x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Principles at the foundation of a Palestinian state

In the wake of the Palestinian Authority's collapse, Salam Fayyad is attempting to re-unify a fracture polity.

The West Bank has had an important anchor as a wave of protests and leaks has washed over the region: the Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad's principled and pragmatic approach to state-building.

Memos leaked from the Palestinian Authority's negotiations with the Israelis forced top-ranking officials in the West Bank to resign. Other leaders were caught flat-footed as protests reached cities in the West Bank. So much has changed in recent months - not, however, Mr Fayyad's plans for Palestinian statehood, nor their merits.

Nearly two years after he introduced his template for stronger governance in the West Bank, close to 2,000 projects, from new schools and clinics to improvements to infrastructure and housing, have been completed. Underpinning it all is a philosophy, "Fayyadism", as it is now known. "Government" as Mr Fayyad explains today in an interview with The National's Hugh Naylor, "must be responsive to people's aspirations and needs, and people have to feel it."

As young people in the West Bank voiced their opinions about the shortcomings of their leaders, Mr Fayyad has entered the fray on Facebook to respond. As for leaks, Mr Fayyad explained several years ago that he has "one speech - the same speech for closed rooms and open rooms ... I sleep well at night".

It is not the consistency of Mr Fayyad's speeches but their substance that matters most. Whatever arguments Mr Fayyad has with his critics, they can't argue with what he has helped to achieve. That he has engineered all of this under what he describes as "an oppressive occupation, with its capricious control regime", makes it all the more remarkable.

Economic solutions, however, will not resolve problems that have political roots. Improved health care and education, and the hope that they bring with them, can help make the ground more fertile for a peaceful resolution; they cannot, in themselves, create one. That will require the Israelis to be a partner for peace and the United States to be an honest broker.

What Mr Fayyad is doing, however, is creating positive facts on the ground. "When peace is made it will be made between equals," Mr Fayyad says, citing the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. Mr Fayyad and the Palestinian people are attempting to build a state founded on the universal values of openness, tolerance and coexistence. They can do no more than act in the hope that these values have equal appeal to the Americans and the Israelis.