Salam Fayyad to The Independent

In a recent interview with Donald Macintyre of The Independent, conducted just before Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad left for a visit to London, Fayyad said [in what Macintyre wrote was an oblique reference to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s negotiating stance]: “when someone says they accept the two state solution but they have overriding security interests in the Jordan Valley and they require a permanent or very long term [military] presence there and there are all these facts on the ground they have to preserve, what exactly is left?”

Fayyad added that “What the EU, indeed the whole world should do…. is to ask the government of Israel – any government of Israel a straightforward question: ‘Do you support as a solution to this conflict the emergence of a fully sovereign state of Palestine on the territory occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem? Yes or no?’” This profile of Salam Fayyad is published here

Given what has happened in recent months and years, Fayyad’s question can only be purely rhetorical [though it sadly appears to have been asked in earnest].

As to a solution, Fayyad offers no proposal for any solution, other than wishing that international policy makers would put pressure on Israel — though that is not happening.

Nathan J. Brown: Salam Fayyad is "No Savior"


My only real disagreement with Nathan J. Brown’s article on Salam Fayyad being “No Savior”, published on the Foreign Policy website here, is that I would not blame Salam Fayyad for fostering this misimpression.

This was entirely the creation of Western donors.

Salam Fayyad didn’t really mind. He did absolutely nothing to discourage it.

Maybe, you could say, he tried to use this un-elected accolade to leverage maximum benefits for the Palestinian Authority.

Brown himself wrote in his concluding paragraph that “Fayyad cannot be held primarily responsible for this collective self-delusion; at most, he facilitated it. And in the process he provided all actors with a breathing space that is now disappearing. Ultimately, the ones who convinced themselves he was capable of completely transforming Palestine are most responsible for squandering the brief respite his premiership offered”.

But, as Brown argued earlier in his piece, “His optimistic smile obscured an impossible situation: Fayyad’s main achievement has not been to build the structures of a Palestinian state, but to stave off the collapse of those structures that did exist. An equally important achievement was his ability to persuade Western observers that he was doing much more. In the process, however, he raised expectations far beyond his ability to deliver”.

Continue reading Nathan J. Brown: Salam Fayyad is "No Savior"

EU + UN: institutions of Palestinian state ready

Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission hosted a regular twice-yearly meeting on 13 April of the donor coordination group [Ad Hoc Liaison Committee or AHLC] for the occupied Palestinian territory in Brussels. The meeting was presided over by Norwegian Foreign Minister Støre in his capacity as chair of the AHLC, and was attended by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Fayyad, as well as Quartet Special Envoy Tony Blair, and officials from the Israeli Foreign Ministry — and, though we wouldn’t have known it from the AHLC or Blair websites [see instead link below to a Haaretz story], also present was the IDF officer in charge of the Israeli military-administered sanctions on Gaza, Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot [whose title is “Coordinator of {Israeli} Government Activities in the {occupied Palestinian} Territories”, a Defense Ministry unit otherwise known as COGAT, which also controls quite a lot in the West Bank as well as in Gaza].

It was, apparently, the first in a series of donor meetings planned for 2011.

The next planned donor conference is scheduled to be held in Paris in June 2011, to support “the Palestinian national development plan for 2011-2013”.

{The UN describes the AHLC here as “a 12-member committee that serves as the principal policy-level coordination mechanism for development assistance to the Palestinian people. The AHLC is chaired by Norway and cosponsored by the EU and US. In addition, the United Nations participates together with the World Bank (Secretariat) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The AHLC seeks to promote dialogue between donors, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Government of Israel (GoI)”. The Portland Trust, which seems to set the policies that Tony Blair follows, notes here that “The AHLC was established on 1 October 1993 (this is two weeks after the signing of the first of the Oslo Accords) . It serves as the principal policy-level coordination mechanism for development assistance to the Palestinian people. Norway is the chair of the committee, the World Bank acts as secretariat and the EU and US are co-sponsors. The members are: the Palestinian Authority (PA), Government of Israel (GoI), Canada, Egypt, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Japan, Jordan, United Nations (UN), Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia”. It is worth noting that the Portland Trust’s publication, Palestinian Economic Bulletin, is prepared by the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS) in Ramallah.}

The Norwegian Chairman reportedly said that “the international donor group in support of the Palestinians (AHLC) welcomed reports that the Palestinian Authority has crossed the threshold for a functioning state in terms of its successful institution building. This was the assessment of the Palestinian Authority’s performance in key sectors studied by the World Bank, the IMF, and the UN. Moreover, according to the IMF, the Palestinian reforms have come so far that not only is the public financial management system ready to support the functions of a state; it has even become a model for other developing countries”. These remarks are posted here.

