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Alex Joffe
Alex Joffe

 

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Is Fayyad’s Moderate Image a Myth?

By Martin Krossel, FrumForum
December 13, 2010

A “study” recently appeared on the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Information’s website arguing that Jews have no claim to the Western Wall – which, historically has been Judaism’s holiest site.  According to the study, “The wall was never part of the so-called Temple Mount.” The document accused the “Zionist occupation of falsely and unrightfully” claiming Jewish ownership of the Wall.

The ‘study’ was removed from the website once it was strongly condemned by the United States.  But only a few days after the “study” was removed from the PA’s Ministry of Information site it reappeared on the website of the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency, Wafa.

Clearly the United States was able to successfully lobby for the removal of the study but only for a short time. Imagine how much more good could have been achieved if the United States had kept up the pressure to keep the study off the website. When the Palestinian Authority allows anti-Semitism like this to perpetuate, it harms the peace process. As the Jerusalem Post claims, “By publishing the document on Wafa’s website, the official mouthpiece of the PLO and the PA, the authority has sent a message that it has officially endorsed its findings.”

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is now almost universally portrayed as the great moderate whom the Israelis can do business with (or, more precisely, safely surrender territory to).  But actions such as this undermine his image as a moderate technocrat.

Certainly he has a background that is very different from other prominent Palestinian politicians of his generation. He was educated in the West and never fought with the Palestinian “resistance”. Fayyad served as the PA’s finance minister and took control of the economy away from Arafat and put it in the hands of professionals, implementing many economic reforms over the vociferous objection of Arafat. In August 2009, he announced what became known as the “Fayyad Plan” in order to establish a de facto state by 2011 with functioning governing and municipal offices, police forces, a central bank, hospitals, community centers and other institutions of civil society. Fayyad has addressed Israel’s leading policy forum – the Herzliya Conference and he is known to be friendly with a number of Israeli politicians.

Yet, Alex Joffe, a research scholar with Institute for Jewish and Community Research, wrote last week in an article for the online magazine, JewishIdeasDaily.com, that Fayyad’s statements and efforts are out of sync with “organized Palestinian elites [who] still promote the settled themes of resistance, violence, and rejection of Israel as a Jewish state.” As recently as the November 27-28 weekend, the Revolutionary Council of Fatah, the party that rules the West Bank, issued a statement affirming Fatah’s “rejection of the so-called Jewish State or any other formula that could achieve this goal.” Indeed, it was notable that even Fayyad never referred to Israel as a Jewish State in his Herzliya speech.  Joffe asserts, “the fundamentals of official Palestinian identity remain the same as they were decades ago: the outward symbol may be the technocrat Fayyad, but many in his movement, and some Westernized Arab intellectuals still call for ‘armed struggle’”. He concludes, “In these conditions, there can be little expectation of a new Palestinian identity, based on the acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state, and of Jews as humans, emerging any time.”

One often hears that the Arabs will never abandon their anti-Semitism and their consequent hostility to Israel. But no country, including Israel or any of its best friends, has really tried to get the Arabs to do so. The Obama administration’s success in getting the Palestinians to remove the Temple Mount “study” from one of its websites suggests that the international community might have some leverage with the Palestinians, if they chose to apply it. Maybe with sustained pressure, the Arabs might have relinquished their hatred of Jews and Israel, and the Arab-Israeli conflict might long have been resolved.

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