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January 18, 2013

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 18, 2013 By Michel Stors The Media Line ALEPPO, Syria--Hamid Habu looked puzzled when a foreigner approached him in the street. He was neither aware that President Bashar A1-Assad had given his first speech in more than six months nor did he really care. "What did he talk about?" the 41-year old heating repair- man asked. "Is he going to e.nd the war?" ThoughWestem politicians and Syrian exiles were quick "to condemn Assad's soliloquy as out of touch with reality, residents in the country's largest city of Aleppo barely took notice of their president's surprise apgearance. Most lacked electricity to power their televisions while others were more concerned with buying the daily necessities By Felice Friedson The Media Line TML: President Abbas has issued a presidential decree that "state of Palestine" should be used wherever "Palestnian Authority'.' has been used until now. Has the Palestipian state been created? Fayyad: Not in the, sense that we want one. The state that we are looking for has to be a fully sovereign state on the territory occupied in 1967 with Jerusalem as its capital where our people can live as free people with dig- nity. What we have, though, is .recognition of our status as "state," and intended to address that aspect of it but we still don't have the state we're looking for. TML: Go back for a moment to Israeli communities where they are claiming that they are not part of the Palestinian ter- ritories, why do you feel that at this moment it's going to prevent a two-state solution? Fayyad: What I was refer- ring to specifically was the announCement--several of them--that pertained to activity in the Jerusalem area and specifically the E-1 project. As anyone who knows something--or any- thing--about this enterprise will tell you, what this will do will be to completely isolate east Jerusalem from the rest of its Palestinian surround- ings, thereby breaking up the West Bank into two major segments, so therefore while Palestinian statehood has been described internation- ally and diplomatically as something that has to acquire the feature ofbeingviable and contiguous. TML: How about the Unit- ed States? Has it strained relationships with the U.S.? Fayyad: That is really the issue: what is it that can be done to restore some cred- ibility to that process; to get all players to invest again and the capacity of that process to deliver. It's not that we take it lightly--the difference of view with the United States--we don't. But I think that the United States will agree, for sure, that the record so far has been dismal and one that has Aleppo residents apathetic they need to survive. Muhammad Faturi spends most of his day waiting in line to buy bread. The war has disrupted flour deliveries and gas supplies, leaving Aleppo residents to wait up to seven hours to buy a bag of bread. Between his time in bread lines and work in his paint store, he has few moments to contemplate the iuxurie'. "I heard Assad offered the Opposition some conces- sions," he told The Media Line as customers in front of him pushed and shoved to get closer to the delivery window. "I think it's a good thing." In the speech, Assad offered his opponents no olive branch but rather more of the same punishing retribution he has been meting out since demonstrators first took to the Streets in March 2011. He lambasted his adversaries as "enemies of God and puppets of the West." The Syrian op- position group known as the National Coalition, in turn declared that, "the speech by Bashar AI-Assad confirms his incompetence as a head of state." The State Department also chimed in noting that Assad's "initiative is detached from realityY But in Aleppo, man/ did not understand why for- eigners were so interested in gauging their reaction to what they described as a routine presidential appearance. In a country accustomed to its leader streaming a constant torrent of meaningless rheto- ric, few paid attention to his latest attempt. "The president makes speeches all the time,, Sami Zeidan said outside a phar- macy. "We don't listen towhat he says. Why should this time be different?" Instead Zeidan was more focused on trying to find medicine for his daughter's bronchitis. With drugs in shortsupply, most of the phar- macists he visited apologeti- cally referred him to others. "What good are speeches and reactions when children cannotbreathe?" he askedThe Media Line? Syrians' indifference to Assad's speech goes far be- yond their preoccupation with other matters. Many here can no longer tell the difference between the regime and the opposition fighting it. "Bashar is no worse than the Free Army (FSA)," says a man named Muhammad, referring to the band of rebels fighting the regime. "They do the same things Bashar's men do." As the fighting in Aleppo has reached a stalemate, residents have turned their ire against the rebels who sh.attered their tranquil lives when they dislodged regime forces from most of the city. But instead of being rewarded with freedom, residents were repaid with the collapse of daily life that has left them bitter and angry. "Bashar is right to call them enemies," shouted a man