This report also reported that Støre said: “many donors noted that the lack of political progress leaves the negotiating track out of sync with the far advanced state-building efforts of the Palestinian Authority. This is why all parties concerned must stand firm behind the stated goal of negotiating a framework agreement on permanent status and a subsequent comprehensive peace treaty by the agreed target date in September”.

Continue reading EU + UN: institutions of Palestinian state ready

Salam Fayyad speech in Washington D.C.

The New America Foundation has posted a Youtube video [found via a story by Matt Duss on The Wonk Room blog] of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad speaking to the group in Washington recently: .

Matt Duss’ piece here concentrates on Fayyad’s views on the issue of recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Duss includes a brief transcript of the relevant remarks, in which Fayyad mentions only the exchange of recognition between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, which was formally exchanged on the eve of the live event, broadcast worldwide from the White House lawn on 13 September 1993, when the U.S. then- President Bill Clinton hosted the late Yasser Arafat and the late Yitzhak Rabin for the formal signing the Declaration of Principles Olso Accords.

The transcript notes that Fayyad said (in response to a question — asked by Matt Duss himself, as it happens — at 49:25) that: “Actually we did a lot more than recognize Israel’s existence in 1993”:

Continue reading Salam Fayyad speech in Washington D.C.

Danny Ayalon gives a glimpse of what Israel officials mean by "a state for the Jewish people"

One of the main points that Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu raises, when talking about what it would take to achieve success in “direct” negotiations with the present Palestinian leadership, is the necessity for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a “state for the Jewish people”.

This is an improved formulation over the earlier version (which former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon included in Israel’s 14 reservations to the U.S.-backed Road Map in 2003) of requiring acceptance of a “Jewish State”.

However, there is no real clarity about what, exactly, that would mean. Palestinians fear it is formula to withdraw rights and citizenship from the one million or so (20-25% of Israel’s population) who are Palestinian Arabs, and that it also means agreement acquiescence in wiping out any and all residual claims of some 4 or 5 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants living in a diaspora around the world.

So far, it is a dialog of the deaf.

Palestinians of almost all political views react with outrage, anger… and smoldering fury.

Continue reading Danny Ayalon gives a glimpse of what Israel officials mean by "a state for the Jewish people"

Nathan Brown on Salam Fayyad's "state-building"

Excerpts (with thanks to Sam Bahour) From Nathan Brown’s new assessment of Salam Fayyad and the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority: “Fayyad has become so indispensible to U.S. diplomacy in particular that there now seems a bizarre knee-jerk reaction to anything bad that happens in Gaza: delivering more money to Ramallah (as happened when the Gaza war concluded in January 2009 or after the Israeli raid on the Gaza flotilla in May 2010)…

“Washington tends to make the same mistake over and over in Palestinian politics—searching for (and sometimes finding) a particular individual who has the virtues needed to lead Palestinians in the path the United States wishes at a particular time. In Washington, Fayyad is the indispensible man of the hour, suggesting that once more the U.S. leadership is confusing a useful individual with a sound policy. Nobody I met in Palestine suffers from the same confusion. Even the most earnest officials are frustrated by the political context of their efforts—they see their effectiveness limited by the absence of sovereignty and feel that they are operating in a punishing holding pattern rather participating in an inexorable march toward statehood.

“[A]fter examining Palestinian institutional development on the ground, I see only spotty signs of progress—and there are also profoundly worrying signs of regression as well. Those who cite Fayyad’s success at building institution rarely cite a single institution that has been built. Instead they refer generally to improvements in ‘security’ and ‘rule of law’. (On security, they tend to concentrate on daily policing—where there has been improvement—and overlook the far more checkered record of the intelligence and security services.)  There is a reason for this vagueness. There simply have been few institutions built in Ramallah since the first Fayyad cabinet was formed in 2007. Instead, the focus has been on breathing life and regularizing institutions that were built in previous periods.

“There is no separation of powers; instead there is an increasing concentration of authority in the executive branch. There is no legislative branch. Court orders have ignored; judges have bowed out of some sensitive political issues; and the independence of the judiciary is hardly guaranteed.

“The fact remains, of course, that a campaign for “security” is often synonymous with the attempt to suppress Hamas. And as a result other problems—political interference, illegal detentions—do not seem to have been addressed. Or, rather, they have been addressed—by a decision at senior levels (the security service heads and perhaps the president himself) that the struggle against Hamas takes priority over the law…

This report and analysis by Nathan Brown can be read in full here.

