Fayyad says Palestinian state possible by 2011

Palestinian PM says he is "fully committed to nonviolence;" Israel says talks over borders can’t be isolated from other core issues.

December 18, 2010 22:50
4 minute read.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

fayyad 311. (photo credit: AP)

A senior Palestinian Authority official said over the weekend the PA may withdraw its recognition of Israel if the diplomatic process doesn’t yield results, even as Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told Israelis there has been a change in the Palestinian mindset and they are “fully committed to nonviolence.”

Fayyad, in a Channel 2 interview taped last week at the Saban Forum in Washington, expressed optimism about the prospects of a peace agreement, saying, “It is possible to get this process to move forward as long as there is a dialogue on the core issues.”

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Fayyad said he was optimistic that a Palestinian state could be established by August 2011.

“In the past too much time was wasted on the process, but we should not be discouraged because we have failed before, we should not give up,” he said.

Regarding whether the Palestinians would seek a UN Security Council resolution recognizing a Palestinian state, Fayyad said, “We are looking for a state of Palestine, not a unilateral declaration of statehood.”

Asked if the Palestinian people would support a peace agreement, he said that “there has been a fundamental change in the mindset of the Palestinians” and that they were “fully committed to nonviolence.

“I think it’s time for the expectations to be set high,” Fayyad said. “We have to believe that this can happen in order for it to happen.”

But Muhammad Shtayyeh, a member of the PA negotiating team and the Fatah Central Committee, seemed to be reading from a different playbook altogether, telling the London-based Asharq al- Awsat newspaper that the Palestinians would no longer “distinguish between Haifa and Ramallah if Israeli occupation continues.”

Shtayyeh, who is closely associated with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, accused Israel of avoiding the twostate solution ever since the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991.

“The Palestinian leadership made a historic concession in 1991 when it agreed to the establishment of a Palestinian state on 22 percent of the historic lands of Palestine,” he said. “This state was supposed to have been established in 1999, but the years are passing by and Israel is avoiding this, which will force us to search for other methods.”

The PA official said that “if Israel does not want to stop occupying the West Bank there will be nothing to prompt us to distinguishbetween Haifa and Ramallah.”

He added that Israel is mistaken if it thinks that the PA would agree to be without authority.

“We’re not municipalities and we will hand over the municipal powers to Israel if nothing happens,” Shtayyeh said. “Let the occupation then provide services.”

The paper quoted a senior PA official as also threatening to cancel all agreements with Israel if the peace process fails.

The latest threats came as the PA prepares to seek recognition from the UN Security Council for a Palestinian state along the June 4, 1967, lines.

Shtayyeh said that in wake of the Obama administration’s failure to persuade Israel to stop settlement construction, the PA leadership was considering three options: seeking unilateral recognition of the international community for a Palestinian state, bringing Russia and the EU as sponsors of the peace process, and going to the Security Council.

Shtayyeh said the US was no longer an honest broker because of its “bias” in favor of Israel. US special envoy George Mitchell did not achieve anything during his tour of the region last week, he said.

He added that the Palestinians had reached the conclusion that the Israeli government was not a “partner to peace.” This is a government that enjoys settlements, he said.

Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat, meanwhile, expressed sharp dissatisfaction on Friday over a resolution passed by the US House of Representatives on Wednesday opposing any unilateral steps to create a sovereign, independent Palestinian state, according to an AFP report.

“Through the passage of this resolution, the US Congress is contradicting the policy of the American government to create a Palestinian state, by hindering the ability of the Palestinians to navigate around the Israeli government’s obstructionist policies,” Erekat was quoted as saying.

“Recognizing the state of Palestine on the 1967 borders is a sovereign, unilateral decision of individual states,” Erekat said. “While the United States can choose to withhold recognition of our state, it cannot obstruct other countries from exercising this sovereign right.”

An Israeli government official said the recognition most needed now was Palestinian acknowledgment of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

“There can be no peace without recognition,” the official said. “And just as Israel has recognized the Palestinian right to a state and national self-determination, the Palestinians must recognize the Jewish right to self-determination and a state of our own.”

The official, spelling out Israel’s position on the negotiations over core issues, said that while the issue of borders needed to be negotiated, this was interrelated with other core issues.

“How can one expect Israel to agree to where the final border will be without knowing what the character of the Palestinian state on the other side of the border will be?” the official asked. “Will that state be effectively demilitarized? Will it be peace-loving and stop incitement? Will it recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state?”

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