Is the Palestinian Authority Stable Enough for Peace Talks?
Assessing the Resignation and Return of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad
Dan Diker and Pinhas Inbari
- Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's agreement to remain as PA prime minister defied the unprecedented opposition to his new PA government by both Hamas and the Fatah movement. While Fayyad's stellar reputation in the West as a reformer-statesman continues to inspire confidence among U.S. security officials and Western donor nations, his position is far more difficult in the fragile Palestinian political reality.
- While the Fatah Central Committee tolerated the previous PA government due to its offensive against Hamas subversion in the West Bank, Fatah's overall opposition to the current cabinet reflects fundamental divisions between its "young guard" and the older and more powerful founding generation.
- Fayyad has continued to pay monthly salaries to nearly 12,000 Hamas Executive Force members, which had been agreed upon by the short-lived Palestinian national unity government in 2007. The same PA-funded Hamas Executive Force fought IDF troops in the recent Gaza war.
- Fayyad also avoided confrontation with Fatah's Iranian-backed Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, even integrating its militia leaders as local commanders in the PA's National Security Forces (the U.S.-backed "Dayton forces"). While PA forces dispersed Hamas demonstrations in the West Bank during the Gaza war, they did not act against the protests of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
- Fayyad's government reflects the intention of the U.S. to create a new security framework in which the Palestinians could move from an era of gangsterism, armed resistance, and terror to an era of nation-building and statehood. However, Fayyad does not have the political base to succeed in the long term. Moreover, Washington's notion that reformed political power can be purchased is naive.
- The PA prime minister's alliance with the "young guard" Fatah leadership has thus far proved to be insufficient and the deals he has made with local warlords and militia groups in the West Bank have severely compromised his state-building project.