In Ramallah, Conflicting Reports on Fayyad's Resignation

Sources differ on whether the Palestinian prime minister will resign, but all agree his days are numbered due to pressure from the Fatah movement and the Palestinian public.

Contradictory reports are coming out of Ramallah about the resignation of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Highly placed PA sources say Fayyad intends to offer his resignation Thursday to Mahmoud Abbas before the Palestinian president sacks him in the wake of disagreements over the management of the economic crisis in the West Bank and financial issues in the PA.

But sources in Ramallah tell Haaretz that the reports simply reflect the fantasies of the Fatah movement, which is trying to push Fayyad out. At the same time, the sources do not deny that a real crisis exists between Fayyad and Abbas and do not expect Fayyad to remain in office much longer. They say this is not just because of his disagreement with Abbas, who is currently in Jordan, but also because he fears stoking popular unrest and appearing to have had made repeated insincere offers to resign.

Fayyad has tendered his resignation before, a Palestinian source told Haaretz. Abbas did not accept the offer because of internal pressures and pressure from the West, particularly the United States.

Fayyad, formerly a senior official at the World Bank, has succeeded in bringing stability to the management of the PA’s finances and has led institution-building projects to bolster the PA's bid to be recognized as a member state in the United Nations.

The sources say that the picture is different now and that in closed Fatah meetings following the resignation of Finance Minister Nabil Qassis a month ago, Abbas said he intended to fire Fayyad.

The Palestinian Ma'an news agency reported that Abbas told members of the Fatah central committee that Fayyad had two options: bring Qassis back to the Finance Ministry or resign. Fayyad reportedly chose to resign.

Independent Palestinian sources note that disagreement regarding the finance minister is just one of a number of reasons for the deepening rift between Fayyad and Abbas. The most notable of these is Fayyad's refusal to bow to Fatah's dictates on issues like political appointments and economic transparency, which he has insisted on increasing to an unprecedented level.

In Ramallah, Mohammad Mustafa, who headed the Palestinian investment fund under Yasser Arafat, is bruited as the leading candidate to take over for Fayyad. Another possibility is that Abbas will take over the position, as was agreed in the outlined reconciliation agreement with Hamas signed in 2012. Abbas would then put together a technocratic government to prepare the ground for elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

But PA officials are aware that reconciliation efforts have yet to yield a unity government or government of bureaucrats, making such a scenario appear unlikely. The assessment is that Abbas would prefer a government headed by Mustafa with personnel changes for a limited period.

Palestinian sources also emphasize that the situation is highly fluid. If a new prime minister were appointed, it would take time for him to form a government, likely leaving Fayyad as the head of a transitional government for months.