When Salam Fayyad took over the Palestinian ministry of finance, the No, 1 complaint against the Palestinian leadership was corruption. I should know: In 1996 I was jailed for seven days because the small TV station I was running dared to broadcast live a session of the newly elected Palestinian legislative council dealing with corruption. Much has happened since then.
Now that he has been a minister and then prime minister, the former World Bank official has put Palestinian finances in order. He unified all income sources, dried up all slush accounts and went against Yasser Arafat’s orders by insisting on paying all security officials by direct bank account (rather than with cash given to their commanders based on a questionable list of personnel). Fayyad also became the first Arab government official to publish his government’s entire budget online, ushering a new transparency not seen in the entire Arab region.
As prime minister, Fayyad gave new meaning to the term “rule of law,” developed the Palestinian police and security forces (to impressive results), and upgraded the judiciary and its independence. Palestinian Radio and TV Corporation moved closer to a public service operation, although the president’s office has continued to dictate the news segment. Independent media has also witnessed a golden period even though cases of security violations of press freedoms have persisted.
Fayyad began drawing up a detailed plan of what the Palestinian state should look like and directed his government and international funders in that direction. His blueprint of the state included human development and created the needed infrastructure for statehood, which included roads, ports and a West Bank airport.
Fayyad’s efforts won him high marks on all levels, but it failed to provide him with the one element that was necessary: the acquiescence of the Israelis who directly controlled Area C, more than 60% of the West Bank.
The latest human rights report of the United Kingdom’s foreign secretary, issued April 15, details some of the Israeli human rights violations that have no doubt weakened Fayyad; among them are an “unprecedented surge” in Israeli settlement, referred to in the report as “illegal under international humanitarian law”; a barrier that incurs illegally on the Palestinian side of the Green Line; the restriction of people and goods to and from Gaza, including access to agricultural and fishing areas; 589 structures demolished in Area C in 2012, and 871 people displaced; violation of article 53 of the Geneva Convention; only 5% of building permits requested by Palestinians for Area C approved, and administrative detention used as punitive measure rather than for the narrow security purpose for which it was intended.