Geneva Intiative input into Annapolis negotiations

Haaretz reporters Aluf Benn and Barak Ravid have published an account of a meeting of the Israeli team that supports the Geneva Initiative between Israeli and Palestinian civil society (in December 2003) that gives a glimpse into what happened in the direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations under the Annapolis process in 2008. This account also explains why Israel’s then-Prime Ehud Olmert was looking for information from the experts who had worked on drafting the Geneva Intiative.

Here is an extended excerpt from the Haaretz article:

    “I do not believe that in the foreseeable future there is a possibility of an agreement with the Palestinians on all the issues, especially on the problematic core issues,” says Udi Dekel, who headed the negotiations task force in the previous government. Dekel spoke on Thursday at a conference on the unofficial “Geneva Initiative” peace plan … He was highly critical of the negotiating tactics of former prime minister Ehud Olmert and his Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in their dealings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the head of his negotiating team, Ahmed Qureia. “The biggest mistake was that everything was based on the premise that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” Dekel said. “We thought at the time that this could provide the necessary flexibility in the negotiations, but in practice, every time someone showed flexibility, the other side tried to pin him down. Therefore, I suggest that the model be changed and that whatever is agreed is implemented.”

    Continue reading Geneva Intiative input into Annapolis negotiations

Secretary of State Clinton: There's a great exhalation of breath going on around the world … on Israel-Palestinian situation, We'll be working on a series of short-term obectives, but we'll wait until Mitchell gets back

Here are excerpts from remarks with reporters today by U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton: “There’s a great exhalation of breath going on around the world as people express their appreciation for the new direction that’s being set and the team that’s put together by the President to carry out our foreign policy goals. And as I said when I came here last week, you know, we view defense, diplomacy, and development as the three pillars of American foreign policy. That’s not rhetoric. That is our commitment. That’s how we are proceeding”…

President Obama “reserves the right to engage in whatever way he deems best, at whatever time he chooses to further American interests. And clearly, that is not limited to any one country. It is a broad statement of our approach. We are engaged ourselves in a vigorous policy analysis of a number of problems and challenges that we face around the world. And we will be, you know, rolling out ideas and plans as we go forward. The President and I thought it was important that we, as quickly as possible, set forth our policies in the Middle East and Afghanistan and Pakistan, because we knew we wanted to reengage vigorously from the very beginning in the Middle East. And, you know, we chose as an envoy someone who – we have great confidence in his ability to do that. And to carry the message from the President, from myself, from our government that, you know, we’re going to be working on a series of short-term objectives with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian situation, but that we remain committed to the long-term objective of a comprehensive peace that provides security in the context of a two-state solution for the Palestinians …

“QUESTION: both you and the President in the wake of the Israeli-Hamas conflict have talked a lot about the plight of Palestinians while recognizing Israel’s right to self-defense, but you’ve put a lot of emphasis on the Palestinian plight. And I was wondering if you think that the Israeli campaign, given the fact that Hamas is still in control of Gaza and still on the ground and not completely decapitated, do you think that that was a counterproductive mission?

“SECRETARY CLINTON: You know, I think we’ve said all we’re going to say about the Israeli-Palestinian situation as we send our envoy out. I think we want to give him the opportunity to listen and bring back his impressions and information. And we are at this moment focused only on the Israel-Palestinian track. And I think it’s important to put the emphasis where it rightly belongs. We have, as I said, some short-term objectives such as a durable ceasefire, which as you know has receded somewhat today because of the offensive action against the IDF along the border. But of course, we’re concerned about the humanitarian suffering. We’re concerned any time innocent civilians, Palestinian or Israeli, are attacked. That’s why we support Israel’s right to self-defense. The rocket barrages, which are getting closer and closer to populated areas, cannot go unanswered. And it’s, you know, regrettable that the Hamas leadership apparently believes that it is in their interest to provoke the right of self-defense instead of building a better future for the people of Gaza. We are supporting the efforts by the Palestinian Authority under President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad to try to support the humanitarian efforts. We will participate with our own contributions. The United States is currently the single largest contributor to Palestinian aid, and we will be adding even more because we believe that it’s important to help those who have been damaged and suffering. But again, this is one of those situations that we’re going to await the report of our envoy. I mean, that’s why we chose Senator Mitchell. We have a lot of confidence in his knowledge of the area and his political ear, so you not only hear what people say but what the meaning behind the words might be. So we’re going to wait and let him report back to us about the way forward…”

Internal Palestinian politics and the peace process

Egypt has delivered invitations to Palestinian officials to a summit meeting of all the Palestinian factions for a “comprehensive national dialogue” in Cairo on 9 November. Egypt also sent along a draft plan, called The Palestinian National Project, for ending the political crisis caused by the fighting between Hamas and Fatah.

