Palestinian Premier 'Preparing for Statehood'

Salam Fayyad is the darling of Western capitals. The U.S.-educated former World Bank staffer and moderate is also the man credited with putting the Palestinian Authority's chaotic financial house in order.

Thanks to him, foreign cash donations continue to fill the public coffers of the Authority, guaranteeing salaries for nearly 170,000 Palestinian government employees in the West Bank and Hamas-controlled Gaza.

At a briefing for journalists in Ramallah today, the soft-spoken prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority promoted his latest strategy to help the creation of the Palestinian state.

"We are carrying on and preparing for statehood unilaterally," he said. "This is healthy unilateralism."

Against the background of floundering U.S. efforts to kick-start peace talks, Fayyad says Palestinians should concentrate on building their capacity and the institutions of governance.

They should work to improve security, he says, and develop the functions of government most people in the West take for granted. Such an approach would empower them and hasten the end of the Israeli occupation, he says.

"The Palestinian Authority's job is to prepare for statehood," he said. "This initiative is in no way designed to adapt to the Israeli occupation, it is designed to help end it."

In recent weeks, some Palestinians have urged him to declare the birth of the Palestinian state without negotiations. The United States and Israel disapprove of such an approach .

Fayyad quickly dismissed the notion, emphasizing that the Palestinian Authority's job was to "prepare for statehood, not to declare it."

Efforts to restart talks have been thwarted by Israel's refusal to implement a comprehensive freeze in settlement construction and the Palestinian's refusal to talk until a freeze is in place.

Commenting on Israel's latest offer to place limits on settlement construction in the occupied territories for 10 months but with no restrictions in East Jerusalem, Fayyad said, "We want the talks to resume but not just for the sake of having a process. The exclusion of East Jerusalem by the Israelis is a big problem for us. We are still only being offered a moratorium on settlement building.

Fayyad Asks Israel to Follow Law

Jewish settlements built on land occupied during the Six Day War in 1967 are considered illegal by most interpretations of international law, which the Israelis dispute.

"Why can't we be offered more?" Fayyad asked. "Why is it so difficult? All we are asking for is for Israeli compliance with international law."