How do Palestinians build a state with 500,000 Jews in the way?

Two recent articles in the Israeli press indicate the direction some of the Middle East debate is moving. Praise the “moderate” Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad while ignoring the ever-growing colonies in the West Bank. We should always be suspicious when occupiers praise the occupied:

First, David Horowitz in the Jerusalem Post:

Steadily and methodically, the PA prime minister is putting together the central constituents of Palestinian statehood. Steadily and methodically, too, he is gathering international support for statehood – not solely from the automatic backers of a sovereign Palestine, but also from the nations most committed to Israel’s well-being, notably the United States.

To one side stood Sen. Joe Lieberman, the former vice presidential candidate. To the other stood Rep. Howard Berman, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. And as these two staunch Jewish supporters of Israel nodded their encouragement, the Palestinian Authority’s Prime Minister Salam Fayyad explained at a press conference in Ramallah on Sunday precisely how he was preparing the Palestinians for statehood.

“The proclamation of statehood is for the PLO to decide, at the right time, in due course,” the compact, dapper Fayyad declared, neatly sidestepping this week’s controversy over plans by his boss, PA President Mahmoud Abbas, to seek new international backing for Palestinian sovereignty everywhere beyond the pre-1967 lines.

The task of the PA, Fayyad went on, is to “ensure effective, corruption-free institutions, building a state that lives up to the aspirations of its people. When we approach it this way, we stand a good chance of getting the support of the international community.”

Within two years, Fayyad concluded, the goal is “to have strong and competent institutions of state that will make the issue of state proclamation a formality.”

Brisk and understated, Fayyad cuts an impressive figure, but it is his achievements over the past two and a half years as prime minister that have impressed members of the international community – Israel and the United States emphatically among them.

The Israeli security establishment affirms that the 2,200 members of the PA’s Jordanian-trained security forces are coordinating more effectively with Israel than was ever previously the case, and performing more efficiently in bringing law and order to Palestinian cities.

And here is Nahum Barnea in Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth:

Grand Park is the most luxurious hotel in Ramallah. On Sunday afternoon, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad held a press conference there. About 20 local reporters, security people, Fayyad, US Senator Joe Lieberman and others from a US congressional delegation, crowded into a small room at the end of a corridor. There was a smell of cigarettes in the air. There was a definite lack of oxygen.

The right to the first question was given to Ha’aretz reporter Amira Hass. She had two. The first was for Fayyad. She reminded him that three people from his village of Deir al-Ghosoon had been arrested by the IDF for demonstrating against the separation fence. How can you talk about an agreement with Israel when this is what Israel does, she admonished.

She asked Lieberman how he, as a Jew, could accept Israel’s discriminatory attitude toward minorities.

Both felt awkward. Lieberman is not used to having his origins thrown at him.…  “What could I say,” he told me afterwards with a sad smile. “I said I supported the establishment of two states.” Fayyad met with me and Yedioth Ahronoth reporter Roni Shaked again, the next day, in his Ramallah office.…  I asked him how he felt. He was amused. “For some people, I’m not loyal enough to Palestine,” he said. “Many of them are Israelis.”

The Americans—Congress people and administration officials—admire Fayyad. In the expanse between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, there is no living politician whom they admire more. Like a series of politicians educated in the United States who settled in eastern Europe and the Third World, he knows how to talk to them in their language, their values, their temperament. And in contrast to the destructive legacy of Palestinian politics, he is not addicted to victimhood, he does not put his fate in other’s hands, those of Arab rulers or suicide bombers. He takes action.

His source of inspiration is David Ben-Gurion and the Zionist enterprise that preceded the establishment of the State of Israel. “The State of Israel,” says Fayyad, “was not established in 1948. It was declared in 1948. The state was established earlier, in the course of years of building institutions. When I say this on the Palestinian street, I’m accused of being a Zionist.”

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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