Details continue to emerge.

The Egyptian draft calls for the creation of a new Palestinian unity government. The Egyptian proposal also says that democracy is the only option for the principle of rotation of authority while respecting law and order and legitimacy, and it says that support for democracy requires political participation of all parties without quotas. Hamas has been asking for a share of seats in the Palestinian National Council that is proportional to the votes that it won in the last Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006, when it beat Fatah in the balloting. The Egyptian proposal suggests a compromise on when to hold national elections, calling for simultaneous elections, but leaving the date open. It also proposes that the election law should be reviewed in accordance with the needs of the interest of the homeland. Fatah apparently wants both presidential and parliamentary elections to be held simultaneously in 2010 – with President Abbas apparently continuing in office until then. But Hamas says that Abbas’s term ends in January 2009, and has repeatedly said that it believes the present Palestinian Legislative Council must continue until the end of its term in January 2010. The Egyptian draft says the security apparatuses should be rebuilt on a professional and national basis away from factionalism, and that only the security apparatuses would be authorized to defend the homeland and the citizens, with “the required Arab assistance that is necessary to fulfill the process of building and reform”. And the Egyptian plan calls for the formation of committees to begin work immediately on all the proposals, saying that there is no restriction on an Arab participation in any of the committees upon the request of the organizations. The plan says the Palestine Liberation Organization should be re-activated according to a March 2005 Cairo agreement, to include all forces and factions. The Egyptian plan also calls for the election of a new Palestinian National Council “in the homeland and abroad, wherever it is possible”.

According to the proposed draft plan, the Palestinian political factions would agree that the management of the political negotiations is a prerogative of the PLO and the president of the PA. The plan says that any agreement resulting from these negotiations has to be presented before the Palestinian National Council for approval — or a referendum should be conducted “anywhere possible”.

This draft agreement seems to leave a lot of loopholes open – and seems to steer the reconciliation talks in the direction of having all the Palestinian parties conform with the Road Map and the desires of the Quartet of Middle East negotiators. Hamas has apparently expressed reservations on a number of items of the draft conciliation proposal. Hamas Spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum told AFP that Hamas would request some changes, but that it would “agree to the draft of the agreement and will not reject it, but there needs to be guarantees that what is agreed upon will be implemented,” Hamas Spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum told AFP. Some points need to be modified and some points need clarification, Barhoum said.

While the Egyptian plan proposes a reform of the Palestinian security forces, the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds reported that Hamas has demanded the banishment of four security leaders who, Hamas says, are acting on a factional basis and who are the executors of a policy of arrests against Hamas leaders in the West Bank. By coincidence, YNet said, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also wants to replace two of them — Tawfik Tirawi, head of the PA General Intelligence Service in the West Bank, who would actually be promoted, and appointed Abbas’ special advisor on security affairs with the rank of minister, and Diab al-Ali, commander of the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank. However, YNet added, the PA is concerned the changes would be perceived as capitulation to Hamas.

Ma’an News Agency reported that Tirawi was in fact dismissed on Tuesday. Ramattan says that he was removed due to professional rivalries. But, Ma’an quoted its sources as denying what was published by local and international news websites about Abbas intention to appoint a new chief of national security in West Bank to replace Diab Al-Ali (Abu Al-Fatah).

Then, on Thursday, JPOST correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh wrote that “Fatah officials on Wednesday criticized Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to dismiss Gen. Tawfik Tirawi, commander of the PA’s General Intelligence Service, noting that the timing was particularly ‘problematic’. Abbas summoned Tirawi late Tuesday night to a meeting in the Mukata ‘presidential’ compound and informed him of the decision to fire him. Abbas offered to appoint Tirawi as his ‘adviser’ on security affairs and to promote him to the status of minister. However, Tirawi said shortly after the meeting that he was not interested in the new job and that he plans to travel to the United Kingdom to study English”.

