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Israeli newspaper grills Fayyad on "Jewish state," security

Aug. 14, 2009 9:41 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 16, 2009 6:18 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma’an/Agencies - "Israel's character is Israel's business and nobody else's," Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz in an interview published on Friday.

Fayyad’s comments were in response to questions on his stance over Israel’s demand that Palestinians recognize it as a Jewish state, a proposition Fayyad has refused for months.

On Thursday, however, US Democratic Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told a press conference in Jerusalem that during a meeting with Fayyad on Wednesday he "posited that it was absolutely essential Israel needed to be recognized as a Jewish state…I posited that and the PM did not disagree with that – with my premise."

That answer would have marked a notable break with his own policy, which he restated as unchanged in the Haaretz interview.

The recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is generally understood by Palestinians as a cancellation of the right of refugees to return to their homes in land taken by Israel in 1948, and a revocation of rights of Palestinians who remained on their land and are now citizens of Israel.

During the interview Fayyad posed the question, "Why would you want to settle it [the matter of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state] now when we haven't settled anything else?” He added, “I see no room to set new conditions or preconditions for the negotiations. Until today all we received in exchange for recognizing the two-state solution and stopping the armed struggle was your recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization as the Palestinian people's representative."

Fayyad focuses on economy

Haaretz's editors seemed frustrated about Fayyad's refusal to engage in political mudslinging, noting he “seems to prefer to talk about economic issues rather than politics,” though the former World Bank economist's economic policy is the basis of his political platform.

“He is convinced that proper government and a growing economy are the best way to establish an independent Palestinian state,” the paper editorialized. “Fayyad says he has managed to gain the donor states' - first and foremost the United States and the European Union - confidence, and that Saudi Arabia is about to grant the PA $200 million.”

These very factors are what were seen by many to have been the primary reason behind Fayyad being appointed for a second time to the seat of prime minister in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ second appointed caretaker government. Abbas insisted Fayyad remain in the leading post despite complaints and boycotts of the government by dozens of key Fatah members, irate over the post of prime minister being given to an independent. Party faithfuls said that Fatah was the leading party and should have a man in the top spot.

Fayyad continued to push his political platform during the interview, explaining to Haaretz, "Establishing a proper government is a goal in itself, but also a means to end the occupation.”
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