Fayyad: Palestinians isolated, short of funds
Published yesterday (updated) 08/05/2012 22:12
By Michael Stott and Samia Nakhoul
RAMALLAH (Reuters) -- Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said
Tuesday the Palestinians may have "lost the argument" on the international
stage for an independent state but cautioned that continued Israeli
occupation was unsustainable.
In an interview, Fayyad struck a note of discord with President Mahmoud
Abbas by calling for elections that have long been delayed because of deep
political divisions between the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank.
He also warned his administration's future was clouded by severe financial
strains and said the Palestinians had failed to galvanize a distracted world
behind their cause.
"I think we are losing the argument, if we have not already lost the
argument. But that doesn't make our position wrong," said the former World
Bank economist, a political independent who has had strong support amongst
Arab unrest, the US presidential elections and financial crises in Europe
had combined to knock the Palestinian issue off the global agenda more than
18 months after peace talks with Israel broke down in a dispute over
"What is the biggest obstacle we face? The state of marginalization. It is
unprecedented," he said. "The Israelis have managed to successfully
trivialize our side of the argument," he added, alluding to the Palestinian
demands for a halt to settlement building before negotiations can resume.
Israel says talks should continue without preconditions and has continued to
build housing in blocs that dot the West Bank on land the United Nations
deems illegally occupied.
Speaking from his offices in Ramallah, 12 miles from Jerusalem, with the
red, black, green and white national flag behind him, Fayyad said
Palestinians must get their own house in order before they could hope for
long-cherished independence, which most world powers continue to support in
"I do not believe we will be able to get a state unless we are able to
reunify our country," he said of the political divide that has split the
West Bank from the coastal enclave of Gaza, governed since 2007 by Hamas.
Attempts by Abbas, who rules in the West Bank, to bridge this divide over
the past year have failed amid mutual recriminations and plans to hold
long-awaited elections this month across the Palestinian territories were
"The reconciliation process is in the deep freeze. Let's face it," Fayyad
said, adding that the Palestinians should forge ahead with election plans
regardless of opposition from Hamas in order to re-engage with a
"A basic right of our people is being violated. The right of being able to
choose our leadership," he said.
The last presidential and parliamentary elections were held in 2006 and many
Palestinians, including Abbas and the Hamas leadership, have said a fresh
vote can happen only if both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are involved.
Strains have been reported in relations between Abbas and Fayyad since the
PA prime minister refused to hand over a letter from the president to
Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu laying out Palestinian grievances over
the failure of talks.
Fayyad disagreed with the initiative last month but said the episode was now
behind them and confirmed the two were working on the formation of a new
government, where he will remain prime minister but will likely lose the
Given the task of building institutions in readiness for statehood, Fayyad
said his job was being imperiled by a lack of resources, with Arab nations
failing to hand over promised aid.
"There is an issue of survivability of the Palestinian Authority given the
acute financial crisis we are going through," he said, adding his government
needed a "few hundred million dollars" to keep afloat.
The Palestinian Authority -- which exercises limited self-rule in the West
Bank -- depends on donor aid from the United States, the European Union and
Arab states to pay the salaries of public workers, including teachers and
The Palestinians had planned for foreign aid of about $1.1 billion in 2011,
but received just under $750 million and are lagging again in donations this
year. No reason has been given for the failure of some Arab allies to honor
Despite the many challenges facing the Palestinians and the lengthy
breakdown in peace negotiations, Fayyad said he was convinced that
independence would be achieved within 10 years.
"Occupation is not only a major political failure, but given its oppressive
nature it is also a moral failure for Israel. It is not something that can
be sustained," he said. "Walls have gone down elsewhere. Why should here be