Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad Resigns: What It Means For Israel Peace Process

  @JaceyFortin on April 13 2013 7:02 PM
Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad
Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad resigned Saturday in what could be a major blow to peace process negotiations with Israel. Reuters

Salaam Fayyad resigned his post as Palestinian prime minister on Saturday after a prolonged dispute with President Mahmoud Abbas.

Fayyad became prime minister in 2007, and he was one of the most respected members of the Fatah party, which runs the Palestinian Authority that administers much of the West Bank. He was considered a moderate voice in Palestinian politics, and his absence is expected to disrupt efforts to negotiate a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians after decades of animosity and sporadic warfare.

Fayyad stepped down in the midst of a dispute with Abbas: The two men have been at odds for years.

The latest episode of strife came in March, when a cash crisis and the ensuing controversy over plans to make deep cuts in public-worker salaries spurred the resignation of well-respected Finance Minister Nabil Qassis. Fayyad accepted the resignation, but Abbas refused, in what Fayyad saw as a breach of authority. The conflict only exacerbated the politicians’ deep rivalry.

Fayyad, a trained economist, has long argued for accountability and transparency in government. But Fatah is heavily burdened by corruption and cronyism, and some officials, including the president, turned against Fayyad.

Abbas has supported the leveraging of various charges -- including fraud, embezzlement and breach of trust -- against members of Fayyad’s cabinet. He has also been at loggerheads with Fayyad over foreign policy: Abbas has taken a strong stance against Israel, while Fayyad has argued for the wisdom of courting Western assistance and support.

Fayyad’s moderate negotiating style has angered some Palestinians. The former prime minister has opposed Fatah’s efforts to petition for statehood recognition at the United Nations, and he has been a staunch opponent of rapprochement with Hamas, the organization that runs the Gaza Strip and is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the U.S. The two entities split in 2006 and have been haltingly working toward the implementation of a unity agreement.

Fayyad’s resignation will leave Fatah less inclined to accommodate Western interests. The resignation is also likely to weaken the West Bank administration, at least temporarily, which could give Hamas a new opportunity to assert itself and thereby push the prospect of peace between Israel and the Palestinians even further away.

Abbas has asked Fayyad to head a caretaker government until a new prime minister is appointed by the president in the coming days.

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