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Asharq Al-Awsat Talks to Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad stressed in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat that the Palestinian State exists and that the Israeli occupation is bound to end. Fayyad still believed that the establishment of a State is possible within two years, in the second half of 2011 to be specific, as stated in the State blueprint he announced last August.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat in a telephone interview, Fayyad said his project aims at turning the concept of the solution of the two States into a possibility and then turning the possibility into a fact on the ground in the form of a Palestinian State with sovereignty and not “a Mickey Mouse State”, as he put it. He likened the Palestinian State project he is talking about to a pregnancy that must eventually end in giving birth.

Fayyad rejects violence and blood spilling. He calls for focusing on popular action and peaceful resistance in demonstrations against the settlements, the separation wall, and the occupation. He said he participates in these, adding that resistance is not sending boys to the Israeli military barricades and exposing them to being killed for the sake of issuing statements.

Fayyad attacked the defeatism which has established itself among some Palestinians. “This defeatism brought us to the point of thinking that we are not capable of doing anything positive, and consequently we look between the lines for what does not exist between the lines,” he said.

He was asked whether the popular activities in which he is taking part are part of his plan to succeed President Mahmud Abbas (Abu-Mazin). “Have mercy on us Allah and there is no God but Allah. The only objective in my life is to ensure success for the State project and nothing else,” he said. “This project consumes all my time and thinking. Talking about other objectives behind my activities must be due to other motives.”

The text of the interview follows:

[Asharq Al-Awsat] You specified August 2011 as date for proclaiming the Palestinian State, as the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz quoted you as saying. Is this a firm date or is it open to change?

[Fayyad] I personally did not talk about a specific date. What was mentioned about the month of August was a conjecture more than anything else. The journalist tied the date for announcing the project of the State within two years, from August 2009 to August 2011. But what I am saying is that we should continue working to create a new and positive situation on the ground that harmonizes to a great extent with the establishment of the State. This would constitute great pressure on the international community to complete the political process and end the occupation. I also say that this project is like a pregnancy and that the newborn must come at the end of the pregnancy. Our estimate is that the delivery date will be around mid 2011. We look forward to all of humanity celebrating the newborn including our Israeli neighbors.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] My belief is that you will not proclaim a State except when the internal and external climates are paved for this. How far have you gone in this respect?

[Fayyad] I am not talking about the proclamation of the State. We have already announced the establishment of the State of Palestine (the late President Yasser Arafat announced this at the Palestinian National Council held in Algeria in 1988 and this is celebrated as Independence Day every year). I am personally talking about transforming the concept to a possibility and the possibility to a fact. This means turning the concept of the solution of the two States into a possibility and turning the possibility of the solution of the two States into a reality on the ground. This means that in mid 2011 we shall have government systems, administrations, institutions, and infrastructures as well as maturity in institutional and administrative activities. You can convince those far and near that the Palestinians have a new fact, the fact of a State that is entrenched on the ground. What they need and what the region also needs if the occupation has not ended is that the occupation should end. If we reach such a condition, it will constitute tremendous pressure on the political process and the international community to bring about an end to the occupation.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you believe you are proceeding on schedule according to the timetable or program you drafted to implement the project of the State in establishing the infrastructure, preparing the security organs, building the national institutions etc?