Khaled Abu Toameh also wrote that “Abbas’s decision to fire Tirawi is believed to be linked to the PA president’s desire to patch up his differences with Hamas. On the eve of the decision, Hamas officials said they had requested that Abbas get rid of Palestinian security commanders responsible for the massive crackdown on the movement’s members and institutions in the West Bank. Tirawi, along with several top PA security officials, had been entrusted by the PA leadership in Ramallah with taking precautionary measures to prevent Hamas from extending its control to the West Bank…A senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip told The Jerusalem Post that his movement had indeed demanded that Abbas replace Tirawi and other PA security commanders in the West Bank to pave the way for ending the crisis with Fatah. ‘We welcome Abbas’s decision to fire Tirawi, who was responsible for security coordination with the Israelis and who was behind the brutal measures against Hamas [in the West Bank’, the official said. ‘We hope Abbas will take similar measures against all those security chiefs who chose to work with Israel and the Americans against our people’.” The official said his movement was now expecting Abbas to remove Diab al-Ali, commander of the PA’s National ecurity Force in the West Bank, who is also known as a sworn enemy of Hamas. Last month al-Ali raised eyebrows when he threatened that his forces would not hesitate to use force to overthrow the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip.

Fatah is very unhappy, according to Khaled Abu Toameh: ” ‘The timing of the decision to fire Tirawi was very bad’, a Fatah official in Ramallah told the Post. ‘It appears as if President Abbas took the decision to appease Hamas’. Another Fatah operative condemned Abbas’s decision as ‘dangerous’, claiming it would deepen divisions inside Fatah. ‘Many people in Fatah are unhappy with the decision’, he said. ‘They believe that Abbas made a huge mistake’. The Fatah official said he did not rule out the possibility that Abbas’s decision was linked to his desire to extend his term in office beyond January 2009. ‘Some are talking about a secret deal between Abbas and Hamas that allows him to remain in power after his term expires next January’, he said. ‘Hamas wants the heads of the security commanders in the West Bank in return for agreeing to the extension of Abbas’s term. This doesn’t look good’. A senior PA official denied the charges, saying the decision had nothing to do with Hamas’s demand for the dismissal of Tirawi and other commanders. The official said that the decision was taken because Tirawi had refused to report to the PA government of Salaam Fayad in the West Bank.
According to the official, the decision was taken in the context of the US-backed efforts to reform the PA security forces by reducing their number. He added that the proposed reforms call for merging Tirawi’s General Intelligence Service with the rival Preventative Security Force and turning them into a single force that reports directly to Fayad’s government”.
This analysis can be read in full in the Jerusalem Post

The Palestinians as party people

On Tuesday 29 April, Rice convened a press event in Washington, as the State Department reported in a press release, “to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the strategic importance of U.S. private sector investment in the West Bank. She was joined by leaders of the U.S.-Palestinian Partnership including Chairman Walter Isaacson, Co-chairs Jean Case and Ziad Asali, and USAID Administrator Henrietta Fore. The Partnership is working to support the Palestinian Authority’s upcoming Palestine Investment Conference, which will be hosted by Prime Minister Fayyad on May 21-23, in Bethlehem. The purpose of the conference is to showcase investment opportunities in the Palestinian territories and thereby improve the economic and social living standards through increased investment in the Palestinian economy”.

The State Department press release added that the U.S.-Palestinian Partnership “is developing quick-impact projects to promote job creation in the West Bank; projects include the creation of an Arabic-language call center in East Jerusalem and the establishment of a mechanism to attract foreign investment in the Palestinian private sector. The Partnership is also working to launch five youth development and resource centers in the West Bank”.

Rice said at the Washington press event that, as part of the Annapolis process, “there is also a very strong commitment to do something about the economic prospects for the Palestinian people, a people who are very well educated, many of them, very ambitious, many of them, but where economic opportunity has very often been lacking”.

Rice is also expected to try to rally support for the investment conference while she attends a meeting of donors to the Palestinian Authority, and with the Quartet, in London on 1-2 May.

The website of the Palestine Investment Conference, here , contains a greeting from Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, saying “We are throwing a party, and the whole world is invited. This conference is a chance to show a different face of Palestine: a Palestine conducive to economic growth and international investment. I welcome you to Palestine for a chance to enjoy our hospitality, and to learn first hand that you can do business in Palestine”.

Fayyad’s website greeting also says that this will be the “first high profile investment conference ever held in Palestine”, and that “it promises to be a historic event”. Fayyad added that the conference “will jumpstart a process of integrating Palestine into the global economy”.

“The time has come to invest in Palestine”, Fayyad added. “The international community showed its overwhelming support of the Palestinian economy in Paris last December, and PIC-Palestine intends to continue this process of creating an environment conducive to investment-led growth”.

While the conference is a private sector event, it will have full support from the Palestinian Authority, Fayyad said.

The Israelis have promised to facilitate the entry of investors to attend this conference.