Palestinians Face Pressure to Keep Salam Fayyad

Finance Minister Seen as Crucial to Peace Talks

Controversial Figure: Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad has reportedly submitted his resignation amid infighting in Ramallah. But Mahmoud Abbas is being urged to keep him on board as peace talks haltingly move forward.
getty images
Controversial Figure: Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad has reportedly submitted his resignation amid infighting in Ramallah. But Mahmoud Abbas is being urged to keep him on board as peace talks haltingly move forward.

By Reuters

Published April 11, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas faced pressure from Western allies on Thursday not to let Prime Minister Salam Fayyad quit at a time when Washington is seeking to resurrect Middle East peace talks.

Palestinian sources told Reuters that Fayyad had offered his resignation in a letter to Abbas following weeks of sparring over his handling of the government and an economic crisis afflicting the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Fayyad, a former World Bank official, is credited by Western powers with helping create the institutions needed if the Palestinians are to gain independence from Israeli occupation.

His reputation among Palestinians is more mixed.

Aides to Abbas, speaking on condition of anonymity, were scathing in their assessment of the Texas-educated Fayyad, hinting that the president would be pleased to see him go.

However, a Western diplomat expressed dismay at the political in-fighting at a time when the United States is making a concerted effort to revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and boost the flailing economy.

“Pressure is being put on Abbas to sit on this resignation offer for at least two months to see what comes of the U.S. initiative,” said a senior European diplomat, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Palestinian officials had said earlier that Abbas would meet Fayyad on Thursday to discuss the issue, but the encounter did not take place and it was not immediately clear when the pair might see each other.

During a visit to the region last month, U.S. President Barack Obama hailed Fayyad as a partner in peace, and Secretary of State John Kerry held private talks with the beleaguered prime minister earlier this week, in a clear sign of support.

Admired abroad, including in Israel, Fayyad has failed to build a strong political base within the Palestinian territories, leaving him vulnerable to attacks from Abbas’s own Fatah party and the Islamist group Hamas, which governs in Gaza.

Fayyad was one of the few top officials to pay regular visits to marginal communities and ask after their concerns. But angry crowds pelted his image with shoes during protests against commodity price hikes last September, and many locals complain of not being able to make ends meet.

CASH SHORTAGE

As the man who controls the purse strings, Fayyad’s problems grew last year when foreign aid started to slow. The situation worsened markedly at the end of the year when Washington froze funding to punish the Palestinians for gaining de-facto statehood recognition at the United Nations.

Israel also withheld tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinians in November and December in response to the unilateral U.N. move, making it impossible for Fayyad to keep up with already delayed public sector salary payments.

Israel resumed handing over the customs dues in January, but economic problems persist and the World Bank said in a report last month that Israel’s curbs on trade had inflicted long-term damage on Palestinians’ ability to compete in the global market.

Sources close to Fayyad accuse Fatah of stirring political discontent, saying the party wants to get more control over Palestinian Authority (PA) coffers. The same sources complain that Abbas had not given his prime minister enough support.

Relations between the two men soured further last month when Palestinian Finance Minister Nabil Qassis quit, amid disagreements over a forthcoming draft budget. Fayyad accepted the resignation, against the wishes of Abbas.

One source close to Fayyad said the prime minister offered to resign on March 23, adding that conflicting schedules meant he had not been able to see Abbas face-to-face since then.

“I do not think Fatah understands that Fayyad is the only Palestinian politician who has the support of a broad spectrum of international donors,” said the senior Western diplomat.

“The wheels could come off aid deals very quickly with him out of the government. He carried a lot of weight with Washington, with the Israelis and with Europe,” he added.

Only on Tuesday, Kerry announced that he was drawing up a detailed package of measures to boost lethargic growth in the West Bank, which is partially controlled by the PA. The plans were due to be unveiled in Washington next week.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.