Friday, April 3, 2009

Friend or fig leaf?

The known civilized world has its knickers completely in a twist over the impending departure of Salaam Fayad as the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. It's quite pathetic, really.

As the Jerusalem Post headline today laments, "Trusted PM's resignation could affect US aid to PA." Trusted by whom?

Well, by Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), apparently.

"It certainly makes it much more difficult," said US Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-New York), who chairs the House foreign affairs subcommittee on the Middle East, of efforts to allocate funds to a PA absent Fayad. "He's good, and he instills much confidence in the part of those [in Congress] who will have something to say about that money."

Rep. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), too.

"I'm hoping that he will be the prime minister because he's been a very important leader and earned the respect of Congress," she told the Post. "His leadership has been critical."

President Bush and Condi Rice were also fans. The European leaders adore him. The Wall Street Journal calls him "a Western favorite." He has gained a reputation as the last and only honest palestinian politician, seemingly due primarily for his ongoing insistance upon transparency and integrity in the management of PA funds and particularly those that have been donated by generous foreign governments.

But the fact is that Fayyad has clearly been fighting an uphill battle and has gained no traction in his attempts to reform financial business-as-usual in the palestinian fisc.

Hamas despises him, which is, of course, a point in his favor. Nevertheless, his "moderate" credentials don't stand up all that well to scrutiny.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has said Palestinians have a legitimate right to resist Israeli occupation, even if the phrase does not appear in his new government program.

"We are certainly an occupied people and resistance is a legitimate right for the Palestinian people as an occupied people," Fayyad told reporters in Cairo, where he is leading the Palestinian delegation to an Arab League meeting on Monday.

Palestinian officials confirmed on Friday that the platform of the new government omits the phrases "armed struggle" and "resistance" against Israeli occupation.

But he implied that "resistance" did not mean "armed struggle." Necessarily.

And a few months ago, while lauding the importance of Jerusalem to the world's major religions at a "UN organized interfaith peace conference," he ... left one out.

"Jerusalem is home to the third most holy place to Islam, the place where Muhammad rose to the heavens, and the place where Jesus, the Christian, was resurrected," the Palestinian leader proclaimed.

So are we in the West, already cash strapped and struggling to prop up our economies with gimmicks and slight of hand, so incredibly anxious to continue doling out money to the Arabs in Gaza and Ramallah that the departure of Fayyad is causing such wailing, moaning and gnashing of teeth? Again, from the Wall Street Journal.

"The feeling is that Fayyad is a guarantee for our support and our money," said a Western diplomat in Jerusalem. "Fayyad has overwhelming support from Moscow to Washington to Rome and without him it will be a lot harder to persuade our domestic parliaments to give money to the Palestinians."

Is Fayyad really a guarantor that our support and our money will be spent wisely? Or is he just a fig leaf that allows us to claim it's protected while we keep shovelling it out. And if his presence is the magic balm without which we have no confidence in the integrity of the system that oversees the use and distribution of our largesse, isn't is just possible that we shouldn't be sending it there in the first place?

Shabbat Shalom.