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Fayad's Control Over PA's Finances Put Him On A Collision Course With Fatah Print E-mail

By Khaled Abu Toameh
March 8, 2009

ImageIf Hamas and Fatah had ever agreed on anything, it was the need to get rid of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad. That's why Fayad's resignation on Saturday was received with a sigh of relief by many Hamas and Fatah officials.

For them, Fayad, from the Third Way Party, was not only an obstacle to the formation of a "unity government," but as an independent figure, he was regarded by both parties as an outsider.

Many Fatah members have long been demanding the removal of Fayad from power, saying that his efforts to reform the PA were being carried out at the expense of Fatah's standing.

What bothered Fatah was that most of the international aid was going directly to Fayad's government and not into the bank accounts of its leaders in Ramallah. Fatah needs a lot of money to buy loyalty and maintain its grip on the PA, and that's where Fayad was not being cooperative.

Fatah was also worried by the fact that Fayad's government was not dominated by its men, as was the case in almost all the previous Palestinian governments. Most of Fayad's ministers were not even affiliated with Fatah.

Tensions between Fayad and Fatah reached their peak a few months ago when leaflets distributed in the West Bank accused the prime minister of being a pawn in the hands of Israel and the US.

The leaflets, some of which carried death threats against Fayad, were all signed by Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, whose members were the first to be affected by his financial reforms.

A top Fatah operative in Ramallah said over the weekend that he and many of his colleagues were "delighted" to hear that Fayad was leaving. He claimed that Fayad had "deliberately" sought to undermine Fatah by denying it funds and preventing many of its members from assuming senior positions in his government.

Fayad's control over the PA's finances (and US-trained security forces) turned him into an influential figure among many Palestinians. That put him on a collision course with PA President Mahmoud Abbas and most of his lieutenants.

Sources in Ramallah said over the weekend that the two men have not been talking to each other for quite a while, largely because of Abbas's belief that Fayad is plotting to succeed him as president of the PA.

Foreign dignitaries who have been visiting Ramallah over the past year, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was there last week, often held separate meetings with the two men.

Hamas was also quick to welcome Fayad's resignation. Its leaders and spokesmen had long been accusing Fayad of "serving the interests of the Zionists and Americans" in the region.

They also referred to his government as "illegitimate," noting that it was established in violation of the PA's Basic Law.

They contended that the Palestinians had only one legitimate government - the one headed by Hamas's Ismail Haniyeh - because it was democratically elected and had even won the approval of a majority of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Hamas had also held Fayad's government responsible for the massive crackdown on its supporters in the West Bank conducted in coordination with Israel and the US.

During recent reconciliation talks with Fatah in Cairo, Hamas reiterated its demand that Fayad be dismissed from his job to pave the way for the formation of a national unity government. The primary goal of the proposed government would be to secure financial aid from the international community to rebuild the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead.

Hamas and Fatah were worried that the international community would insist on channeling the funds only to Fayad's government, a move that would have further strengthened his status among the Palestinians at their expense.

Fayad's main fear was that if the reconciliation talks failed, both Fatah and Hamas would hold him responsible. As one of his aides explained, "Fayad did not want to be seen as an obstacle to achieving national unity or securing international aid for the Gaza Strip."

It now remains to be seen if and how the international community will continue to channel funds to the PA in the absence of Fayad, who is credited for attracting most of the financial aid from the US and the EU.


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