The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

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.