Babylon & Beyond

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WEST BANK: Old-guard prime minister asks assistance from new guard

February 23, 2011 |  9:07 am

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has decided to play the political game right, before it is too late.

Learning from what is going on around him in the Arab world, Fayyad has decided to use tactics employed by the younger generation to get them to participate in the decision-making process.

Fayyad Wednesday used his page on the social network Facebook to invite young Palestinians to get involved in deciding their political future.

“We understand and always stress the importance of a role for the youth in political life and the decision-making process,” said Fayyad on his Facebook page. “So what do the youth want that should be considered for the program of our next government?” he asked.

Fayyad’s almost 4-year-old government resigned on Feb. 14, opening the way to introduce new faces to his new government, which he was immediately asked to form.

He has been holding intensive, almost daily, meetings with all sectors of the Palestinian society to consult with them regarding the new government and to share with them his views regarding all issues vital to the future of the Palestinian people, foremost of which is ending the division between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Within three hours of the posted invitation on Facebook, more than 260 people made comments mainly praising Fayyad’s step and responding to his question. Some said national unity should have priority interest; many others said he should focus on finding jobs for the thousands of unemployed university graduates.

One wrote: “First we should thank God, and second thank the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and now in Libya, which made those who call themselves our leaders to listen to us. Maybe they are afraid they will be next.” Then the same person wrote: “The young people want lower education costs.”

Fayyad also asked the young people to suggest names and ideas for the new government.

Over 800 people have commented on this within five hours of the post, many commending Fayyad for having this page to keep in touch with what the people want. They suggested keeping the page open even after he forms his new government so that he can “listen to us,” as one respondent wrote.

Many took the page seriously and suggested names of known officials, some from the current government and others from previous ones, while others suggested new names for people they thought were qualified for a cabinet post. Some thought the posts were not important but that what is important is the program and implementation.

The general reactions on Fayyad’s Facebook page were relatively positive and responsive, which may give Fayyad an opportunity to use the new media to stay in touch with what the people want.

-- Maher Abukhater in Ramallah, West Bank