A Palestinian State in Two Years: Interview with Salam Fayyad, Palestinian Prime Minister
Salam Fayyad was appointed prime minister of the Palestinian Authority (PA) on a “national emergency” basis following the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, inaugurating the de facto system of parallel governments still in place—one headed by Fayyad in the PA-dominated West Bank, the other by Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza. Born in a village near Tulkarm in the West Bank, Fayyad received his MBA and doctorate in economics in the United States. He worked for many years with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), including as the Palestine representative from 1995 until 2002, when Yasir Arafat appointed him finance minister. In that capacity, he earned the respect and trust of the international community for the leading role he played in PA financial and other reforms, gaining a reputation for straight dealing and getting things done. A political independent with an aversion to factional politics, he served as finance minister in the short-lived Hamas-dominated national unity government formed in March 2007.
In this frank interview conducted in two parts by the Institute for Palestine Studies’ (IPS) Ramallah Office, Fayyad focuses in particular on his government’s much-talked-about program to “build a state” without declaring one (see Docs. B1 and B4 in this issue), as well as on his efforts to enlist the involvement and support of the international community in this endeavor. Along the way, he discusses his role in PA reform, the Fatah- Hamas division, and the failure of the peace process. He also comments frankly on the Dayton mission and the virtual “non-response” to his government’s plan by the rest of the PA apparatus, hinting at certain tensions within the Authority.
Part I of the interview was conducted in Arabic in the prime minister’s office on 27 August and 1 September 2009 by Salim Tamari and Khalid Farraj, director and general manager, respectively, of IPS Ramallah, and by Camille Mansour, chairman of the IPS Research Committee. A longer version of Part I was published in issue 79 of our sister publication, Majallat al-Dirasat al-Filastiniyya. Part II of the interview, a follow-up exclusively for JPS, was conducted by Tamari and Farraj on 3 January 2010. Both parts were translated from Arabic by Alex Baramki.