Middle East

Palestinian Premier: 'Running Out Of Options'

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In an interview with NPR, the Palestinian prime minister acknowledged that the Palestinian Authority is in the most precarious position it has ever been in. Increasingly isolated, cash strapped and heavily criticized by its own people, Salam Fayyad nonetheless said that while change is needed, the Palestinian Authority must endure.


Now, during this election season, both presidential candidates have been emphasizing their ties to Israel. They have not said so much about finding a peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians.


Talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been on hold for almost two years, and a top Palestinian official is not even pretending to see a way forward.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad spoke with NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: These are difficult days for the Palestinian Authority. The body which holds sway in the West Bank is facing its worst financial crisis ever, the peace process is at a standstill, and protests against the Palestinian government have started springing up with increasing regularity. So it's not surprising that Salam Fayyad is despondent.

SALEM FAYYAD: That sense of growing political untenability has been with us for a variety of reasons. The Palestinian Authority, I feel, is finding it increasingly difficult to be a source of inspiration for people, a source of credible and convincing answers.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Salem Fayyad has been Palestinian prime minister since 2007. A Western-educated economist, he's tried, during his tenure, to focus on bolstering Palestinian institutions. He famously promised in 2009 that within two years the West Bank would have the trappings of a state in place. It's now three years later, though, and the Palestinian Authority is still struggling to meet its basic commitments. In June it was barely able to pay the salaries of its workers. The West Bank's economy is stymied by the Israeli occupation, and still heavily dependent on foreign aid, aid which has been dwindling as donor nations in the West deal with their own financial crises and in the Middle East, with the fallout of the Arab Spring. The outlook is even gloomier regarding the peace process.

FAYYAD: Virtually nothing is happening in the direction that could begin to suggest to our people a near end to the Israeli occupation.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Each side blames the other for the impasse. Palestinians say negotiations cannot resume until Israel freezes Jewish settlement construction in the occupied West Bank. Israel says there should be no preconditions for talks. Fayyad acknowledges people are frustrated.

FAYYAD: There's definite failure when it comes to these issues, and exactly what can we possibly do. We're running out of options here. All we have seen over this period of time, particularly over the past few years is an occupation regime that's becoming more deeply entrenched.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: If a broad agreement can't be reached right now, Fayyad says, specific issues can be addressed. For example, he says, despite improved security in the West Bank, Israel still launches military incursions into areas that are supposed to be under Palestinian security control, undermining, he says, the credibility of the Palestinian Authority and violating previous agreements. He says the international community is doing almost nothing to apply pressure on Israel to change its policies.

FAYYAD: There is not enough adequate, effective intervention. The issues have not really risen in importance in the collective conscience of the international community to the extent that it should have. Everybody has been way too preoccupied with getting us and the Israelis around a table. Israel, you know, we are where we are, not for lack of getting together.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But the status quo, says Fayyad, is not sustainable. Everyone must do more. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News.

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