Fayad: Israel not fulfilling commitments

Prior to meeting Rice in US, PA prime minister says peace talks not proceeding in line with expectations.

Fayad 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Fayad 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad accused Israel of not fulfilling its road map commitments, saying it had neither frozen settlement activity nor removed roadblocks. Speaking in Washington Monday night before meeting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Fayad said that although it is impossible to remove all the roadblocks in one day, Israel should at least make a start. The PA prime minister noted that in the two months after the Annapolis peace conference, 165 Palestinians had been killed by Israel, 521 had been wounded and there had been severe property damage. Fayad said that time was running short to demonstrate progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. "Unless there is tangible progress in the period immediately ahead" on a list of pledges made by Israel, "I think, honestly, it would require that we begin to really call this for what it is," he said. Fayad did not write off the peace effort, but said there is good reason for skepticism. "We just cannot continue to proceed as if things are going or proceeding in line with expectations, because so far they have not, to tell you the truth," he said. Meanwhile, the US State Department said Rice would go to the Middle East in early March. Rice is expected to put pressure on Israel and the Palestinians to push ahead with more productive peace talks. US President George W. Bush has said he wants to frame a deal this year, but Israeli and Palestinian politicians are beginning to air public doubts that the goal is realistic. "Annapolis took place in November. We are now in February 2008," Fayad said in answering questions at the National Press Club. "We need to begin to see progress, most certainly, in the hope that we are going to be able to reach agreement in 2008, and I hope that will be possible." Fayad lamented what he called a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and blamed Israel as well as Hamas. "You cannot leave 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza without much to lose. I think that's really a huge mistake," Fayad said, calling Israel's response "collective punishment."