The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
The Fate of Fayyad

Via Meadia has written previously about the tragedy of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. A man of principle who is also a pragmatic and flexible leader, he has done more than anybody else to build a working Palestinian state, but that achievement is under growing threat as Hamas, Fatah and the Israeli government all pursue courses that make his goal of a peaceful two-state solution seem harder and harder to reach.

Over at The New Republic, Ben Birnbaum interviewed Fayyad and offers a thoughtful account of the rise and fall of this singular figure in Palestinian politics—one who sought to crack down on corruption, enact serious reform, and build the institutions of a future Palestinian state. The story makes for depressing but informative reading:

[I]t was clear that, with the pressure he was under—from Fatah, from Israel, from Congress, from Hamas, and now from a frustrated Palestinian public—Fayyad was beginning to crack. At multiple points in the interview, he asked—practically begged—me to skip a question or to strike something from the record. “Please help me out,” he said, leaning forward. “I agreed to the interview, but I really do not want to get into anything controversial.” . . .

Gone was the buoyant Fayyad who roused audience members from their seats at Herzliya. Gone was the unbridled optimist who had predicted less than two years earlier that, in 2011, “the birth of a Palestinian state will be celebrated as a day of joy by the entire community of nations.” In his place sat a man deflated by the hard realities of the conflict.

Read the whole thing. It’s yet another reminder of why the peace process needs some serious rethinking. It’s also a reminder that the Bush administration, widely attacked as too close to Israel, did more through its support of Fayyad and his state-building program than its successor has managed to accomplish.

Published on May 10, 2012 8:41 am
  • vanderleun

    “… why the peace process needs some serious rethinking…”

    I confess I am starting to get a warm nostalgic feeling whenever I see the much beloved phrase “peace process.” It’s so wonderfully intertwined with the whole history of this little part of the world. The Palestinians and the Israelis come and go and yet, somehow, scholars and writers looking at the now long history of all this remain with almost limitless bolts of “peace process” stuck in their quivers. They draw them out whenever writing about the situation and the phase gets stuck somewhere near the bullseye on effort.

    I don’t think it is possible to write anything about Israel and its eternal Palestinians without shooting “peace process” into the middle of the thing. Any comment would be somehow incomplete, not part of the complete set and uncollectible, without it. Of course the real “peace process” will be a war so horrible that it doesn’t bear thinking about. I can’t say I don’t understand how the current very collectible “peace process” works to put off that very bad day as long as possible. I do. And I approve. But at the same time I am not lulled into believing that the “peace process” will not resolve itself in a very bad war. I hope that those in Israel charged with planning for their very bad day aren’t slacking off during the “peace process.”

  • http://no-pasaran.blogspot.com/ Joe

    People aren’t being cute when they opine about a Three State Solution.

    Gaza is a social trainwreck, and will likely stay that way for at least a generation even if things go well there. The price of making peace with the Gazans comes at the expense of the dignity and civilization of those in the West Bank.

  • http://thepencilofnature.net Lorenz Gude

    Well said vanderleun. There is no peace process just like there is no new clothes for the Emperor. There is only the war process. I don’t even think there is any utility left in trying to put off the inevitable by pretending there is a peace process. I think the Israelis are in much the same position as the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto except that have two clear advantages. 1. They are much better armed. 2. Fewer of them have false hopes that their enemies will let them live voluntarily.

  • Brett

    Don’t give too much praise to Fayyad. He may have had intentions to clean things up, but he was still part of an authoritarian government (the Palestinian Authority), and led without any popular support.

  • Kris

    Joe: “Gaza is a social trainwreck, and will likely stay that way for at least a generation even if things go well there. The price of making peace with the Gazans comes at the expense of the dignity and civilization of those in the West Bank.”

    Let’s not give too much credit to the West Bank [WB] vis-a-vis Gaza. The principal reason that Hamas rules Gaza and not the WB is not the WB’s greater liberality but rather the fact that Israel retained greater control over the WB, whereas it had completely withdrawn from Gaza, allowing Hamas to build its military abilities.

    Brett@4: Indeed, too many people make the mistake of thinking that Fayyad’s relative pragmatism means that he’s a good guy. On the other hand, that relative pragmatism is a rare relief, and makes him someone one can constructively deal with. Except that, on the third hand, he has very little support among the Palestinian Arabs.