Fayyad and Abbas: A showdown or minor disagreement?

Last week, news surfaced in the Palestinian media about a conflict between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. According to Alquds Al-Arabi, Abbas has not been answering Fayyad’s phone calls after his refusal to deliver a letter about the need for Israel to halt settlement construction to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Ma’an News suggested that Fayyad didn’t want to meet with Netanyahu on the same day that 1,000 Palestinian prisoners launched a hunger strike. However Alquds Alarabi reported that the real reason behind the refusal to take the letter is that Fayyad was not consulted on the content of the letter.

The conflict between Abbas and Fayyad is seen as part of a larger disagreement between Palestinian leaders over what the strategy regarding Israel should  be. Alquds Al-Arabi reported that Yasser Abed Rabbo, the secretary general of the PLO, supported Fayyad in his refusal to deliver the letter. Abed Rabbo was also dissatisfied that Fatah leaders formed the letter content only.

Abbas and Fayyad had major disagreements in the past. For example, Fayyad was one of few Palestinian leaders who opposed the PLO decision to seek UN recognition of a Palestinian state last September. In general, since Fayyad’s appointment as prime minister, he has worked on building Palestinian institutions and focused on internal governing responsibilities while other issues such as negotiations with Israel and negotiations with Hamas were headed by President Abbas.

Fayyad’s prior disagreements with Abbas over strategy, negotiations and the UN move didn’t seem to prevent the two from continuing their partnership. It is unlikely that Abbas will fire Fayyad at this moment especially in face of the reconciliation with Hamas being stalled.  However, Since Fayyad’s rise to power, many Fatah leaders have seen him unfavorably and might use this incident to lobby for his dismissal and replacement with a Fatah official.