Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Palestinian leader agrees his people are not ready for statehood

Sure, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's speech Monday was full of the usual unproductive rhetoric that has long characterized the decadeslong dispute over the territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war. But the speech at Al Quds university near Jerusalem, billed as the Palestinian answer to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's June 14 address accepting an independent state on the West Bank of the Jordan River, also included a major concession that his people are not ready for statehood despite years of self-governance. According to the Reuters international news service, Fayyad said the Palestinians would need at least one year, and possibly two, to set up their new country. "I call on all our people to unite around the project of establishing a state and to strengthen its institutions ... so that the Palestinian state becomes, by the end of next year or within two years at most, a reality," he said. "Achieving this goal within two years is possible." Of course, bureaucrats always give the most optimistic estimate of anything they have to do, so a more likely estimate is three-four years, even though the 15-year-old Palestinian Authority essentially operates like a government already with ambassadors in many world capitals. But since the PA doesn't even control its own territory, having lost power over the Gaza Strip and its 1.5 million residents to the radical Hamas organization after a short war in 2007, a more-realistic view is that two years will be needed just to reunite the Palestinian people under the same government. Then, the PA might be able to get ready within two years, assuming it is government that prevails. Israel may indeed be responsible for a lot of what ails the Palestinians -- the PA certainly thinks to -- but if the goal at the end is statehood, there's a lot more work to do. And that is the Palestinians' responsibility, not Israel's, regardless of the rhetoric.

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