Salam Fayyad: 'This Is A Cycle That Has to Stop'

Article excerpt

Byline: Lally Weymouth

What do you do? How can there be a state of security unless the security is for Palestinians and Israelis alike?

Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak says that Palestinian prime Minister Salam Fayyad is like an American CEO--a man who gets things done. Fayyad, a former World Bank economist with a reputation for probity, first joined the Palestinian Authority as Finance minister, and was appointed prime minister after the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007. A future leader of a Palestinian state? He faces several hurdles: he has no popular base and is not a member of the ruling Fatah party. Last week NEWSWEEK's Lally Weymouth spoke with Fayyad in Ramallah. Excerpts:

Weymouth: You are popular with Israeli officials.

Fayyad: That's good.

Why did you join the Palestinian Authority?

I came here when the IMF [first] set up an office here in December 1995 -- Particularly after Oslo, a lot of people began to come in as experts. I started to feel antsy about being in the Washington area and just sitting there on my deck on Sunday. When the time came for me to go back to Washington, I just didn't want to leave this place.

Did you think it was possible to do anything with Arafat in charge?

There is hardly anything I did here that was easy. Changing the way business is done in finance in the PA was not easy. You just didn't know where to begin. The elements of failure by far outweighed the elements of success.

Do you blame the Americans for pushing the election in which Hamas won?

No. From what I remember, everyone, myself included, pushed for elections to be inclusive.

How do you explain the result?

When you really think about what happened, it should not have come as a surprise. It is a problem of an incumbent. There was dissatisfaction with the way the PA had governed. You had a newcomer running against the system. They claimed to be clean; they claimed Fatah was corrupt.

Is it true that Fatah was corrupt?

The PA clearly didn't manage properly throughout. It does not really have to be a clear case of impropriety for there to be strong public opinion against a sitting authority. The context in which we live, occupation and checkpoints, people don't like that. In the early '90s, expectations were high, but then there was setback after setback. People started to say life before was easier.

But when you were sworn in, you spoke out against violence and incitement.

My first speaking engagement was to clergymen. …