations on the more important aspects of the question, i.e., just what kind of puppet is Salam Fayyad?
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Links for 07.13.09 to 07.14.09

Ould Abdel Aziz & the Jews « The Moor Next Door | On Mauritania's junta leader campaign against the Israeli embassy. TRANSCRIPT: Obama says Africa Command Focused on Partnership to Address Common Challenges | Obama's Ghana speech; bits on AFRICOM highlighted. From the official site. Conflicts Forum » Tehran troubles | Alastair Crooke, has an article which offers analysis of the recent events in Iran but is dead wrong on the 'Western media' not understanding Moussavi was a regime-approved candidate. He also only seems to quote Khameini backers and their foreign allies. His stuff on inter-regime rivalry is interesting but really do we need to go on about the "myth of a color revolution" (few bought it) or entirely dismiss the protest movement as simply North Tehran? Disappointing. Arab Reform Bulletin - Whither Economic Reform? | I wanted to post properly about this piece on economic reform in Egypt, but in the meantime will just link. Post tomorrow, inchallah... A Technocrat Steadily Gains Influence in West Bank, but Questions Remain - washingtonpost.com | About Salam Fayyad. Times reporter recounts life in Iran prison - Washington Times | Iason Athanasiadis recounts his ordeal in Iran.
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