Palestinian Prime Minister and Finance Minister Salam Fayyad called on the international community to up the pressure on Israel to suspend all construction in the settlements and implied that the Palestinian Authority could apply to the International Court of Justice in this regard, adopting the example of the separation fence.
In an interview with Haaretz Monday, Fayyad warned that Israel's refusal to cease construction in the settlements immediately would spell the end of the Palestine Liberation Organization's negotiations with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. He said he was amazed that instead of working toward halting the construction, Livni on Sunday protested to her British counterpart, David Miliband, about London's decision to tighten restrictions on importing goods produced in the settlements.
Fayyad praised the British decision and said he recently appealed to the European Union and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to stop publishing tenders for new residential construction in the West Bank. Fayyad praised the fact that many European states no longer shy away from defining the settlements as "illegal," and not as merely "unhelpful."
He demanded an immediate end to construction in the settlements for the duration of the peace process, saying that no other actions were as destructive to the negotiations. Fayyad said the speed of construction had picked up since last November's Annapolis conference. He also said that at every meeting with Palestinian citizens, he is always asked about the settlements first. He argued that continued Jewish construction in the territories undermines the Palestinians' faith in the PA and in the peace process, even more so than the Israeli roadblocks and military operations.
Fayyad said he was disappointed that the settlements issue in general and the danger that continued construction activities would damage Israel's relations with the EU in particular is not high up on the agenda of Israel's upcoming election campaign.
Commenting on the "economic peace" plan proposed by Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, Fayyad said that irrespective of who was behind the idea, it was both naive and unfounded. Fayyad said the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was no economic conflict that requires an economic solution. Rather, he said, it is a political conflict that requires a political solution.
"Even though I am an economist by profession and I appreciate the importance of the economy very much, the solution is not to be found in money or in industrial zones," Fayyad stressed, adding that, "I am interested not in redefining the occupation but in ending the occupation."
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