Wednesday, November 30, 2011

  • Wednesday, November 30, 2011
  • Elder of Ziyon
Thomas Friedman at the New York Times just can't learn.

Clueless Friedman
Israel has an Arab awakening in its own backyard in the person of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the Palestinian Authority. He’s been the most radical Arab leader of all. He is the first Palestinian leader to say: judge me on my performance in improving my peoples’ lives, not on my rhetoric. His focus has been on building institutions — including what Israelis admit is a security force that has helped to keep Israel peaceful — so Palestinians will be ready for a two-state solution. ...

Israel’s best defense is to strengthen Fayyadism — including giving Palestinian security services more areas of responsibility to increase their legitimacy and make clear that they are not the permanent custodians of Israel’s occupation. This would not only help stabilize Israel’s own backyard — and prevent another uprising that would spread like wildfire to the Arab world without the old dictators to hold it back — but would lay the foundation for a two-state solution and for better relations with the Arab peoples. Remember, those Arab peoples are going to have a lot more say in how they are ruled and with whom they have peace. In that context, Israel will be so much better off if it is seen as strengthening responsible and democratic Palestinian leaders.
I respect Fayyad. He is the only Palestinian Arab leader in history not to be tainted with terrorism. His thinking is Western. He is not corrupt, unlike the people around him (including, apparently, even the PA's Minister of Economy.)

But if Friedman thinks that Israel's backing Fayyad would help matters, he is out of touch.

From the perspective of the Arab street, especially the Islamists who are pivotal in Arab revolutions - and who are dominant in Gaza - Fayyad is more like Mubarak than like Egypt's Wael Ghonim.

Fayyad was never elected. Fayyad has very little popular backing, despite his attempts to gain some with a series of half-hearted photo-ops earlier this year. Fayyad has no political clout. And Fayyad's only hope to hold onto office is if and when the Hamas/Fatah unity sham remains the fake-smiling deadlock it appears to be.

Not only that, but if Israel is perceived as backing Fayyad, that would ensure his fall. How long has Friedman been covering the Middle East not to notice that the biggest insult an Arab can give another is "Zionist"? If Fayyad is perceived as a collaborator, his precarious career will end even sooner than it already will.

Friedman also pointedly ignores one other fact: Netanyahu was promoting much of what Friedman calls "Fayyadism" way before Friedman himself was. Israel always recognized the disconnect between Palestinian Arab leaders and their people, and as a result Israel has encouraged bottom-up reform based on helping the PA economy and institution building, helping Palestinian Arabs have better lives and a stake in their future. Fayyad deserves some credit for the improvement in the lives of West Bank Arabs over the past few years, but so does Netanyahu - an idea that is anathema to Friedman.



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