Recently, I have been barraged with questions about what many in the Western world are calling the Palestinian crisis of leadership. This issue has become even more marked following Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's resignation.
From the U.S. Congress to European diplomats, everyone seems worried that there will never again be as "honest," "trustworthy," "clean," and "dependable" a prime minister as Dr. Fayyad, who is also highly regarded among the Palestinian private sector. I find this highly insulting and assume Dr. Fayyad would as well. It is certainly galling to hear the assumption that in a country of over four million people, only one such man exists.
The question that I should be asked instead is why there are not more such people stepping up for this job. In most other countries, political leaders strive to reach the prime ministry. But not in Palestine. Here, Fayyad accepted the position with the plan that we would accomplish everything that was requested of Palestinians -- get our house in order, build the institutions leading to our eventual state, develop our security apparatus to a level where not only Palestinians, but also Israelis, were secure -- so that the international community would have no excuse but to finally approve the creation of a Palestinian state. (Of course, this has not been a requirement for any other state recently embraced by the international community - South Sudan is but the most recent example.) Numerous studies by the international community, including the World Bank, the IMF, and several other United Nations agencies, report that Palestine is ready to be a state, yet the world, including our Arab neighbors, has not delivered on promises to us.
Instead, the international community and Israel undermined the work of Dr. Fayyad. Promise after promise of the needed financial support went undelivered by the European Union, Arab countries, and the United States. Civil servants (the Palestinian National Authority is the largest employer in the West Bank) went unpaid for months. Further, the United States, the largest donor to the Palestinian National Authority, cut off funding to punish Palestinians and please lobby groups in the United States, for example for seeking our right to membership at the United Nations. The effects of such actions on the Palestinian economy have been devastating.
Perhaps most telling, the international community's failure to deliver on its promise of an eventual state if the "requirements of statehood" were achieved, completely destroyed all hope in Dr. Fayyad's plan.
A thriving democracy does not depend on the actions of one man, but on its people. Dr. Fayyad's achievements must be acknowledged. He did not build a government that could only continue as long as he led it, but built institutions that should long outlast him.
There is, in fact, a crisis of leadership in Palestine, but it's not within the Palestinian leadership. It lies instead with Israel and an international community that too frequently disregards Israel's occupation, discriminatory laws, and illegal settlement of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The United States and the Europeans have completely failed us. With Fayyad gone, perhaps they are beginning to regret the policies that hastened his exit.