Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Information: Hussein Ibish
October 11, 2008 - 11:00pm

Washington, DC, Oct 13 – While strongly criticizing Israel’s occupation policies, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told the audience at the Third Annual American Task Force on Palestine Gala on Oct. 12 in Washington, DC, “We are approaching a critical mass of positive change – positive facts on the ground, as I like to call them, that are indicative of a most encouraging shift in the mindset of our people, away from doom and gloom towards a distinct sense of possibility and the promise of a better future.”  For the full text of his remarks click here. (For an Arabic version click here)

The ATFP Gala, entitled “The Courage to Persist. The Will to Build,” included remarks by USAID Administrator Henrietta H. Fore, as well as James K. Glassman, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, who read a letter from President George W. Bush.  At the event, ATFP honored the contributions of leading Palestinian Americans in the fields of Government Service, Business and Science, and the Arts.  The Gala was attended by numerous distinguished guests including current and former U.S. government officials, members of Congress and the diplomatic corps, and senior figures in significant American public and private institutions among the more than 650 attendees.

PM Fayyad complained that since the Annapolis meeting, “Every indicator of settlement activity – from public- and private-initiated construction, to tenders and building permits – shows that rather than stopping, settlement activity has in fact accelerated since Annapolis. … That’s right. Accelerated.” “Similarly, restrictions on access and movement are tighter than they were before Annapolis,” he continued. “Compare 563 checkpoints and roadblocks before Annapolis to 630 today, not to mention the severe tightening of the siege on Gaza. And land confiscations, home demolitions, military incursions and raids all continued.  Needless to say, the quality of life for the average Palestinian has worsened.”

However, Fayyad said that the best response to the occupation was the self-empowerment of Palestinian society: “You cannot end the occupation if you are dominated by a ‘can do nothing,’ defeatist kind of attitude. Nor will belligerence get you there, with what may come with it by way of violence and isolationist tendencies,” he said.  Fayyad continued, “When viewed this way, it becomes clear that the greatest obstacle that has prevented us, Palestinians, from achieving our national goals was not occupation per se or factionalism, not poverty or separation, but that deadly erosion of self-esteem and consequent loss of faith in our capacity to get things done.”

To rebuild a sense of Palestinian self-esteem, Fayyad said, “my government set out to put in place and set in motion mechanisms capable of getting us there. My motto was
‘building towards statehood despite the occupation’.”  “This involved,” he explained, “in the first instance, building strong, effective institutions capable of delivering services to our people in an effective, expeditious and fair manner, all within the framework of good governance. The effort has already started to bear fruit.”

Fayyad said that he has “had the opportunity to visit most districts in the West Bank this past year – which I hope to be able replicate in Gaza – and everywhere I have been, I was greeted by a cautious, yet distinct glimmer of the self-respect, pride and resilience that makes me, despite all the obstacles we face, so very proud to be Palestinian.”

Fayyad called on the Palestinian and Arab American communities to support his efforts, telling the audience of over 650, “just as you were not indifferent to the less-than-perfect way in which the PNA managed the affairs of the Palestinian people after Oslo, you cannot, I would submit, be indifferent to the risk of our country – our state-in-the-making – sliding towards backwardness, isolation, repression of freedom, gender inequality, and cultural and religious intolerance. For those who may have crossed that bridge to nowhere, to nothingness, indeed, destructive nothingness, I respectfully ask that you to reconsider.”

Fayyad warned that, “Regrettably, the two-state solution is teetering under the weight of 170 settlements and almost half a million settlers. Time is running out on the two-state solution.”  “Nevertheless,” he affirmed, “I remain hopeful that, through negotiations, we can reach a lasting peace between us on the basis of a two-state solution. For this process to be successful, however, we must, again, bring to it dignity and credibility.”

“For Palestinians,” he said, “what this means is remaining steadfast not just to our principles for a solution, but to our commitment to non-violence and previous agreements.”  Fayyad added that, “For Israel, what this means is negotiating an agreement with us as equals, no more and no less. Not bullying Palestinians at the negotiating table with facts on the ground it only erected yesterday – or five years ago, or 10 years ago, or 35 years ago.”

Fayyad emphasized, “we seek a meaningful and lasting peace with Israel. We seek strong ties with Israel. We seek strong economic ties between the independent states of Israel and Palestine. We seek warm relations with Israelis.”  But he insisted that, “People have an inherent sense of fairness by which they judge any settlement,” and that therefore any “peace agreement with Israel must yield a viable, contiguous, independent, potentially prosperous, sovereign Palestinian state on 22% of their historic homeland with East Jerusalem as its capital, and a solution to the refugee issue that honors the refugees and recognizes their legitimate rights and their suffering.”






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