Memo to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: In the Middle East, a compliment can swiftly become a curse. Clinton may have thought she was boosting Salam Fayyad's credentials by lavishly praising the Palestinian prime minister during her tour of the region last week. However, Fayyad's resignation on Saturday suggests that Washington's support may have sealed the fate of the ex-World Bank official and technocrat who brought a modicum of transparency to the rambunctious affairs of the Palestinian Authority.Whether this was deliberate on her part or not is moot; either way the results are worse for US interests, so either way this can be seen as the first international policy stumble for the former First Lady.
Sources inside the Palestinian Authority claim that the Prime Minister's pat on the head from Clinton was the snapping point for many senior Fatah officials, who resent Fayyad as a technocratic usurper with no political base of his own. Fayyad had spent most of his adult life teaching in the U.S., and returned to the West Bank initially as IMF representative to the Palestinian Authority. He was elected to the Palestinian legislature in 2006 as part of a small Third Way party, and is not a member of President Abbas' Fatah. Many Fatah leaders fault Fayyad, along with Abbas, for being too cozy with Israel and the White House, and for failing to end the occupation of the West Bank despite years of talks with the Israelis.
Let's hope, Russian mistranslations aside, these mistakes are just rookie growing pains as Secretary Clinton starts to score some solid victories.