(photo credit: AP [file])
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad said over the weekend that he does not intend to remain in political office after the establishment of a new Palestinian government.
Fayad's remarks put an end to speculation that he was planning to run in the next presidential election in the PA. They also constitute a blow to the US and all those who were hoping that he would continue to play a major role in the PA in the future.
He renewed his call for the formation of a transitional government that would run the affairs of the Palestinians until new elections are held. He said the transitional government would not include members of Hamas or Fatah.
Fayad, from the Third Way Party, made it clear that he does not see himself heading such a government.
He said that his current job was the last he would hold in the PA.
"This is the last official job I carry out in the Palestinian Authority," he said. "When we talk about the need to establish a new national government, we mean one that would be headed by a new prime minister and new cabinet ministers."
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that the Palestinians would not regret Fayad's exit from the scene. "The departure of Fayad and his government would end an era of dictatorship," he said. "Fayad and his government were part of a dangerous Israeli-American scheme aimed at protecting Israel's security."
Fayad, who was speaking to reporters in Ramallah shortly before leaving for Yemen, also ruled out the possibility of reaching an agreement with Israel this year. "A political solution with Israel is not near. On the contrary - the settlement construction and Israel's security measures on the ground show that there's no progress."
He said that although the main "components" of a future peace agreement with Israel were known, the possibility of reaching a deal at present was nonexistent.
Fayad's remarks reflect growing frustration among the PA leadership regarding the prospects of achieving a breakthrough in the peace talks.
The PA is particularly disappointed with the US administration for refusing to pressure Israel to display more "flexibility" in the peace talks with the Palestinians.
Ahmed Qurei, head of the PA negotiating team, and Saeb Erekat, the chief PA negotiator, had failed to convince the US administration to put pressure on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to make far-reaching concessions to the Palestinians, a senior PA official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post.
He said that Qurei and Erekat, who visited Washington last week, were told by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the Bush administration had also concluded that a peace agreement with Israel before the end of this year was no longer a realistic option.
"The Americans have decided to be less involved in the peace negotiations," the PA official said. "They explained that in the wake of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's decision to quit next month, the peace process will have to be put on hold."
The senior PA official added that Washington made it clear that it did not intend to pressure Jerusalem to make concessions to the Palestinians so as not to harm Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's chances of winning the Kadima primary on September 17.
Accusing Israel of failing to take steps to give credibility to the peace process, Fayad called for the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. He said the international community was now required to pressure Israel to work toward a two-state solution.
The Palestinians, he stressed, won't make any more concessions.
"The whole world must know that ending the conflict requires an end to the Israeli occupation of the lands that were occupied in 1967, including east Jerusalem," he said. "We don't distinguish between a settlement that was built today and one that was built 35 years ago."
Fayad said Israel was trying to benefit from the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. "Israel is trying to deal with the West Bank as a separate entity," he said. "This has been the case since the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip [in 2005]."
He described the ongoing power struggle between Hamas and Fatah as a "catastrophe," adding that the Gaza Strip was headed toward the abyss.
Fayad met with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh Saturday, and spoke of his wish to establish an interim Palestinian government not containing Hamas or Fatah members.
Israel Radio reported that the plan to establish such a government was intended to overcome divisions between the two factions, and that the interim government would operate until parliamentary elections scheduled for next year.
A Yemeni government statement said that Fayad briefed Saleh on "the latest developments in the Palestinian arena and the exerted efforts for realizing dialogue and achieving reconciliation among the Palestinian factions."
The PA prime minister also spoke of the importance of the Yemeni role in "Palestinian reconciliation," and thanked the Yemeni president.
Saleh told Fayad of "the importance of doubling efforts to unite the Palestinians and end all the conflicts between Fatah and Hamas through dialogue."
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