[Fayyad] I shall talk first about the reasons that prompted us to define two years as a time frame for implementing the State project, a State with sovereignty and not a “Mickey Mouse State”. But before this I would like to make it clear that I never said the mission will be easy. However, I am against saying that this will not be in our power. There are people who belittled it and said that it would not be possible to establish a State under occupation. I would like here to point out that there is great acceptance among the people in the West Bank for this concept in parallel with rejection of the occupation and the wall and other manifestations. We have realized from the first moment that the mission will be difficult. We are under occupation and this occupation will not facilitate the task for us. On the contrary, the occupation will be the biggest hindering factor. This is why we have not wagered on Israel helping us. We were right in our expectation. Israel did not give us any help but hampered our efforts. Returning to the question, opting for two years and not five years for instance, this represented a challenge and gave the project credibility and seriousness. It was necessary to define a time frame. The political theory I go by is that if we manage to remedy all the shortcomings and factors of failure or self-inflicted failure, we would have wrested from Israel’s hands the arguments and justifications it marketed to the international community for long years about our inefficiency, unworthiness, or lack of qualifications. Thus, choosing the two-year frame and not a longer one was in order not go give the impression of procrastination [feet-dragging]. This is why there was awareness from the first day about the choice of the time frame. There was a coupling between what is required from the technical side to prepare for establishing a State on the one hand and between what can be expected in the way of a political process led by the international society efficiently and effectively to accomplish the mission of ending the occupation. The choice of the two-year frame involves a great challenge and exerts pressure on us for quick accomplishment. But at the same time we have an open time frame. Further, our eyes must be directed to the second track (the political process) that must move with more speed in order to accomplish the mission of ending the occupation. We return once more to ask whether this is realistic. The answer is that this is a challenge, a challenge that spurs us to accelerate and pull the rope, not be like a rabbit in a race with a turtle. We hope this project will be the unified headline for the Palestinians, taking into consideration the situation in the Gaza Strip and the state of division. What encouraged me to adopt the two-year frame were the achievements accomplished in the two years that preceded the proclamation of the State blueprint. We moved with the country away from the brink of semi-complete decomposition and rampant anarchy. This gave me a feeling of confidence in the possibility of accomplishing the project. What we did since that day and until now is to enhance the achievements and gains through continuing to implement, improve, and develop in a number of domains. For example, the results have begun to become evident in the work of the judiciary. The process of litigations has started to move well. Among the things that encourage one is that I noticed from the letters I receive–they are many and I read them all–that the people raise complaints that date back to 10 years. This in itself reflects that a person has a feeling he can get his right. This confirms that a general awareness is being formed among the people that the PA is acting as a responsible authority that protects the rights of the citizen. In the domain of public order, the security bodies have succeeded in imposing order and security. For example, they succeeded in the town of Janin, after a year of pursuit, of apprehending a criminal gang that terrorized the people. This shows that there is a police force that did not leave the matter but pursued it patiently until it arrested the gang. There are other cases in which police succeeded in arresting gangs within 24 hours. This proves that the performance has begun to be like that in established and advanced States. There is the performance of local government and the collection of the State’s dues which provide an indication of the seriousness of the PA’s establishments. I mention in this connection the PA’s inability to collect the bills of electricity, water, and telephones. This is what I call the culture of non-payment. It is something that is difficult to change, but the PA has begun to solve this problem albeit gradually. In the domain of projects, two points caught my attention during my tours and participation in the inauguration of these projects. The first is that the officials are talking a lot about improving the financial and organizational administration, instead of focusing as they used to do in the past on their demands. The second is that the people have begun to realize that the improvement is not limited to a single department or ministry but involves all ministries and departments. The positive indicators that have begun to accumulate over the past eight months bolstered my conviction that we are on the right track and that the period set for accomplishing the project is reasonable even though it still represents a challenge. Of course this project has an international dimension. What happened in Moscow (the statement of the meeting by the international Quartet) represented a very important turning point. This is not the first time the project enjoys such international support, but the Quartet dealt with the plan in such a clear and explicit way of support and backing, with such high enthusiasm, and this demonstrates the entrenchment of our effect. This plan is the first official Palestinian document that we issue with a clear political dimension. This plan has come to enjoy a clear international consensus. This is not a small achievement, and my belief is that it represents an important turning point.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Can it be said that there are three factors in implementing the project, the first internal on building the institutions, infrastructure and the like, the second international acceptance of the idea and the third ending the occupation?

[Fayyad] The international acceptance must be proclaimed as of now, meaning that the international community should accept the concept of the solution of the two States we have talked about, and it exists. We want international support to end the occupation. As to the issue of recognition of States, this comes in the last stage.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] I mean the international acceptance of the idea, guarantees for recognizing the State when it is announced in order to exert pressure on Israel to end the occupation.

[Fayyad] I do not have any international guarantees. But I have an international acceptance of the idea. I have a world that has begun to be convinced of the possibility of our success in creating the State. I have an international sympathy that will ultimately turn into a tremendous force of pressure for the accomplishment of this objective, so that the Palestinian would live in freedom and dignity within the framework of an independent State. The matter is in this sequence, but concerning guarantees, I have no guarantees.

I see the international acceptance of our idea, as demonstrated in the Quartet’s statement, as a pressure factor on us to succeed and double efforts. It places an additional responsibility on us to place the foundations for a modern State that gives the international community reason to defend it. This is a State that is founded on the basis of values all humanity shares and that reflect themselves in all sectors of administration, producing a modern State that constitutes a qualitative plus to the region. When I described it as a pregnancy, this means the day must come in which the newborn is delivered and see light. Our plan is for all of humanity to celebrate the birth of that baby, not to go to the UN alone but to go with the whole world with us.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Ultimately, when the Palestinian side ends its tasks and preparations for a modern, civilized, and democratic State, what will be the direction of the Palestinian side to announce the State? Will it be Europe, the United States, or the UN?

