Thursday, September 24, 2009

The making of Salam Fayyad

To the west, the Palestinian Authority's PM seems a perfect driver for an Obama peace plan; yet at home he has no mandate

Ben White, Thursday 24 September 2009

"Palestinian Authority prime minister Salam Fayyad is the man of the moment, according to a lot of recent Middle East coverage in the western media. From The Economist and the LA Times, to The Huffington Post and Harper's, the man reportedly referred to by Shimon Peres as a "Palestinian Ben-Gurion" is certainly getting a lot of column inches. Thomas Friedman has lauded what he calls "Fayyadism", while Newsweek published an extensive report on the PM's performance described by Tony Blair as "absolutely first class"........

A third explanation for the western media's love of all things Fayyad is that it forms an important part of talking up the Obama-driven "peace process". It is possible to see Fayyad's focus on security and development as sitting well with Netanyahu's idea of an "economic peace", and in the desperation to find a hint of progress, a US-educated, ex-World Bank man of "moderation" is a useful way for the western media to avoid the gloom of discussing the Gaza Strip, Hamas, and Israeli intransigence over settlement growth. Not to mention Fayyad's own patchy record on civil liberties.

Fayyad has proven himself a canny political operator. In March, in an episode now often forgotten, Fayyad offered Abu Mazen his resignation, a move I observed at the time was most probably being done "for the benefit of none other than Fayyad himself". At the same time as Fayyad was (temporarily) quitting, a poll revealed that only 24% of Palestinians saw the appointed PM's government as legitimate. Back in charge, Fayyad's western media blitz and photo-op traversing of the West Bank are the moves of a man seeking to create a mandate from almost nothing."

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