Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad on Sunday told members of the Saban Forum in Ramallah he had begun a two-year development plan meant to lay the groundwork for an independent Palestinian state.
His government's goal is "getting ready for statehood," Fayad said, while the Palestine Liberation Organization would decide when to declare independence.
Fayad explained he was working to strengthen the Palestinian Authority's institutions and root out corruption so that the PA would get more support should it decide to unilaterally declare independence, Israel Radio reported.
US Senator Joseph Lieberman, who is in Israel for the Saban Forum, a parley devoted to the Middle East and sponsored by Israeli-born American billionaire Haim Saban, told Fayad that the PA would become a more likely partner for Israel in negotiations if its institutions were more robust.
"I know some people are concerned that this is unilateral," Lieberman said, referring to the development plan. "But it seems to me that it is unilateral in a healthy sense of self-development."
While Israeli officials criticized PA negotiator Saeb Erekat's Saturday announcement that the PA might unilaterally ask the UN to recognize a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, Erekat reiterated his intention to implement such a plan.
"Now is our defining moment. We went into this peace process in order to achieve a two-state solution," Erekat said. "The end-game is to tell the Israelis that now the international community has recognized the two-state solution on the '67 borders."
Erekat declined to say when the Palestinians would make their appeal to the UN, signaling that the threat may be aimed in large part at putting pressure on Israel.
The Palestinians already declared independence unilaterally on November 15, 1988. The declaration was recognized by dozens of countries, but never implemented on the ground.
Also on Sunday, West Bank officials announced plans to extend the term of PA President Mahmoud Abbas after a recommendation to postpone presidential elections indefinitely.
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