Fayyad unveils plan for Palestinian state in two years

Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad on Tuesday unveiled his government’s plans to create a de facto state in two years as international efforts to restart Middle East peace talks grind on.

The Palestinian government is determined to build state institutions without waiting for the outcome of peace talks with the Israelis, Fayyad said at a news conference in the occupied West Bank’s political capital of Ramallah.

”The Palestinian government is struggling determinedly against a hostile occupation regime … in order to establish a de facto state apparatus within the next two years,” he said.

”This can and must happen within two years,” he said, calling on Palestinians — deeply divided since the June 2007 Hamas takeover of Gaza, the smaller part of their promised state — to rally behind the plan.

”We must confront the whole world with the reality that Palestinians are united and steadfast in their determination to remain on their homeland, end the occupation and achieve their freedom and independence,” he said.

”The world should also know that we are not prepared to continue living under a brutal occupation and siege that flouts not only the law, but also the principles of natural justice and human decency.

”This government seeks to involve all sectors and segments of society in the national drive to develop and advance our institutions.”

Among the priorities listed were disentangling the economy’s dependence on Israel and foreign aid, trimming the size of the government, increasing the use of technology and implementing a performance-based system in the public sector.

Another priority was keeping public sector wages in check and unifying the legal system that at present is a hodgepodge of Ottoman, British, Jordanian and Israeli laws and regulations.

The plan also included objectives for each ministry and major government offices such as the central bureau of statistics.

Fayyad, a former World Bank and International Monetary Fund official widely respected in the West who has twice served as Palestinian finance minister, has won international praise for reforms he has instituted in his two years as premier.

He was appointed prime minister just days after Hamas ousted forces loyal to Western-backed president Mahmoud Abbas from Gaza in June 2007, and the Islamist movement ruling the coastal strip does not recognise his authority.

The plan comes amid a renewed drive by the United States and the international community to get the Israelis and Palestinians to resume peace negotiations that were suspended during the Gaza offensive at the turn of the year.

Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, criticised the plan.

”There is no place for either unilateral actions or threats,” he said. ”It is clear that a Palestinian state, no matter what its form, will not see the light of day if Israel’s security concerns are not taken into account.” — AFP



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