A Partner Departs

April 26, 2013

If Salam Fayyad hadn’t been the Palestinian Authority’s prime minister, would the West and Israel have had to create him? In a way they did. And following Fayyad’s resignation April 13 (he’ll stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed), his Western and Israeli allies will face a PA that is potentially less stable, more corrupt and without someone like the internationally renowned economist who shares a common language.

For the Palestinians, Fayyad’s exit jeopardizes Western funds for the cash-strapped PA.

Fayyad was a U.S.-trained economist who had worked at the World Bank before he was appointed the PA’s finance minister in 2002 under Western pressure. As a clean-government technocrat, Fayyad seemed just the man to see to it that Western contributions to the PA went straight into the treasury and not into the pockets of Fatah loyalists. After Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, Fayyad became prime minister of the PA’s remaining territory in the West Bank.

In the following years, he went to work building the institutional infrastructure of a future Palestinian state, including professional police and security forces that cooperated with Israel. In an unprecedented act of transparency, he published the government budget online. And he oversaw for a time an economic boom on the West Bank.

But Fayyad’s independence from Fatah and his trust by the West were both strengths and weaknesses. He was suspect at home, and never given the power her would have needed to move the needle. He clashed with Abbas, who has centralized power around himself in the ramshackle PA. With Fayyad’s departure, the message is once again delivered that an authoritarian PA lies ahead. Not a good prospect for the West, Israel or the Palestinians.

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