Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Palestinian Leaders' Response to Democratic Upheaval: Fire the Honest Guy

By Barry Rubin

The Palestinian Authority doesn't have to worry about democratic upheavals since it has the nationalist and anti-Israel cards to play. Besides, it will never face real Western criticism or pressure. All it has to worry about is Hamas taking over, and that's avoided by sticking to a hard line and not making any compromises with Israel.

Palestinian politics are what, in the end, determine that there will be no comprehensive Israel-Palestinian peace. Here's the latest installment in that story. As the Arabic-speaking world sees unprecedented upheavals against autocratic regimes, Fatah wants to get rid of Salam Fayyad, the honest technocrat who serves as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority.

On one level, they do have a point. Fayyad is not there because of democratic processes. True, he was appointed by "President" Mahmoud Abbas but he is now beyond his term of office which ended in January. But the real reason that Fayyad, and Abbas also, is still in power is because the Western donors insist on it, threatening to cut off all the aid money (read: fuel for corruption) if they are fired.

But, of course, the relative moderation of Fayyad and to a lesser extent Abbas doesn't suit the Fatah leadership. The duo is in fact quite weak, serving as front men to keep up the image of a regime that is a coalition of corrupt hardliners (Arafat's men) and somewhat corrupt extremists. Meanwhile, Palestinian public opinion is fed on a steady diet of  hatred for Israel and the West as well as opposition for any compromise peace.

And the alternative is Hamas, which keeps Fatah "honest" in terms of refusing to make a deal with Israel and seeking total victory no matter how long it takes.

That's why--and not due to Israeli policy--there's no peace and won't be any for many years.

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