This is a guest note by Fadi Elsalameen, managing director of Palestine Note. Elsalameen shares this post with us from Ramallah where he is today.
Fayyadism is not Authoritarianism
In Nathan J. Brown’s recent commentary published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Brown accuses Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of authoritarianism and says his governance has failed to ensure democracy and institution building.
Brown argues that, “what Fayyad has managed to do is to maintain many of the institutions built earlier and make a few of them more efficient. But he has done so in an authoritarian context that robs the results of domestic legitimacy.”
Brown describes disorder in the Bar Association and the Teachers Union as failures in two major institutional areas: the rule of law and the educational system. He concludes: what Fayyad’s government claims to be institution building is in fact institution maintenance or revival.
So to follow Brown’s logic, if the Bar Association and the Teachers Union’s ills were cured, then Fayyad’s work would be what Brown would call institution building.
From what I know, in order to cure a body from an illness, one’s body needs “maintenance and revival,” and since Brown’s logic leads one to believe that if the “illness” is cured, institution building is accomplished, I can’t help but point out the obvious: Brown’s argument at best means Fayyad is in the middle of institution building, not at the end, and Fayyad himself never claimed that he has finished building Palestinian institutions.
Reading through the article, Brown fails to prove how Fayyad is an autocrat and in fact convinces me of the opposite. He shows that Salam Fayyad and his government have been steadily, if unevenly, building and maintaining Palestinian institutions and rule of the law.
Brown accuses Fayyad of not adding or naming a single new institution built under his government but rather maintained the institutions he inherited from Arafat and improved some of them. At the same time, Brown does not recommend or name one area where a new institution is needed.
Furthermore, Brown lays the blame on some vague structural problem that he does not name. But those problems have names, chief among them “occupation.” Faced with underlying problems from Fatah party politics, the split with Hamas, and the ubiquitous Israeli occupation, I would argue that it has been independent Fayyad’s leadership that has kept the Palestinian Authority functioning. Palestine is still in process, and Fayyad is working tirelessly to curtail corruption in the ministries to maintain the rule of law. Misuses and abuses are expected while the state is being built, but on the ground one can already see the fruits of Fayyad’s labors.
In front of my own eyes today, a fight broke out between two large families in the south of Hebron in the West bank. One of the family members was a policeman who used his gun in the fight. Within minutes the entire town was full of police, intelligence, detectives and Preventative Forces, and all offending parties were arrested, including the policeman who used his service weapon illegally. The police were on the scene after one call from a town resident.
I asked one of the detectives if there were other policemen coming and his answer was “we are waiting for an Israeli approval to allow two more units to join us from a neighboring town.” Brown never mentions the obstacles and difficulties posed by the Israeli occupation to Prime Minister Fayyad’s institution building.
And contrary to Brown’s argument of institutional rivalry, although representatives of each security apparatus were present at the fight, the police force took the lead in the investigation, and the rest acted as support. “There is no rivalry, everyone respects their role, if this was a terrorism issue, the Preventative Forces would take the lead in the investigation and the police would support,” one of the security members told me.
Therefore, contrary to what Brown argues, Fayyadism has more to show than international respect; it has local, visible Palestinian respect.
He says that the Fayyad government has shown spotty success and that most of its tenure has been a failure, but in fact from what he shows, there has been spotty failures and an overwhelming success.
Brown discusses the lack of progress in certain areas of the educational system, and attributes it to Fayyad’s governance. He fails to mention even once the enormous difficulties occupation puts in front of Palestinian education. I have known of teachers who were arrested by the Israelis from Area A and threatened with expulsion from the Palestinian Ministry of Education by alerting the Palestinian Authority that these individuals are posing a security risk and must be arrested.
Such Israeli actions undermine the legitimacy of any Palestinian-Israeli security cooperation and indicate that Israel can take advantage of the Palestinian split to undermine the Palestinian institution-building process.
To his credit, PM Fayyad personally answered a letter from a teacher in the southern Hebron area and issued instructions to the Ministry of Education to investigate a case where a school’s headmaster complained that the Ministry of Education demoted him based on accusations that he was linked to Hamas and therefore posed a security risk. Immediately, Fayyad asked the Ministry of Education to form a committee where everyone from the teacher to the head of the regional office of the Ministry of Education was investigated. The head of the school was restored in his previous position and certain individuals in the Ministry of Education were reprimanded based on the investigation’s results.
Contrary to Brown’s study, Fayyad is not an authoritarian. Fayyad is building a state, despite all difficulties and engaging all avenues, and he is not yet finished.
— Fadi Elsalameen