Weekend Thinking: The DNC and West Bank

The third and final day of the Democratic National Convention concluded yesterday evening with a speech by incumbent President Barack Obama. The economy and job creation were the themes of Obama’s speech along with Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton. More than 20 million Americans are unemployed and more than 40 million rely on Food Stamps. It comes as no surprise that this is the leading  issue for voters. Foreign policy, the war in Afghanistan and the global threat of Al-Qaeda was barely mentioned.

The global economic crisis is felt everywhere, from the United States to the Middle East. In December 2010, a Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi sparked the Arab uprisings by lighting himself on fire after being humiliated and unable to work. Massive protests across North Africa and the Middle East demanding economic and social reform toppled leaders from Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya.

Palestinian leaders have managed to prevent uprisings against their rule until only recently. Last Thursday, a Gazan teen unable to find work self-immolated and later died from his wounds. Two more copycats unsuccessfully attempted the same thing in the West Bank.

Although there is intense anger directed against Israel, the immediate Palestinian economic and social grievances in the West Bank are leveled against Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. President Mahmoud Abbas selected Fayyad to serve in a caretaker government until Palestinian reconciliation and elections. He does not belong to Fatah or Hamas, and is an internationally respected economist.

Fayyad implemented an innovative program which Thomas Friedman dubbed “Fayyadism,” that has bolstered the economy and institutions in the West Bank to pave the way for Palestinian independence.

Palestinian independence remains elusive and on Wednesday, protestors in Hebron frustrated with Fayyad’s policies called for his ouster. Fayyad has not ruled out the possibility of resigning to satisfy their demands, and has explained on his official Facebook page that he has done the best he could considering that the semi-autonomous West Bank is under full Israeli control.

This should cause concern not only for Palestinians but also Washington, who has supported Fayyad’s pro-Western orientation and pragmatic policies. Fayyad’s resignation could foment greater chaos in an increasingly unpredictable and unstable region.

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