Avi Issacharoff
December 17, 2007 - 1:27pm

Today's donors conference to the Palestinian Authority, taking place in Paris, is a time for Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to shine. A mere six months since he was appointed to the post, Fayyad has managed to win the international community's support for the economic plan that is the fruit of his labors.

On Thursday, Fayyad stood before a group of journalists in Ramallah and explained, in simple terms, the PA's expectations of the donor states ($5.6 billion over the next three years), of itself and, of course, of Israel. In Paris yesterday, Fayyad repeated the mantra before another group of reporters. The media-shy Palestinian prime minister wants to get his message out so that his plan can succeed.

However, it seems that even Fayyad is preparing for the possibility of failure. He regularly reiterates his two basic demands of Israel, which are conditional for the plan succeeding and the Palestinian economy flourishing: allowing the freedom of movement and goods in the West Bank and, as Fayyad says, "Israel must remove the blockade from Gaza, which has so damaged the Palestinian economy."

But the Palestinian prime minister knows full well that these two conditions will not be met any time soon. Israel is not going to remove the blockade from Gaza, nor will it lift the hundreds of roadblocks dispersed throughout the West Bank. Fayyad does refer to World Bank reports on the subject, but he is getting an alibi ready in case Israel continues its policy and his economic plan does not bring about the awaited changes.
Fayyad is an exception in Palestinian politics: He belongs to neither Fatah nor Hamas, having helped found the Third Way party, and unlike most Palestinian leaders, Fayyad does not blame "the occupation" for everything.

He managed to dismiss 40,000 PA employees after his predecessors and rivals in Fatah had tried to win support by handing out government jobs. In Nablus he wrought significant change on the ground, making the city secure again. As a result, both the United States and Israel see him as "the great hope."

Nonetheless, it is difficult to see how Fayyad plans to implement hundreds of millions of dollars in economic projects without Hamas' agreement. He has also neglected to mention that the Israeli blockade of Gaza is continuing in part due to the pressure the PA is exerting on Israel to do so.

Some Fatah officials argue that Fayyad has been trying to signal to Hamas in anticipation of the possibility that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will go back to negotiating with them.

Such a scenario may be part of Fayyad's calculations, but Fatah complaints appear to stem primarily from the fear that in the next elections, Fayyad, with his clean public image, is likely to steal votes from Fatah. The billions of dollars coming in from the donor states will only help him do so.


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