who would only give his name as Ahmad. "Look at the destruction all around. They are to blame." With its skyline reduced to rubble, riers of water from broken water pipes and end- less shelling, Aleppo has seen significant destruction. And few here are ready to sacrifice anymore for a war that cost so much. Sentiments like these partially explain Assad's uncompromising line. With Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad searches for his safety net produced a lot of frustration where the process has gone on so long without coming close to delivering. TML: President Abbas had stated that he was going back to talks but this has not hap- pened. Are there any plans? What will it take? Fayyad: There are some issues relating to the fact that the United States ad- ministration is in transition. Also, Israel is going through elections, so some of it may be related to just that. But some serious thinking has to go into wfiat it is that has to'be,de so that when th process is re-launched again, it's re-launched on a much sounder basis than what we had to deal with and to work with over the past 19 years. TML: Does it matterwheth- er Prime Minister Netanyahu remains prime minister or whether opposition takes over? Fayyad: The present com- position of Israel body politic is a challenge. I think that almost regardless of what kind of government emerges from this--and we hae seen this, as a matter of fact over the past four years or so--I think it is partly because the Palestinian question or relationswith Pal- estinians or what the public expects their government to do did not feature prominently in the last elections. Surveys taken recently in Israel all show majority support for the notion of a Palestinian state alongside Israel--and that is significant for that to be the case. But when that is tested, and you take it to the Knesset [parliament] or to the Israeli government, you find that actuallywithin the governing coalition that there are sharp views that have disagreement with this. TML: Speaking about your own politics, there haven't been [Palestinian] elections... Fayyad: That's obvious and that's something that needs to be redressed. And that's part of the other matter that has to be fought, what I call the building of the political system democratically, That track is not something that should be seen as a luxu, but one that actually cannot but reinforce our path to freedom. TML: Almost as essential as having funding, and on that note, you had some harsh words for Arab nations that had promised funding but had not fulfilled their promises. Wh is this the case and don't they see how the cash short- age is affecting development? Fayyad: ! was making a fac- tual statement and I was not intending for it to be harsh. I was responding to a question that asked whether Europeans had paid and I said Europeans are fully paid. And, as a mat- ter of fact, Americans, but for the $200 million held up by,Congress, money pledged until then was disbursed. That is not something I can say about all Arab donors. Some did; but most didn't. And that really left us in a situation of extreme financial difficulty. The genesis of our financial diffic.ulties lies in the fact that key Arab donors did not provide the funding pledged or programmed in our budgets and agreed to. That started about 2 H years ago and with it, financial difficulties started to gather, getting more and more progressively difficult to the point where we found ourselves in a crisis situation. But of course, when the gov- ernment of Israel moved to stop and suspend the transfer of revenues it collected on our behalf, that dealt us a ' devastating blow because we were already in a very weak position and that brought us to the" point of complete incapacitation. I estimate that what we really need right now t6 get out Of the finan- cial difficulty because of the shortfall is about $600 million minimally. For this year, it is important that we get about $100 million a month to make ends meet. Otherwise, it will not be possible for the PA to overcome its financial diffi- culties and function normally. TML: Prime Minister Fayyad, last week Fatah was welcomed in the Gaza Strip in what some are calling a massive call by the people for reconciliation. Hamas was allowed to hold a celebration in the West Bank under your administration. Are we finally seeingsigns of reconciliation? Fayyad: I think those scenes you saw, especially in Gaza. what I saw was a scene where the people made a very clear and unequivocal statement demanding an end to the state of separation. Demanding reconciliation. It's definitNy what people want, definitely where people are and defi- nitely where we should get. TML: You've likened this to the parties in Israel with vast differences that live together; why is it so difficult for the Palestinians? Fayyad: That's exactly my point, We should overcome those difficulties to the point of being able to manage mr ?coexislertc. And J-thing i should be possible. You're exactly right, just like the government of israel is a coalition of parties that are not all like-minded. Why is it so impossible for us to get together in a like fashion in a manner that allows us to manage that coexistence? TML: When 1,000 Hamas members held by