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“Self-empowerment as an instrument of liberation” remains central to Palestinian affairs, according to economist and politician Salam Fayyad.

Fayyad explained the psychological and political factors necessary for agreement between Palestine and Israel as part of the “Conversations on Peace” lecture series held by the Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice and the Wilson School on Thursday. 

As the former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority from 2007 to 2013, Fayyad expanded on his own efforts towards Palestinian independence and the two-state solution.

Noting the necessity of self-agency for Palestine, Fayyad promoted his national vision for the future of Palestine. To fulfill the “progressive values of equality [and] democracy,” Fayyad believes that Palestine must simultaneously accomplish full independence by establishing defined territorial boundaries with Israel.

“It’s more up to us, Palestine, than Israel or the international community,” Fayyad said. “Empowerment is needed to end the occupation.”

He said he wanted to “provocatively” signal a rejection of the notion that the efforts of the Palestinians under occupation are doomed to failure.

“We’re not looking to build a failed state, but an exemplary one,” he said.

During Fayyad's prime-ministership, the government put forth a two-year plan to reach the threshold of statehood. The improvement of electoral institutions, government services, and the actualization of small- and medium-sized infrastructure projects formed the thrust of that 2009 platform.

According to Fayyad, the United States and other nations would only recognize the Palestinian right to self-determination with a “test” of statehood that Fayyad said his plan attempted to take.

“Fair or unfair, let’s take this test and pass it,” Fayyad said.

However, the achievement of Fayyad’s proposal did not produce the hoped-for result, and the Israeli settlement policy has not ceased in the intervening years.

Reflecting on what went wrong, Fayyad mentioned that key actors in Palestine did not acquiesce to the government-sponsored project. Instead, the violent takeover of Gaza by Hamas in 2007  severely hampered confidence in the two-state solution worldwide.

Fayyad added that the Israel-Gaza warfare weakened his statehood plan, damaging the political standing of the Palestinian Authority.

“This sort of introspection might be instructive,” Fayyad said.

Although he theoretically supports the two-state solution, Fayyad acknowledged that no ready solution exists in the current moment.

“To those concerned by the creeping one-state reality, let me say I don’t see one,” Fayyad said. “Rather, I see what should be of even more concern, namely the creeping trouble of a four-state reality.”

Such an increase in division would lead to yet more bloodshed and war in the region, he said.

After his talk, an audience member asked Fayyad about the “demonization” of Israelis in Palestinian textbooks. In response, Fayyad explained that the hostility is apparent in both parties and has contributed to the region’s conflict.

Tension between Palestine and Israel will endure, Fayyad said, so long as fear of the “other” keeps hold of the respective populations’ collective mentalities.

The lecture, titled “The Case for Palestinian Empowerment, Especially Under Occupation,” took place on Thursday, Nov. 16, at 4:30 p.m. in Sir Arthur Lewis Auditorium in Robertson Hall.

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