Statements made by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas this week in an interview with Channel 2 news seem to indicate disagreement in the top PA leadership.
Abbas told interviewers that he opposes the unilateral establishment of a PA state, adding, “We stand by agreements.” His statement stood in stark contrast to statements made by PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad earlier in the month, indicating that the PA would unilaterally declare statehood in 2011 if no deal had been negotiated by that time.
In an interview with the Hebrew Haaretz, Fayyad said, “If for one reason or another by August 2011 [negotiations] will have failed... I believe we will have amassed such credit, in form of positive facts on the ground, that the reality is bound to force itself on the political process to produce the outcome.”
Fayyad later said his statement was meant in reference to the PA's preparations for a state, and not to unilateral action. However, while he backed away from proposing independent action, he continues to gather international support in case of a UN resolution recognizing the PA as a country.
Abbas may have been seen Fayyad's statements as an attempt to circumvent his authority. The PA chairman opposes a unilateral declaration of statehood, and argues that unilateral action would leave the PA with a small state that does not include all of Judea and Samaria, and that does not have Jerusalem as its capital.
Fayyad's perceived support for a unilateral declaration is popular among PA Arabs. A recent poll found that the majority of PA adults support a unilateral declaration of statehood in 2011.
Fayyad has won support from the international community as well, and is widely praised as a political moderate who has succeeded in building the infrastructure for a PA state. However, Fayyad has shown another side as well, playing along with the PA's anti-Israel incitement. In addition, some critics say his economic policy only creates the illusion of growth.
While he bears the title “Prime Minister,” Fayyad is not the PA's first in command. That role is held by Abbas, head of Fatah. Fayyad is not a member of Fatah, and his growing political popularity appears to threaten some members of Fatah's “old guard.”