Israel were released in the Gilad Shalit deal, Hamas chided that it produced results while the Fatah-FA only talked. We heard the same taunts after the recent week of fighting between Hamas and Israel. You, yourself, made state- ments that agreed with that assessment. Has the idea of a peaceful campaign beeri lost? Fayyad: There's no question that as a consequence of the events you just mentioned we hve sustained what I myself have termed as "doctrinal de- feat" in terms of the doctrine espoused by-the PA: one of engagement and a non-violent path to freedom. I think it was seriously and severely challenged by the events you have mentioned in terms of the efficacy of this approach; in terms of its capacity to de- liver results. I do not take it in a resignedway. It's something we'll have to deal with and live with it forever. And that's the situation right now. TML: The Palestinian Au- thority relies very heavily on Israel in terms of their econ- omy. What is that percentage in terms of goods, etc.? Fayyad:Vastly. For example, if you take trade, we're highly dependent on the Israeli economy. On both import side and export side. Two-thirds of our imports come from Israel A'larger part of our exports go to Israel. We're dependent. Part of it is proximity, but the larger explanation lies in lack of adequate access to markets that lie outside. We're not in control of borders. It's very difficult to try to be competi- tive, for our private sector to be adequately competitive given that highly capricious control regime. TML: Some charge that your government is failing to prepare its people for peace- ful coexistence because it glorifies those responsible far, violent aces. How do you respond to those who say the culture of peace is not being taught? Fayyad: Cultural peace, as a matter of fact, has a greatest chance of gaining roots in a context that actually promis- es peace. And I think that the beginning was good. When this whole process began, there was a lot of activity that was anchored on this, creat- ing conditions of acceptance of the other; learning more about the other; engaging in discussions. At all levels. We're not talking about political engagement here; we're talking about people- -to-people initia[ives, some of, them are still happening today. It is unfortunately the case that we're dealing with a conflict that is riddled with difficulties and complexities beginning with vastly differ- ent narratives; hostilities; wars; military conflict and what have you. And when you have a situation like this, you cannot expect to have an environment and a culture that is all OK. The challenge for us is to change it, and I'm a firm believer in it. TML: There are Palestin- ians who are feeling much PAGE 15A so many Syrians exhausted with a war that has little to show for itself, his harsh tone is slowly but gradually wearing down opposition to his continued rule. "I don't see how he will step down when he acts so trium- phantly," said Fawzi Hayyati trying to avoid the slippery mud in a main thoroughfare. "He sounds like he expects to be president forever. And the people are starting to believe him." His friend Mazin Krini noddedin agreement. "Assad looks strong as the FSA looks increasingly weak. I think he has the upper hand." As long as that continues, Assad can remain defiant in the face of an opposition on the ropes and a paralyzed international community that offers nothing more than daily condemnations of his policies. more pressure today if they engage with Israelis... Fayyad: Let's say Ramal- lah for making a point You are engaging tomorrow in an activity in the nature of people-to-people discourse with Israelis, and the night before, there is an Israeli military raid on Ramallah. How would that make you feel? Worse! If the night before you're consoling the family that has lost a young man or woman in the way the Israeli army deals with non- violent Palesfinian protests sometimes, how would you feel about going through with that activity? What if settlers had just raided the com- munity? Uprooted trees and terrorized citizens, or worse. Desecrated a mosque. All of these acts retard, progress in an environment where a cul- ture of peace would flourish. That should be our goal. And we should really act on both tracks simultaneously. TML: Prime Minster Fayy- ad, President Abbas is threat- ening to disband the PA. Western pundits dismiss it as rhetoric. What do you say? Fayyad: It's not rhetoric in the fundamental sense of the PA going through the difficul- ties through which it's going with the grip of the financial Crisis being the worst ever. It's not a question of a willful act of disbanding. It's not re- ally rhetoric in the sense that under the pressure that the PA is facing all these challenges and pressures, and thatthe PA will simply cease to be able to function. That is not rhetoric, it's reality and we see it every day. There's an erosion in the ability of the PA to deliver in just about every sphere of government. TML: Thankyou, Mr. Prime Minister. We (]re gour source-for: Invitolions Brochure8 Letterheads Envelope8 Business Cards , Program8 FII3ers Posl Cards Forms Digital Photograph g - Labels Direct Ma il 407.767.71 10 . elegantprintg, net 205 North Seet Long'wood, FL 32750