When the Palestinian Authority’s Prime Minister Salam Fayyad first introduced
his plans to build the infrastructure for a future Palestinian state, many
Israelis and Palestinians thought of it as nothing more than another Middle
Eastern mirage that will leave no lasting impression. A little more than a year
later, the plan is showing not only tremendous promise, but has become
indispensable to the emergence of a democratic Palestinian state – one living
alongside Israel in peace and security. Israel, the United States and the
European Community in particular must do everything in their power to support
Fayyad’s plan and ensure that the difference he has already made becomes
irreversible and leads to the only viable option – the two-state
Having just returned from a visit to the West Bank where I
spent an hour with Fayyad, I was struck by the remarkable socioeconomic progress
in many parts of the West Bank, especially in Ramallah. Even more impressive,
though, was Dr. Fayyad’s determination to continue in his path with total
conviction that the prospect of establishing a Palestinian state rests in the
Palestinians’ hands, provided they focus on building the tenets of statehood
which, from his perspective, rest on four pillars.
First, he stressed, he
concluded that militant resistance and violence have run their course.
Committing acts of violence against the Israelis simply plays into their
offering justification for continued occupation and enabling Israel to
national security with occupation.
The Palestinians must disabuse the
Israeli public of this notion.
The only way this can be done is by
insisting on a nonviolent approach to resolving differences with Israel,
especially now that the international community supports the
establishment of a
Palestinian state. For this reason, the preparation for statehood will
peaceful and, Fayyad proposes, “the state of Palestine will be a
state that rejects violence, commits to coexistence with its neighbors,
builds bridges of cooperation with the international community.”
the Palestinians, especially Hamas, he cautioned, are still not united
regard, it is up to the Palestinian Authority to demonstrate that a
policy provides significant gains for a public that develops vested
and demands to maintain it. He strongly suggested that if Israel is
peaceful coexistence, it must support his efforts not only by further
burden of occupation but also by investing in the Palestinian
which both sides can greatly benefit economically and develop mutual
critical for good neighborly relations.
THE SECOND point that Fayyad
emphasized was the importance of building the infrastructure of the
including industrial zones, electricity networks, roads, crossing points
other critical services such as schools and hospitals. He noted that no
can be established if it lacks the basic infrastructure or the
can respond to public needs. Interestingly, he chose Israel as an
model, not only of developing the infrastructure prior to statehood, but
for its political system and the need for unity to maintain national
Israel, he said, was not created in 1948; this was only the
official declaration. The foundation of the state, for all intents and
was laid several decades before.
For example, the Histadrut, Israel’s
trade union, was created at the beginning of the British mandate, around
and was responsible for all social services for workers, including
education, banking and housing, forming the building-blocks of the state
remaining somewhat influential to this day. Another critical institution
Jewish Agency, which was recognized by the British mandate as the
organization that oversaw political, economic and cultural
After statehood the Jewish Agency remained the primary
organization for facilitating immigration to Israel.
providing the infrastructure offers not only a sense of belonging but
strong sense of accomplishment that makes the goal of political
look increasingly realistic. In the end, he observed, only visible and
sustainable progress changes the negative political narrative of the
made virtues of hatred and misery in the name of defiance of
On the question of the political system forming, Fayyad was
clear and decisive through his third pillar.
“Palestine,” he said, “will
be a stable democratic state with a multi-party political system founded
political pluralism, guarantee of equality, and protection of all its
rights and freedoms as safeguarded by the law and within its limits.”
Palestinians, he continued, will not settle for anything less. They have
alongside the Israelis for more than six decades, and regardless of the
often bloody conflict, the Palestinian people witnessed firsthand the
democracy in Israel, appreciating its values and the advantages it
formation of a democratically-elected leadership that enjoys popular and
factional support, as well as regional and international recognition, is
essential step towards realizing the supreme national goal of
State of Palestine.”
In this regard, Fayyad is ruling no one and no
faction out because, from his perspective, only a true democracy in
Palestinian has the right to participate will provide Palestinians with a
political system that can sustain their independence as well as their
Finally, in addressing the nature of a
Palestinian state, he means exactly that: a state for all Palestinians.
the people may differ in their political or ideological views, they must
united in their aspiration to maintain national unity of purpose.
government,” he says, “bears considerable responsibility for
national dialogue aimed at ending the state of political fragmentation
restoring national unity.”
Although Fayyad did not clearly spell it all
out, he was referring to Hamas and other Palestinians factions that
Israel’s existence. But he feels sanguine about the prospect of
unity as long as the principle of establishing a Palestinian state along
1967 borders, with some limited land swap, is maintained and the
enjoy the freedoms accorded to the citizens of other developed nations.
these conditions, he believes, all Palestinians will eventually support
emerging Palestinian state, living alongside Israel in peace.
PICTURE, of course, is not altogether that rosy.
Fayyad faces a number of
serious obstacles that he must overcome, and to do so he needs both
Other than being rejected by Hamas and other extremist
groups, he still experiences major difficulties from within the Fatah
organization. He is generally viewed as an outsider and even detached
day-to-day reality of the Palestinian people. His plans need far more
exposure, especially outside the Palestinian territories, and he needs
tangible progress at the proximity talks.
The United States, in
particular, should do everything possible to enable him to show
more progress on these fronts so that he may gain public support.
must also make far greater and more visible concessions at the proximity
to ease the bondage of occupation, particularly because of the
consistent ability of the Palestinians’ internal security to keep the
preventing acts of violence against Israeli targets.
One can only imagine
what a difference the Fayyad plan would have made had it been introduced
immediately after the Oslo Accords in 1993-1994. A Palestinian state
surely have been already created, thousands of lives on both sides would
been spared, and the entire Middle East would have flourished beyond
The question is: Will the rejectionists among both Israelis
and Palestinians grasp the historic significance of what Fayyad has
which represents the only sane exit from an otherwise terrifying race
abyss? The Fayyad plan offers a noble and exquisite option.The writer is
professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at
teaches international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.