Departure of PA PM Fayyad creates West Bank Limbo

Salam Fayyad (Photo: AP)

Salam Fayyad (Photo: AP)

The resignation of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has thrown the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank into uncertainty. Mr Fayyad, who clashed often with President Mahmoud Abbas and refused to participate in official peace talks with Israel, was respected by western governments as a responsible administrator and economist.

Mr Fayyad’s resignation was tendered nearly four weeks ago but President Abbas accepted it only last Saturday. The western-trained IMF economist held the affairs of the PA together for over a decade in five years as its finance minister and for the last six years as prime minister. His resignation was interpreted in Ramallah as a result of the breakdown in his relations with President Abbas, who nonetheless asked him to remain as head of a caretaker Palestinian cabinet.

While Mr Fayyad renounced violence as a means of advancing the Palestinians’ struggle for statehood and was openly sceptical over the attempts to gain unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state through the United Nations, he was also opposed to official talks with Israel. Though he often met senior Israelis, he refused to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The resignation has come at a particularly sensitive moment when the Obama administration is trying to find ways to renew talks between Israel and the PA, with State Secretary John Kerry shuttling between the two sides. With Mr Fayyad almost certainly out of the picture, it is unclear with whom the US will work.

While Mr Fayyad was credited with building the administrative and economic foundations of a Palestinian state in the West Bank after years of financial chaos and corruption that characterised the PA under Yasir Arafat, he was forced to deal over the past two years with a deepening crisis caused mainly by a shortfall in contributions from friendly governments and the withholding by Israel of tax revenues.

Last updated: 2:45pm, April 18 2013