President William Henry Harrison served only 31 days. Rami Hamdallah, appointed this month as the Palestinian Authority’s prime minister, didn’t make it that far.
Jonathan Schanzer explains:
As [Hamdallah] wrote on his Twitter account today, “The situation in this country forced me to resign. Conflicts, confusion, corruption. Palestine needs a real political reform.”
Hamdallah’s criticism of the Palestinian Authority echoes that of his predecessor Salam Fayyad, who quit amidst strong differences of opinion with Abbas over the importance of transparency and institution building in Palestinian governance.
In other words, Abbas’s appointment of Hamdallah backfired. Abbas wanted a weak premier who could enable him [to] consolidate power. He tapped Hamdallah because he was a political neophyte and a Fatah party loyalist. But Hamdallah, with his parting shot on Twitter, is very clearly challenging Abbas’ governing style, if not his very authority.
The shorter version: The Palestinian Authority (PA) is dysfunctional and rife with corruption, reaffirming how asinine is Secretary of State John Kerry’s talk about reviving the “peace process.”
The problem with the “peace process” has always been that it relied on a false narrative, namely that both sides were willing and able to make peace. That has never been the case. Yasser Arafat was neither willing nor able. Mahmoud Abbas was never a farsighted leader willing to take risks. Salam Fayyad (Hamdallah’s predecessor) may have had the will but not the power to do so.
Fayyad and many conservatives in the United States have had it right all along. The PA must be ready to have a state before it becomes one, as the Israelis had developed institutions both private and public that allowed the declaration of statehood to unfold (and immediately win a war to defend that statehood). An autocratic, corrupt PA — presiding over barely existent institutions and still perpetuating the notion that Jews must be removed from their historical homeland — is neither willing nor able to engage in peace talks.
Rather than chasing after a nonexistent “opening,” Kerry and the administration would be well advised to return to using carrots and sticks. Breaking the alliance with Hamas and returning to Fayyadism (building a state from the ground up) would earn the PA aid and support. Failing to do these things should cause aid to the PA to be delayed or stopped. And until the PA comes up with a functional government that does not duplicate the worst of the Arafat era (in which the premiership and presidency were combined), it does not deserve praise.
Meanwhile, the administration would be well advised to bolster Jordan so it does not collapse, making the security and humanitarian problems in the area even worse.