Friday, April 2, 2010

Will the real Mr. Palestine please stand up?

I know I was rather critical of Salam Fayyad back when Tom Friedman was coining the term "Fayyadism" (my criticism of Friedman remains undiminished), but I have to admit, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is a statesman. He, of course, does not possess an unblemished record, but his August 2009 plan to create a Palestinian state in 24 months (just as Obama's term winds down) is looking like a serious winner. The Quartet (EU, US, Russia, and the UN) have signed on in support and the Prime Minister's plan was comprehensive, unyielding in its criticism of the shortcomings of Palestinian Authority institutions, and much needed. He laid out explicitly what each ministry was expected to do to achieve the goals outlined in the plan. While I still acknowledge he and Mustafa Barghouti (the man I previously named Mr. Palestine) have never shown that they have vast electoral support, the Fayyad Plan, complete with its rigid deadline and attempt to get buy-in from major world powers, has the potential to actually provide the political pressure needed to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Last I remember, Israeli ministers were huffing and puffing and declaring the Fayyad Plan was a "unilateral move" meant to upend peace prospects. Those ministers, of course, are the same ones that have been huffing and puffing and screaming for limitless Jewish settlement expansion in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Haaretz sat down with Mr. Fayyad, who provides us with some great soundbites:

"The time for this baby to be born will come and we estimate it will come around 2011. That is our vision, and a reflection of our will to exercise our right to live in freedom and dignity in the country we are born, alongside the State of Israel in complete harmony,"

"[We and the Israelis] have universally shared values; peace will be made between equals, not between masters and slaves." 

"No one should be expected to stand for injustice, not least the Palestinians, who have endured long decades of occupation. Is it not what Gandhi stood for, what Martin Luther King stood for?"

"The settlers have a tremendous pull on the Israeli government. It's pure self-righteousness: the exclusion of the possibility that someone out there might have a slightly different opinion - in an indignant way and often times in a violent way."

"Related to the Zionist ethos, fine, Israel is a biblical country, there are lots of hilltops, lots of vacant space, why don't they use that, and let us get on with it?" 

On Israeli construction in East Jerusalem:
"At some point somebody has to stand up and assume responsibility for what's going on. Isn't that what is expected of us Palestinians? We need to lift each other up, not drag each other down. You need a full understanding of where the other side is coming from. I maintain that we have that, we understand that these are completely different, diametrically opposed narratives. I don't expect, ever, for our narrative to be accepted by Israel, but likewise, for Netanyahu to say that the Israeli historical narrative is basis for a just settlement, is expecting too much."

The man is nothing if not well-spoken, but he's got substance as well, and lots of it.

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