For the past several years Palestinian Prime minister Salam Fayyad’s name on the streets of the West Bank and Gaza has become synonymous with the words credibility, honesty, and transparency.
His hard work on building and reforming Palestinian institutions has paid off: Palestinians see him as a serious leader that can deliver to his people with or without the Israelis.
He has raised the bar of leadership so high that officials in the Fatah and Hamas movements are feeling extremely uncomfortable and challenged. A senior Fatah leader and member of its central committee told me , last week, while the Brooking Institutions’ Saban Forum was taking place in Jerusalem “everyone comes to Ramallah to see Fayyad; they add us and Abu Mazen on their programs just as an excuse.”
The Fatah official was almost right: Saban Forum did send a delegation to Ramallah, but they didn’t add him or Abu Mazen on the schedule, they only met with Prime Minister Fayyad.
This is the right approach: if the Palestinian politicians remain in internal political quagmire, the world should pay attention to those who are building in Palestine and help them build.
The international community should deal directly with the new style of leadership that is emerging in Palestine. It is the wish of the Palestinian people. The cult of self-appointed personalities that have done nothing for the Palestinians other than use their cause to create prestige for themselves and their families should be ousted. Everyone on the streets of the West Bank and Gaza will agree.
Why can’t they retire from political life, join universities in Palestine, and write books for the next generation to learn from their mistakes? Jibril Rijoub is one example of a Fatah politician that changed his useless political existence into a popular and productive head of sports. He is successfully building sports teams, and stadiums and giving sports a whole new meaning in Palestine.
When Arafat passed away, he took with him his style of leadership, and left the Palestinians with Abu Mazen and the personalities surrounding him as the figures of the transition period that followed.
That is why soon after people voted for Hamas, they did it for two reasons: to punish Fatah for its corruption, and out of a deep desire for change and improvement they wanted to see if Hamas could deliver what Fatah couldn’t.
Alas, to most Palestinians, Hamas and Fatah are both incompetent at this point. Nothing has been accomplished by either party to advance the cause of the Palestinians. In fact, the Palestinians are years behind.
Their PA and Fatah leadership enjoys traveling and shopping on trips abroad. No wonder President Abu Mazen couldn’t deliver much. He had no team. Meanwhile, Hamas is implementing Talibani backward policies such as Hijab in schools, and demanding women judges to cover in courts. Both Fatah and Hamas supporters are dismayed with their party leadership.
We must take note of an important change that is occurring in Palestine. Anyone on the streets will tell you Salam Fayyad is always visiting us, while Abbas and his people spend more days outside Palestine than inside.
Fayyad’s party does not represent a majority in Palestine and some might view this as a weakness. Nonetheless, he represents a style of Palestinian leadership that needs to be endorsed, and supported. He is in touch with his people. He has visited almost every town in the West Bank, he puts on his shorts and runs in marathons for the handicapped, and when tragic personal events strike simple people in Palestine he calls them on the phone to elevate their spirits, promises to visit them personally, and then he actually does visit.
Fayyad’s is a promising example of leadership. The world owes it to the Palestinian people -who have yet to see a bright day in their lives- to support this kind of leadership and give it a chance to succeed. The people are ready to elect it and give it a mandate to implement its vision, and the world, especially the Arab world and Israel, must come through and help it deliver.
Crossposted on the PALESTINE NOTE which is the best blog (updated around the clock) devoted exclusively to Israel and Palestine.