‘The Myth of Salam Fayyad’

Mainstream media have hyped Salam Fayyad's economic revolution as propeling the PA into a new Arab country. A US professor debunks the myth.

Tags: Salam Fayyad
Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu , | updated: 1:28 PM

Fayyad, Picture of Arafat on wall
Fayyad, Picture of Arafat on wall
Israel news photo: Flash90

 A professor of the prestigious George Washington University has debunked claims in mainstream media that Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is leading an economic revolution that will help the PA become a new Arab country.

“Fayyad is not building a state, he's holding down the fort until the next crisis,” according to Professor Nathan Brown. “And when that crisis comes, Fayyad's cabinet has no democratic legitimacy or even an organized constituency to fall back on.”

Fayyad, educated in economics in the United States, was hand-picked by the Bush administration and is widely and highly praised as a pragmatic doer. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote last week that his “Palestinian Revolution” is “based on building Palestinian capacity and institutions [and] not just resisting Israeli occupation.”

Freidman stated the “theory that if the Palestinians can build a real economy, a professional security force and an effective, transparent government bureaucracy, it will eventually become impossible for Israel to deny the Palestinians a state in the West Bank and Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.”

However, his theory is just that, completely theoretical, and does not reflect facts on the ground, according to George Washington International Affairs Prof. Brown, who also is a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a 2009 Carnegie Scholar.

Writing a summation of his commentary for the Carnegie institution on the Foreign Policy website,  Prof. Brown said that on a recent tour of Judea and Samaria, he “could not find a Palestinian who thinks” that Fayyad is building a new PA state. “It is simply not true that his cabinet is building institutions on the West Bank,” Prof. Brown wrote. “Instead, it is improving the functioning of some existing institutions in some areas -- and failing in others.”

He said that has been trying to follow the institutional development of the Palestinian Authority since it was founded and that on his latest trip, “I found that for every one step forward taken under difficult circumstances, politics in the West Bank has taken two steps taken backwards".

Freidman, whose article was based on interviews with Fayyad and senior IDF officers but not with the “man-on-the street,” claims that Fayyad is succeeding. “The Abbas-Fayyad state-building effort is still fragile, and it rests on a small team of technocrats, Palestinian business elites and a new professional security force,” he wrote.

Prof. Brown also discredited the common claim that the PA has created “law and order,” as Freidman suggests by his quoting impressed IDF officers.  There is no law in the PA because the government is functioning without a legal mandate, the professor explained.

“Palestinian democracy has died, and Fayyad could not operate the way he does (and would probably not be prime minister at all) if it were still alive,” according to Prof. Brown. “The president's term has expired, the parliament's term is also expired, no new elections are in sight, elected local officials have been selectively dismissed, and local elections have been cancelled. Opposition supporters have been ousted from the civil service and municipal government and their organizations have been shuttered. Activists are detained without charges…. This is not the "rule of law" if the phrase is to have any meaning.”

He also stated that PA institutions are infected with "political paralysis and authoritarianism and that the Fatah party “is undoubtedly in the greatest disarray,” as shown by the recent party decision to force Fayyad’s cabinet to cancel local elections.

The claims of economic growth in Judea and Samaria also have been debunked by a human rights activist, Adri Nieuwhof, writing for the Electronic Intifada.

A PA report to donor countries as recently as two years ago "revealed beyond any doubt that economic performance in 2007 and 2008 remained at a standstill, with a growth rate of zero percent," according to Nieuwhof.