Moving Toward Peace?
The general consensus of the world is that peace in the Middle East requires a two state solution if not an independent Palestine as accepted by the United Nations. Yet there still acts of terrorism or new settlements by Israel that cause the stoppage of political negotiations. Dan Setton follows the life of Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad from the years 2009-2011 as he attempts to prepare the society of Palestine for eventual and hopeful statehood. Fayyad is a charismatic technocrat tells us that the model he has used is the same one that Israel used to gain recognition by the United Nations in 1949. He travels all over the West Bank to the governmental institutions—schools, hospitals, cultural institutions and we become more aware of the support Palestine has by international opinion makers and see that the younger generations of Palestinians and Israelis have a common hope while the government of Israel has panicked over the idea of a Palestinian state.
Dan Setton, an Israeli, is an Emmy and Peabody Award winner and he has written and directed this documentary about Fayyad and his hopes that Palestine will be welcomed as the 194th member state of the United Nations. The major problem has been the unfortunate resignation of Fayyad because here we see a different Palestine than we are used to seeing. Here Palestine is a cultural state and not a terrorist or corrupt political entity. Fayyad was educated in the United States and speaks in ways that we can both understand and respect. We see Palestine as a partner for peace. Fayyad has been committed to non-violence and the plan he suggests very much is the same as that plan used by the early Zionists as Israel prepared for statehood before the granting of independence in 1948. Of course, the film brings about the question as to why Fayyad resigned and who was responsible for his resignation.
Fayyad has always been respected by Jewish American leaders and by the government of the United States and Europe and in the past he has been in conversations with Israeli and Jewish groups. He is a captivating man who sincerely wants peace and is committed to non-violence. His idea is to “build the future Palestinian state from the ground up while instituting squeaky clean governance and fighting corruption. That way, he would grow the Palestinian economy and give the people of the West Bank a stake in a peaceful future”. This has worked for some years—the Palestinian Authority has built1,700 community development programs, 120 schools, 50 health clinics and three hospitals and paved over 1,000 miles of road and installed 850 miles of water pipes. This was never matched politically or diplomatically and what Fayyad worked so hard at never became the reality of a peaceful Palestinian entity. Israel continued to build settlements on the West Bank and the idea of peace was not embraced by either side.
Fayyad’s hope for an independent political base that would shelter him began to erode when the West Bank economy slowed down and Arab nations provided little or no financial aid. When Palestinian officials pushed to raise their status in the U.N. to that of a full member state, Fayyad’s plan was doomed. He opposed this but was overruled. The United States blocked two hundred billion dollars in aid to Palestine and Israel withheld Palestinian tax revenues to the tune of one hundred million dollars and Fayyad could not pay his public employees.
With President Obama’s visit to the area recently, America gave five hundred million dollars in aid to Palestine and Israel brought back tax transfers but it was too late and Fayyad resigned his position. We immediately learn, once again, of just how fragile the entire process is and how easily it can fall apart. Fayyad’s resignation shows us that the United States is unable to manage the status quo and if a plan for a two-state solution does not re-emerge, an economic meltdown could cause the collapse of the Palestinian authority and a third intifada could be the result. Fayyad was a man who tried to do good but was thwarted and the world has learned an impotent and valuable lesson. There is no status quo to be managed.