In his latest column for The New York Times, Thomas Friedman mourns the untimely demise of his neologism Fayyadism, an unfortunate consequence of Salam Fayyad’s resignation from his role as prime minister for the Palestinian Authority.
Friedman likes Fayyad because he apparently offered “noncorrupt, institution-focused leadership.” In fact, Friedman goes so far as to say:
Salam Fayyad was the “Arab Spring” before there was an Arab Spring.
Friedman knows what the Arab Spring© is all about, because a number of taxi drivers have told him. It is about “an Arab leader’s legitimacy” not being based on “slogans or resistance to Israel and the West or on personality cults or security services” — or, in the case of Fayyad, an electoral mandate.
Respect from Israel
Friedman’s potted history of Fayyad skips over the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council elections, when his Third Way party secured 2.41 percent of the vote. Nor does it dwell on exactly how Fayyad became prime minister.
Friedman cites International Monetary Fund data to praise Fayyad’s impact on economic growth — yet mentions in the same article that a withdrawal of foreign aid “tanked the Palestinian economy.” Indeed. the World Bank had noted in 2011 that “the impressive growth of the West Bank economy over the past two years” was “largely a result of donor-driven public spending,” a warning repeated in 2012.
So, here we had an unelected leader dependent on foreign subsidies, who oversaw the “rebuilding” of “security services” which the Israeli occupation forces “grew to respect.”
But perhaps Friedman is not primarily upset about his neologism. A chat with Fayyad had become part of the itinerary for tours organized by pro-Israel outfits, the same kind of lobby groups now mourning his departure. Maybe what’s most depressing Friedman is best understood by recalling his observation two years ago: that right now, “Israel’s best defense is to strengthen Fayyadism.”