Articles > > UNENVIABLE CONDITIONS

Articles - - Date: 2019-03-12
By: Oraib Al Rantawi

Dr. Mohammad Shtayyeh is assuming his new post as the PA's prime minister in conditions that no one envies him for at all.
 
The threats to the Palestinian national project surround it from all sides. The inter-Palestinian [Fatah/Hamas] split may have reached the point of 'no return.' Meanwhile, Fatah and the other Palestinian factions may be facing their death throes. And one can go on and on about the economic hardships resulting from the U.S. blockade and Israel's punitive measures.
 
But that does not prevent many people, including myself, from seeing the choice of Shtayyeh as an opportunity to breathe new life into the Palestinian administration and the government's actions, especially since the government – its head and its leadership team– play no serious role in addressing the major foreign issues, or even in managing the inter-Palestinian reconciliation file. In fact, the latter has long fallen into the hands of Shtayyeh's comrade-in-arms 'Azzam al-Ahmad, but all to no avail and without any progress.
 
There are those who may like to view Dr. Mohammad Shtayyeh's appointment as a reenactment of Dr. Salam Fayyad's experiment in government. However, I believe that this entails a considerable oversimplification based on the merely formal similarities between the two cases. For Shtayyeh has risen to the peak of government from the womb of the Palestinian national movement, and from a leading position within the largest Palestinian faction, Fatah. By contrast, Salam Fayyad was 'parachuted' as head of the Palestinian government, hailed from outside the PLO and Fatah, and came as result of outside support – in fact, pressure.
 
Shtayyeh is the son of the Palestinian establishment. And he is not known to have any suspect foreign links. He is not considered close to one Arab capital or another, or to this or that regional axis. He is only associated with Ramallah, Fatah, and the PLO. And that is a distinction Fayyad did not enjoy, with the result that much doubt and many questions were raised concerning his Palestinian and Arab connections. Consequently, his project entered the labyrinths of the conflict of axes over the 'Palestinian card,' and it was only natural for it to reach a dead-end.
 
But unlike many Fatah's Central Committee members and because of his role, positions, and academic background, Shtayyeh maintains well-appreciated regional and international contacts – perhaps less so than Fayyad, but enough to secure a starting point. The man, in other words, will not start from point zero. He has deep roots inside the Palestinian structure and has branches that extend beyond it. From what I know of him, I suppose he may be the most appropriate candidate for Fatah and other factions' government – setting aside the argument whether it is appropriate to form such a government or not, since that is another issue.
 
Shtayyeh does not enjoy the benefit of the 'international embrace' that Fayyad enjoyed. Tony Blair is not at his side to pave the way to economic peace and the 'project to establish a state under the occupation's skin.' Nor is [U.S.] General Keith Dayton around to pursue the project to build 'the new Palestinian [security forces] man.' Nor do I suppose that Thomas Friedman is among Shtayyeh's admirers, contrary to the sentiments he expressed regarding Fayyad and 'Fayyadism.' Nonetheless, Shtayyeh enjoys the minimal required international acceptance and a greater degree of 'minimal required Palestinian acceptance.' And that is sufficient as a sound beginning.
 
We shall see whether he can form the PLO's next government, or whether he will accept a government that will include half- and quarter-factions. We shall examine the images to see who sits on his right and who sits on his left, and whether they will be the same mummies that have been around throughout all eras, phases, and times, or whether he will bring in new blood. We shall see if he will succeed in gaining the support of Fatah's 'tribes' or in neutralizing some of them. We shall see how he will add his personal touch to the pending issues, which have long remained without any special touches ever since Salam Fayyad left the Palestinian premiership.
 
Like his counterparts among other prime ministers in Palestine and its neighboring countries, Shtayyeh deserves a 'hundred days of grace' during which he is supposed to collect his cards, make up plans, and pave his way. The hope is that he will succeed in doing so.
 
"But he should remain worried. For, after all, the tasks that await the Palestinian government and the PA are too momentous to be resolved in a hundred days – or even in a hundred months.