Ali Waked
April 19, 2010 - 12:00am,7340,L-3876991,00.html

As Palestinian prime minister advances his plan for independent state next summer, even his greatest opponents find it difficult not to give him credit for recent calm and order in West Bank

Who has turned Israel, Hamas and the veteran and conservative group in Fatah into loyal partners? Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, at least if you ask him. Despite the many difficulties and uneasy situation both in the Palestinian society and in the relations with Israel, Fayyad is setting out to fulfill his vision and raise diplomatic and financial support for the Palestinian Authority in a way no one has ever done before.

"I vow to work to reduce our dependency on foreign financial support and aid funds," Fayyad said his weekly radio address to his people, while visiting Paris.

The economic independence issue may appear to be an unfeasible ideal in the foreseeable future, as it was not a top priority for the Palestinian Authority leadership throughout the years.

Nonetheless, that same aspiration is linked to Fayyad's wider vision for the establishment of an organized and institutionalized Palestinian state, which has managed to challenge Israel and throw the Jewish state into a much more serious entanglement than its spokespeople are willing to admit.

Since realizing that Fayyad was serious in his declaration last summer that he planned to establish the Palestinian state within two years, it appears Israel will have to invest many diplomatic efforts in order to stop the United Nations Security Council from voting on the matter and approving it – meaning international recognition of an independent Palestinian state.

His fruitful relations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas – despite the tensions due to fears among Fatah elements that the prime minister is gaining strength – have turned Fayyad and his plan into a train racing forward towards the target date he set last August.

"The passengers on that train are Fatah men, and those who placed the tracks it is moving on are the organization and Abu Mazen (Abbas). Fayyad's associates tend to forget that," a senior Fatah official told Ynet, hinting that the prime minister's men were trying to build a bubble around him which would cut him off from the PA's central political body.

This has turned into a real horror scenario in the eyes of different Fatah officials, many of whom are concerned that Fayyad will score a victory this summer in the elections for the West Bank's local councils with his small party, "Third Way".

The same officials can breathe with relief, at least for now. Due to his series of successes, they fear a situation in which he may seek to use his accomplishments to boost his party at their expense, although his own people estimate that the chances for a victory in these elections are quite slim. Despite the clarifications made by his aides that Abbas is the senior one among the two, the political threat seen by the PA leadership is hard to ignore.

Fatah sources, including those close to Fayyad, admit that he has never tried to go around Abbas or challenge his leadership, but there are those who expected him to focus on administrative issues and are unsatisfied with his diplomatic meetings with American and other officials. Those moves have caused quite a headache to different PA elements, as they have done to Israel, particularly in light of the fact that he has been marked by many as Abbas' heir, despite not being a Fatah man.

Sources close to Fayyad say he has succeeded in managing the government, the economy and the security thanks to the fact that since the PA's establishment, he has based his decisions on accurate and up-to-date figures issued by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

Up to that time, this pattern was unfamiliar to the Palestinian leadership, which based its decisions on organizational and clan affiliations, which had nothing to do with professional and rational conduct.

Despite the criticism that Fayyad was appointed prime minister following Western pressure, not one can doubt his part in creating the current situation in the territories. The security calm and the sense of order across the West Bank have not been seen in the PA since its establishment. In addition, the extent of corruption has been significantly reduced.

The Palestinian prime minister recently decided to establish an ombudsman's office and receives an annual report reviewing the government's policies and operations.

As opposed to many members of the group criticizing him, Fayyad is often present on the ground and does not express his solidarity with his people from the office. In recent months he led the burning of settlement products confiscated from PA stores and is considered a regular participant in the anti-fence rallies in the villages of Bilin and Naalin.

The governors of all the different PA districts, commanders of the security organizations and the ministers are well aware of the fact that the PA finally has a "landlord", who is acting in accordance with fixed standards issued through undisputable orders and rules. This is the exact reason why many Fatah officials feel that the same policy is pushing them away from the positions of strength.

The same elements are even trying to compare Fayyad to the greatest enemies in Hamas. They refer to his activity as a "white coup", similar to the bloody Hamas' bloody takeover of the Gaza Strip. There are those in Fatah who would even prefer reconciling with Hamas in order ward Fayyad off and undermine his power.

Nonetheless, the majority of the Palestinian public appears to be following the route paved by Fayyad. The satisfaction with the maintenance of order and security, as well as the accelerated economic development, has led many to view him as a person fighting the occupation in his own way, especially with that two-year plan, which may be the most threatening weapon he has against Israel.


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