As long as Fayyad was prime minister, it was almost impossible for Abbas and Fatah to lay their hands on the hundreds of millions of dollars of international aid. Unlike Fayyad, Hamdallah will serve as the obedient and faithful servant of Abbas, as well as the Fatah and PLO leadership. On the political arena, the appointment will have no impact whatsoever.
The appointment of Palestinian academic Rami Hamdallah as Palestinian Authority Prime Minister is a big victory for Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction.
Hamdallah, who had served as president of An-Najah University since 1998, has been chosen by Abbas to replace Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who decided to quit in April following years of tensions and disagreements with the Palestinian Authority president and Fatah.
Abbas and Fatah want a weak prime minister who would never pose a threat to their hegemony over the Palestinian issue.
Until last week, many Palestinians were convinced that Abbas would be forced by the US Administration and the Europeans to keep Fayyad in office.
Western donors even threatened to suspend financial aid to the Palestinian Authority if Abbas insisted on removing Fayyad.
But in the end Abbas and Fatah got exactly what they wanted. Not only did they manage to get rid of Fayyad, but the man who has been chosen to replace him will be less problematic than Fayyad.
For Abbas and Fatah, Fayyad, a widely respected economist, posed a real problem and threat. As long as Fayyad was prime minister, it was almost impossible for Abbas and Fatah to lay their hands on hundreds of millions of dollars of international aid.
Fayyad was not only blocking Abbas and Fatah from seizing the funds; he was also beginning to pose a political challenge to them.
Abbas and Fatah leaders in the West Bank suspected that Fayyad had political ambitions, including running one day in a presidential election.
Yet more important than getting rid of Fayyad was finding an uncharismatic and inexperienced figure who would play the role of the loyal and dutiful servant of Abbas and Fatah leaders.
If getting rid of Fayyad was a victory, the appointment of Hamdallah, a “yes man” with no political experience, is even a bigger achievement.
Abbas wanted and finally got a prime minister who will play the same role as the prime ministers of Jordan and other undemocratic Arab countries.
Unlike Fayyad, Hamdallah will now serve as the obedient and faithful servant of Abbas, as well as the Fatah and PLO leadership.
This is exactly what they have wanted — a powerless prime minister who would rubber-stamp their decisions and plans.
In this regard, Hamdallah will not be different from any official working in Abbas’s office. In fact, some Palestinians reacted jokingly to the appointment by saying that a secretary in Abbas’s office has more powers than the new prime minister.
On the political arena, the appointment of Hamdallah will have no impact whatsoever.
The PLO is the only party authorized to negotiate with Israel. PLO leaders, including Abbas, never allowed Fayyad to be part of the negotiations with Israel. Of course, they will never permit someone like Hamdallah, who has zero experience in the peace process, to be involved.
The appointment of Hamdallah does not mean anything for the peace process. Moreover, it will not bring about real changes, if any, in the Palestinian Authority’s economic and security strategies.
The appointment of Hamdallah shows that Abbas continues to act as if the Palestinian Authority is his private fiefdom. PLO leaders said that Abbas failed to consult with them about the appointment of the new prime minister, the same way he keeps them in the dark about many things, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to resume the peace process with Israel.
If anything, the appointment of Hamdallah serves to reinforce his status as an unelected dictator whose only goal is to remain in power for as long as possible.
Khaled Abu Toameh is an Arab Muslim, a veteran award-winning journalist who has been covering Palestinian affairs for nearly three decades. He studied at Hebrew University and began his career as a reporter by working for a PLO-affiliated newspaper in Jerusalem.
Abu Toameh currently works for the international media, serving as the ‘eyes and ears’ of foreign journalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Abu Toameh’s articles have appeared in numerous newspapers around the world, including The Wall Street Journal, US News & World Report and The Sunday Times of London.
Since 2002 he has been writing on Palestinian affairs for The Jerusalem Post. Abu Toameh has also been working as a producer and consultant for NBC News since 1989.
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