A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fayyad's New Government

I haven't said anything yet about the new Palestinian Authority Government, once again headed by Salam Fayyad. Mostly that's because I don't have much to say, and see no reason to record verbiage just to be on the record. My main reaction is to note that pretty much everyone in the region has responded with yawns, except for those like Hamas who have been actively denouncing Fayyad's new Cabinet. Even some elements of Fatah have announced they will boycott it.

Hamas has suggested that the creation of the new Cabinet shows that Fatah is not serious about creating a unity government with Hamas, and that therefore returning to the Cairo talks may be futile. If the Cairo talks do not resume, then it's hard to see what the next step will be for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

I am generally annoyed when someone quotes the late Abba Eban's line that "Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity," mostly because I don't think it's usually fair, and also because this is not exactly a moment when Binyamin Netanyahu is reaching out with genuine concessions on settlements or borders. But at the same time, it's ironic that at a moment when Washington actually is showing signs of taking the Israeli-Palestinian track seriously for the first time in years, Israel has the hardest-line government in memory, and the Palestinians have two separate governments, one of which most of the world refuses to talk with, and the other which seems impotent. There is a real chance, I fear, that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

None of this is a reflection on Fayyad himself: he's a technocrat and one respected by the West, but this new government is too thinly supported to be able to make any hard decisions, or perhaps even to govern, not to mention the fact that Israeli roadblocks and the loss of Gaza to Hamas give it little chance of serious governance in any event.

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