Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said in an interview with the Saudi-owned, London-based Arabic-language daily newspaper that “While continuing Israeli settlement activity is undoubtedly bad, it is not as serious and threatening as these American guarantees and undertakings. Let us consider the issue of keeping an Israeli security presence in the Jordan Valley: The Israelis want to keep their army in that area for decades. What sovereignty would a Palestinian state enjoy when it is hemmed in by Israeli troops on all sides? What is even more serious is that these U.S. guarantees are preventing us from internationalizing the problem, which is one of the few tools we have in our hands. I hope that what I am saying is not reported in a way that appears as if I am not against settlements. On the contrary. All these guarantees were given in the hope that Netanyahu would extend his moratorium by two months, which in any case does not include Jerusalem or the major settlement blocks. This is nonsense, and we reject it completely”.
Another defect in the structure of these talks, according to Fayyad in this interview, is this: “I have always stressed that what we have to strive for is the establishment of a state rather than merely declaring statehood. We already declared statehood back in 1988. I am not against going to the Security Council, but before we do so, we must address the fundamental defect in the process: That the points of reference on which the talks are supposed to be founded have diminished over the years. We should address this structural defect, and correct it in such a way as to make the political process congruent with international law, not with what is perceived to be to Israel’s satisfaction … What I wish to stress regarding referring the issue back to the Security Council or taking any other steps to internationalize it is that these steps, if taken, are only intended to make our political actions more in line with international law and international legitimacy. This is a complex issue that needs thorough and meticulous preparation; it is not as simple as just deciding to go to the Security Council. What we are after is not a declaration of statehood, but the actual establishment of a state. These tools, which are available to us in order to help us continue our struggle to end the occupation, need careful preparation in order to achieve satisfactory results“.
Fayyad added: “The arguments now raging about the issue of settlements and the guarantees the U.S. gave Israel in this regard are all based – consciously or otherwise – on the premise that we, the Palestinians, want a settlement that is acceptable to Israel. He who gives Netanyahu guarantees in order to persuade him to freeze settlements for two months is actually thinking of a formula that would be acceptable to Israel – and not of the fact that Israel is an occupying power that refuses to end its occupation of Palestinian land. This logic needs to be corrected, and, in my opinion, the Palestinians and Arabs must devote a large part of their diplomatic efforts to achieving that goal. This issue is much more important than whether or not we should go to the Security Council or declare statehood. We should work towards changing the perception of the international community of the nature of the conflict. In mid-2002, the international community reached a consensus that the Israeli occupation must end. What is required now is for us to work hard to transform this consensus into joint action in order to translate it into facts on the ground. This needs adequate preparation that should precede going to the Security Council. I repeat again: I am not against going to the Security Council; in fact, we must go. But what we are after is statehood, not another declaration. A state has certain requirements, and we must have those requirements before we can found an independent Palestinian state. In order to do that, we have to convince the international community – and the most influential members thereof – that the current path is structurally unsound and cannot achieve what is required of it. We must convince the international community that there is another way, one based on international law and UN resolutions“.
The title of this interview in Ash-Sharq al-Awsat is ‘Israel won all the recognition it needs in 1993”. The interview was conducted by Ali as-Saleh. Many thanks to Nuha and Khader Musleh for the information and the translation.