[Fayyad] I do not have a road map that says that on some specific date I am going to head to Europe and after this to the United States.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] My question is about where we are going to head to ask for recognition of the State after completing the overall preparations. I do not consider this a procedural or cumulative process. Incidentally, this side of the mobilization is part of the assignments of the Palestine Liberation Organization which is responsible for political movement, and we are part of it. We must not wait for the month of August to come so that we should begin to move. We should take advantage of international meetings that are concerned with the Palestinian issue in order to inform the countries of the world about the achievements that have been accomplished as well as the achievements we plan to accomplish. This means we should inform the world about all the phases of progress so that it would be fully informed about everything when the moment comes for us to tell them that we have finished the preparations.

[Fayyad] What you are saying is that the Palestinian activity will not stop only at building institutions and infrastructure but that there will be parallel work undertaken by the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is responsible for the political process on the international domain, to promote the Palestinian achievements and the preparations for the State.

Yes, this is the idea. We covered a long distance in Moscow and there was the understanding that we shall build further on this.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] There are leaks about Palestinian-American meetings to discuss the idea of turning some “B” areas that are controlled security-wise by Israel and administratively by the PA, and “G” areas which are controlled security-wise and administratively by Israel to “A” regions that are completely under the PA?

[Fayyad] You said leaks, and most probably these are from the Israel side that feels annoyed at present. I personally say that this issue must be completed by May 2011. So the process must be pursued with great speed because in the end all the areas occupied in 1967 shall become “A” regions within one year. I look at these ideas only as showing some sort of seriousness about movement but I do not rely on them a lot.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] I do not know if you have read an article written by Ahmad al-Khalidi in the British Guardian newspaper some months ago in which he talked about Fayyd adopting the Zionist pattern for the establishment of the State of Israel. The only difference is that the Zionist pattern bolstered the Jewish military position in Palestine whereas Fayyad seeks to abort and combat it.

[Fayyad] I read the article, but I do not like to personalize matters. Regrettably some of us always look with suspicion at everything we do. Mental defeatism has brought us to think that we are unable to do anything positive and consequently we look between the lines for what is not between the lines. We try to convince ourselves that there is something wrong in the matter. If the Jews had acted this way, they would not have had a State. Further, my brother, what Al-Khalidi says is not true. The Palestinian people had the experience of military action. I do not agree with him in saying that peaceful popular action and institution-building will not lead us to anything without military action. My theory is based on the peaceful daily expression, in a non-violent manner, of opposition to occupation and settlements, boycotting the products of the settlements and invigorating the popular movement against the wall. In parallel there should be constructive moves every day to build a new reality and move on the international domain to strip away legitimacy from everything that has any connection to the Israeli colonialist scheme. Is resistance to kill Palestinian boys on the military barricades in order to issue statements? I reject this concept. I am not ashamed to say that I am against sending children to the barricades so that they would be slaughtered for the sake of issuing a statement. Resistance without blood is also resistance.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] This means frankly that you are against armed resistance and for popular resistance?

[Fayyad] I take part in the popular resistance and its activities. Further, those who talk about calls for an intifida do not understand the meaning of intifida. The intifida comes spontaneously, without any manipulation or calls from any side. This is for one thing. The other thing is that those who call for an intifida are ignorant of what is going on the ground. They talk from a distance and have no relationship with the facts. The entire Palestinian people today are in an intifida peacefully in resisting the settlements, the wall, and the occupation. If this resistance does not meet the specifications of some [it is because] it does not have boys who are killed.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are you against using stones?

[Fayyad] I support the resistance being peaceful and not violent, and that it should not lead to death and spilling blood. Stones might come and might not come within this definition.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] There are also people who say that all the popular activities undertaken by Fayyad are only part of an organized campaign to gain popularity and become successor to President Mahmud Abbas (Abu-Mazin)?

[Fayyad] May God have mercy on us, and there is no God but Allah! The sole objective in my life is the success of the State project and nothing other than this. This project consumes all my time and thinking. Talking about other objectives behind my activities has other motives.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] You have called for boycotting the products of the settlements?

[Fayyad] Yes, this is another form of popular resistance. We have issued a law with penalties for dealing with the products of the settlements. Boycott involves resistance by refusing to deal with Israeli products on the one hand, and on the other hand this bolsters the local Palestinian production.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What do you have to say finally?

[Fayyad] The Palestinian State exists and occupation is bound to end. The State will be established if we want this for it, and we want it to be established and quickly.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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