The National (Editorial)
May 20, 2009 - 12:00am

The reappointment of Salam Fayyad, a respected independent, as the Palestinian prime minister should have been a welcome development. The PLO desperately needs a leader aloof from the cronyism and factional strife that define Palestinian politics. Unfortunately that is not the case. If anything, Mr Fayyad risks becoming a victim of naked partisanship.

He resumes the position he left in March in the wake of yet another failed round of reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas. Not only has Mahmoud Abbas seemingly abandoned attempts to form a unity government, his appointment of a Palestinian government has upset many in his own Fatah party in the Palestinian Legislative Council. They oppose the new government, claiming it was created without their input.

That Mr Abbas has proceeded with the creation of a government without Hamas and without the approval of his allies shows how emboldened he is ahead of his trip to Washington next week. Without a unity government, Mr Obama is forced into a “West Bank first” strategy. Mr Abbas travels to Washington knowing that the US’s hopes for peace rest on his beleaguered Palestinian Authority.

Not surprisingly, Hamas has decried the new Palestinian government as illegal and devoid of a popular mandate. However, its irresponsible rhetoric and embrace of violence prevents it from participating in the peace process. While it craves recognition of its support among Palestinians, its intransigence ultimately harms the Palestinian cause.

The challenge for Mr Obama will be to succeed where George Bush’s West Bank strategy failed, in getting the Israelis to freeze settlements and loosen roadblocks. This will be no easy task. The US president has shown signs that he intends to get tough with Israel, but accomplishing his goals will require a massive expenditure of political capital, which he may be unwilling to make without some assurance of success.

The US president has promised to express to Mr Abbas the need for better governance from the PA and the need to improve the Palestinian security forces. For his part Mr Abbas must demonstrate the wherewithal to put the Palestinian house in order, or at least the West Bank. The US and the Arab world appear poised to push for peace. The Palestinian leadership should not the let their efforts come to naught.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017